In recent years, the trend has shifted from aggressively hopped, bitter pale ales to ones that are more focused on aromatics and juicy, tropical flavors from newer hop strains. Many New England-style IPAs could pass as vaguely-bitter orange juice.
Tampa’s Hidden Springs Ale Works has cut straight to the chase with a beer in its recent debut line of canned brews. ZFG — Zero F-cks Given — pale ale forgoes the opacity and juiciness of the New England style, instead focusing entirely on the low bitterness and tropical aroma part of the equation.
How low are we talking on that bitterness scale? It contains zero IBUs (International Bittering Units), as no hops are used during the boil phase of the brew day. Instead, the beer is merely dry-hopped to high heaven with Citra, Mosaic and Motueka hops, lending a massive bouquet of bright citrus and tropical fruit notes, with a flavor that’s more tangerine and papaya than pine and grapefruit, with none of the typically corresponding bitterness.
ZFG is a fun experiment in playing with expectations. From the can, which is decorated with a chaotic tattoo flash, illustrations including a severed forearm giving a one-finger salute, the black sheep from Minor Threat’s Out of Step album and, of course, the classic eight-ball to the huge hop aroma that bursts from it as it’s opened, everything about ZFG says aggressive.
The first sip is jarring, then, as the beer’s actually quite mild, falling closer in body and flavor to an assertive blonde ale than your average dry-hopped pale ale or session IPA. At 5.5 percent alcohol by volume, ZFG is fairly light, lending some major drinkability. According to the Hidden Springs folks, ZFG is quickly becoming one of its tasting room bestsellers, and it’s not hard to see why.
Look for ZFG in 16-ounce cans at your local beer store, as well as at bay area Total Wine & More locations. You’ll find it for sale in the cooler at Hidden Springs Ale Works (1631 N Franklin St., Tampa), as well as on draft. Everyone has a friend in their circle who hates "hoppy" beers. Have them try ZFG and enjoy the confusion!
— Justin Grant
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