At a dead end street just off bustling Colley Avenue, Norfolk’s uniquely rewarding BENCHTOP BREWING does a fine job re-creating, reimagining and Americanizing the crisply clean mineral-watered splendor of old-styled Norwegian-styled ales. Boasting “hop-forward ales harmoniously blending scientific approach and artistic freedom” using local ingredients, this spacious red-bricked pub will please any serious hophead as well as lighter thirsts with its crystalline IPA’s and provocative stylistic changeups.
An orange-lettered Benchtop sign welcomes thirsty minions to the 12-seat wood lacquered bar that includes five left-windowed community tables, eight-plus draught handles, railroad-tied bar backdrop, exposed ducts and one TV. A few metal-furnished front patio seats are also available out front and to the side.
Seated at one of the metal-backed patio seats with my wife, I sampled seven happily hybridized suds mid-July ’18.
Musty cellar-like Norwegian yeast inundated Gong Session IPA as well as Gong Water – Citra IPA. The former regaled mild grapefruit and orange rind bitterness that contrasted candied peach, pineapple and mango spicing while its fizzy lemon lime spritz gained momentum alongside Hallertau-hopped white grape esters.
The latter Gong benefited from juicy Citra hops and dank earthen wood musk as its floral-spiced grapefruit rind, orange peel, pineapple and mango tang spread across mild pine resin.
Lemony passionfruit guided Hazing Face Galaxy Pale Ale, a soft-toned moderation with floral-spiced tangerine, mandarin orange and grapefruit tanginess gaining wispy herbal nuances.
Straightforward Proven Theory IPA let brisk orange-peeled lemon rind and juicy grapefruit gain pungent yellow-wooded juniper bittering and desiccated mango, pineapple and peach undertones.
Adding a little sourness to the mix, Juicy Thoughts Double IPA allowed bitter lemon rot to ransack sunny grapefruit, peach and tangelo tanginess as well as mild piney hop resin.
Foraged oyster shells brought viscosity to salty lemon-limed Mermaid’s Scorn Oyster Gose, a sweet-tart coriander-spiced moderation with lactobacillus souring gaining vinous white grape esters.
For dessert, Walter’s Brunch Coffee Chocolate Maple Porter draped maple sap across roasted coffee, milked espresso, chalky chocolate and dried cocoa illusions.