Tasting #3 from the beer trade. After the wonder that was the Black IPA I’m pretty stoked to have another one of his hoppy beers.
This is one of several IPAs that he sent, all with slightly different hop blends listed on the bottles—I’m not sure if they are all the same base beer with different hops or all stand-alone IPA recipes (I’m guessing the latter over the former as I typically tailor the base beer to compliment the hop blend in hop forward beers). This one lists Zythos, Nelson, Galaxy, and Simcoe. Here goes:
Appearance: MUCH darker than I expected from an IPA. Dark gold in the light to very orange in the depths. It isn’t crystal clear, but clearer than it could have been considering the recent ride in the back of a UPS truck. I don’t think IPAs need to be super clear anyhoo… I feel like anything better than “muddy” works fine. Fine textured, pure white head that falls after a quick min but leaves nice rings as I make my way to the bottom of the glass.
Smell: The usual suspects-- Tropical fruit and orange juice with some black pepper and grapefruit. Sweetly hoppy nose with less “dark” skunky tones or pine notes than I expected from these hop varieties. Much more malt aromatics than my hoppy beers—layers of bread, graham crackers, and strawberry rhubarb pie. Surprisingly generic hop aromas after the Black IPA, but impressively complex in the malt department.
Taste: Oops—the hint of strawberry rhubarb pie in the background of the aroma is actually a cherry pie bomb in the taste. Even more complex malt than in the nose makes for the impression of a hoppy scone thanks to the way the tasty richness integrates with all the bright fruity sweetness from the hop aromatics. Much more of a bitter bite than the fruit punch smells suggest. The hops are more complex than the nose let on with cherries, apricots, pears, and… mesquite honey earthiness :)
Ever have one of those tin cans of fruit cocktail when you were a little kid? This reminds me of that with a graham cracker on the side and an overwhelmingly tingly-bitter finish.
Mouthfeel: Chewy and slick at the same time. Low to moderate carbonation with a fine texture that helps cleanse the extreme bitterness.
Overall: Maltier and more bitter than my hoppy beers and a surprisingly fruity sweet nose from the hops…. If I didn’t know better I’d be calling out a heavy hand of Centennial hops as the source of the “red punch” thing…but that is neither-here-nor-there.
I do LOVE the way it smells- almost comfortingly malty- but it makes the burning bitterness quite a surprise. The yeast is very neutral and off-flavor free to my palette.
Honestly, before Barf and I exchanged emails about his water I suspected that he had upped the gypsum additions to get sky high sulfate levels leaving the beer a bit thin (acidic) and accentuating the bitterness too much. It turns out though that his water treatments put his water around the same or just below the sulfate levels in my hoppy beers, so that wasn’t the issue… it was that this particular beer’s FG was 1.004!!
So, next time I’d just mash higher to up the FG to something better suited to carry the high bitterness, then compensate for the added body by stepping back on the crystal a few ounces. Or just aim about 20IBUs lower in the same beer… I think with any more body this would really start to taste like a Hoppy Red… it is an awesomely juicy beer with interesting malt complexity that compliments the hop bill nicely. As usual- well put together!