Monday, June 9, 2014

Double IPA Smackdown Part 2!

After my last post on Double IPAs I have noticed a bunch more that seem to have either slipped through my first netting, or have come out more recently.  I figured that this would be a good time to burn through several of them before the hop character fades, so here goes! 

The Illinois:  This is a newer double IPA from one of my old favorites Goose Island.  I'll admit I have been a little twitchy about the brand since it was bought out by AB-Inbev, but they continue to put out good quality beers.  I've posted about the brewpub and my personal history with that in the past.  This one clocks in at 9% ABV and 95 IBU.  I bought this fresh at The Four Firkins and served it in a Goose Island pint glass.
Aroma:  Sweet malt with a hint of grain.  Fruity with a combination of navel orange and lemon atop a light caramel.  A slight grassy aroma as it warms.
Appearance:  Deep gold to almost copper, this is a darker version than typical.  Fine white head that fades quickly.  Excellent clarity that may indicate filtering.
Flavor:  There is a pretty up front alcohol flavor and hotness to this beer, melded with a sweet maltiness.  The sweet fades quickly to a rather rough vegetal bitterness.  As it warms I get more orange and grapefruit flavors and perhaps some English bready malt character.
Mouthfeel:  Medium bodied.  A very noticeable alcohol warming that borders on uncomfortable.  Ends with an astringent finish.
Overall:  This one is not terrible, but it fits in the category of IPA that I'm not a big fan of.  Some folks love the vegetative mouth-puckering astringency in their IPAs, but I'm not one of them.  I like mine more smooth and balanced with hop flavor rather than crazy bitterness.  This is balanced much more to the bitter and the booziness accentuates that astringent finish to a slow burn.  I gave this a 3 at first but upped it to a 3.5 after it warmed up a bit.  I'll stick with Bourbon County Stout if I can find it!

Gubna:  In the last few months Minnesota has finally received Oscar Blues beers.  This was one of the first craft breweries to can their beer and have been putting out very tasty beers that we have not been able to get out hands on for years now.  I have been to the original brewpub in Colorado several years back and had a great experience there.  They have built a second brewery in Brevard, North Carolina recently and this is likely the reason we can get the beers in our market now.  Gubna is their Rye Double IPA, coming in at 10% ABV and over 100 calculated IBUs.  I've never tried this one before so I was happy to give it a shot!  This was poured from the can into the Dogfish Head IPA glass.
Aroma:  A strong citrus hop kick initially.  Lemon and orange rind backed by some sweet malt.  I think I can pick out Cascade hop character, but also some catty notes.  Not incredibly complex but pleasant.
Appearance:  Light golden color with no appreciable haze.  A very large white head with tight fine bubbles.  Head is very persistent.
Flavor:  Sweet with a papaya or pineapple flavor and zing to it.  Finishes with a pine and lemon flavor profile.  There is some sweet maltiness but the finish is dry.  Balance to the bitter side, but is not astringent.  Alcohol warming is present but not distracting.
Overall:  Not the most complex double IPA I've ever had, but well balanced and easy to drink for its high ABV.  The rye is subtle, and interestingly the can doesn't mention it at all, so I didn't know it was supposed to be in there when I wrote this up.  What I took as a tropical fruit zing may be the rye spiciness on the tongue.  A 4 out of 5.

Victory DirtWolf:  This is one that I've heard great things about from my hop-head friends but haven't tried before this.  I'll admit Victory has been a bit off my radar before this and I haven't had one of their beers in a couple of years, so this was a good time to try them again.
Aroma:  Crazy orange, mango that reminds me of Citra hops but with the classic cat-urine aroma of Simcoe.  Some light spice and sugar sweetness as well.
Appearance: Golden color with a slight haze to it.   A fine white head is present and fades slowly.
Flavor:  A somewhat tart orange-juice like character up front.  Some malt is present, but hidden by strong orange peel and lemon flavors.  There is a long dry borderline astringent finish to this beer.  The balance is very bitter.  Not a lot of alcohol warming in this one compared to some.
Overall: There is a lot of orange in this one!  More bitter than expected from the sweeter aroma and rode the line on astringency for me.  A very powerful and flavorful brew from Victory.  4 of 5.

Lucid Duo:  9% ABV and 75 IBU per the website.  I had a pint of this at the recent Lucid hosted AHA rally.  I'll be the first one to admit that I didn't take good notes on this one since I was socializing and having a great time, but thought I would still give my impressions here for completeness. 
Aroma: Powerful citrus and some tropical fruit aroma wafting off of this.  I could actually smell it before it was handed to me!  Some sweetness from malt present as well (once I got it closer to my nose.)
Appearance: Deep gold to nearly orange in color with excellent clarity.  Head was off white, and faded fairly fast.
Flavor:  As expected from the aroma, I got strong citrus (orange and a hint of lemon) in the initial flavor.  I got a fair amount of sweet after the hop punch.  As with many of the Lucid beers I found the finish to be somewhat astringent and difficult to get over. 
Overall: A good double IPA but not one of my favorites.  The astringent end ruins it for me, but this is still a strong beer from Lucid.  I'd like to try it again under more controlled circumstances and see if my thoughts vary.  3.75 of 5.   Yes I can give quarter stars in my own blog!

Alaskan Hopothermia:  This is 8.5% ABV and 70 IBU per the website.  Nugget and Apollo bittering hops as well as Amarillo, Citra, Centennial for Aroma.  I had never had this beer before and was happy to find it as a single at The Four Firkins.

Aroma: Starts with a candy-like sweetness, fading to a orange and lemon zip.  Some grain character and a hint of alcohol.
Appearance: Clear copper color.  A huge off-white head that is very persistent and pillowy. 
Flavor: There is a punch of citrus (orange rind and a bit of lemon) at first.  I get sweetness and tropical fruit in the middle, not sure if that is citra hop or esters.  The last 2/3 of the taste has an almost salty or burtonized flavor I associate with bitters and English IPA.  The hop finish on the beer is bordering on astringent and the beer ends pretty dry.  I pick up a bit of alcohol on this one as well.
Overall: This was pretty good, with more English character than expected.  I wonder if they used an English yeast strain on this.  The astringent finish hurt this for me a bit.  3.5 of 5.

Reminding me of a great Coverdale-Page song...Or maybe Steve Miller
Odell Tree Shaker:  This one is a fruit beer so really is like comparing...well apples and oranges?  I thought I would include it here simply for variety!  I can only describe citrus hops so many ways after all.  It is a high 10% ABV beer brewed with 3000 pounds of Colorado peaches.  I tried this for the first time at an Odell beer dinner at Butcher and the Boar a few years back and stands out as the first IPA that my wife actually drank a whole glass of. 
Aroma is zingy and full of citrus and sweet malt.  As it warms up I get more peach or apricot aroma that stands out.
Appearance is very clear golden color with a huge thick white head.
Flavor is very sweet and sugary up front.  Fades to a tropical fruit (mango) and peach finish.  There is a hint of astringency in the finish but still borders on too sweet at the end.  This year's batch seems sweeter than I remember, but may be why Sj will drink it. 
Overall not bad, and a very interesting take on a fruit beer.  I'm always excited to try anything other than a wheat fruit beer!  Peach is a pretty subtle flavor and I think they pulled it off in this beer.  I can't drink too much of this due to the sweetness.  4/5
Loki is attracted to the catbox aroma of double IPA!
Toppling Goliath Sosus:  This one came into my greedy hands via Keith Brady, fresh from Iowa!  This is an Double IPA brewed entirely with Mosaic hops.  I'll admit I haven't actually been a big fan of this hop in the past and this one was the test to end all tests for if that held true.
Aroma of lemon, orange peel, pineapple.  Sweet marmalade.  Appearance is light gold with a fine white head.  The flavor rather bitter up front rather than the sweet I was expecting from the aroma.  There is a distinct sharp hop clash and bitterness right away in the taste.  Fruit flavors of papaya, unripe mango and tart berries as the hop bitterness fades a bit.  A hint of sweetness but this beer is dry and bitter, bordering on astringent.
Overall I did like the beer but something about the balance on it didn't hit me right.  I would have liked that fruitiness up front more and less astringency.  I'm still not completely sold on Mosaic but this is certainly the best beer I've tried so far that features that hop.  3.75 of 5.  Thanks Keith!
Great Lakes Lake Erie Monster:  This is a 9.1% ABV monster, brewed by Great Lakes in Cleveland, Ohio.  I tried this once on tap at an Old Chicago and remember liking it.
Aroma is sweet with honey and floral notes.  Some kumquat and a hint of sulfur as swirled.
Appearance is golden in color with a sparkling clarity.  Large white head that is persistent. 
Flavor mimics the aroma closely.  Sweet malt and honey flavors abound in the first sip.  The beer has a lager-like crispness and is borderline biting on the finish.  Orange rind to almost pithy astringent flavor present that is not entirely unlikeable.  Sulfur lager fermentation character is a bit distracting and accentuates the astringent finish.
Overall this is a decent beer.  I suspect that Great Lakes has fermented this with a lager yeast (they use that for most of their beers, even the IPA) and this puts this beer outside the style guidelines for an Imperial IPA.  3.5 for this one.
The cake is a lie...
Clown Shoes Space Cake:  This one is 9% ABV.  I have had some mixed feelings on Clown Shoes beers--some are very good, others are unbalanced.  Seeing this new beer with its over-the-top label art, I figured it would make a good end to this round of Double IPA Smackdown.
Aroma: Very sweet sugar and malt.  A medium level citrus aroma as it warms, but not as much as expected. 
Appearance: Slightly hazy.  A gold to almost copper color.  Head is fine and off-white.
Flavor: Very sweet up in front, with loads of malt!  A stronger orange pulp flavor in the middle, but doesn't seem very tart due to the sweet background.  The end is still pretty sweet, but not quite cloying.  Mouthfeel is medium. 
Overall:  A very sweet version of DIPA.  It borders on too sweet, but still drinkable.  I did end up drinking the whole bottle over a couple of hours.  3.75
So this round of DIPA Smackdown has come to its bitter end.  The winner of this round is:  Surly Abrasive!  Ok, I did drink my last can and it was fading a bit, but still better than all of these beers.  If you want me to be official, though, I would say that the best of these was probably the Victory DirtWolf.  I've already got a few more in my fridge and will probably have to do a third round of Smackdown.  What do you--my readers--think of this ranking?  Do you have some more favorites that I need to try?


Brady said...

I'm Biased towards Sosus, but agree on Dirt Wolf, just have to careful you don't pick up a sixer that has been on the shelf for awhile as it goes down hill quick.

extremely dissapointed with the Illinois, was just bitter to me, with not awhole lot more to offer.

The rest I thought were all pretty middle of the road and would agree with your ratings.

Brady said...

Naturally, I'm biased towards Sosus, but really loved the dirt wolf if it's fresh. The rest I would some what agree with your ratings, though I was really unimpressed with the tree shaker, and the Illinois was dissappointing.

No review of ENKI's tailfether?