This Friday begat a trip to Joliet ultimately to find a nice cabinet to house all the beer glasses I’ve collected. We came up pretty much empy handed and finished with a visit to Sam’s Club in Joliet. During the shopping excursion, I excused myself, as most husbands do, to wait for the wife in the truck. But first, a visit to their wine and beer section where I picked up a Michelob Autumn sampler case which I’ll be tasting and reviewing in the future weeks. Four beer styles, a sixpack each for $21. How apropos.
On the way home, I decided to stop in at the MBS and pick up a review beer. I suffered friendly grief when I walked in. “Frank! Yer late!” and “It’s about time you showed up.” I didn’t know what to say.
I asked if there was anything new and so far, nothing. Left to my own devices, I decided to throw caution to the wind and pick up a beer that would probably go totally against my nature. An IPA.
I have had a distaste for IPA beers in the past and I have been thinking about giving them another chance. In the back of my memory banks there was a comment that was posted here by Fretwalker, who said,
Speaking of old reviews and hops, you mentioned awhile back, that you had some Dogfish Head 90 min.IPA, and I don’t think you’ve ever reviewed it. You might be pleasantly surprised. Big hops, yes, but balanced by big malt that caught me off-guard the first time I tried it… I was fully braced for a hop-bomb, and it wasn’t!
There it was on the shelf. A four-pack of Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA with a price tag of around ten bucks that made my Illinois taxpaying psyche ache. I bought it, I’ll drink it and, dammit, I will like it. We’ll see.
Friday night led to a meeting of a homebrew club that a longtime friend introduced me to. It’s called M*A*S*H, or the Marseilles Area Society for Homebrewers. At that meeting, as a newbie, I was made so at home that I felt like I missed half my childhood. A small group with plenty of stories to tell, lots of wisdom and tips to impart and a persona which would fit perfectly in the Manly Garage. I sampled about 10 different styles of homebrewed beer and a barleywine. I felt like a king in his own mind and neophyte beertech newbie. What a great time.
After the meeting, it was a little light supper and then out to the Garage to start a fire and seriously review some beer. When the temp hit 58°, I popped the cap of the first Dogfish Head IPA beer. I really didn’t know what to expect except for a slug of hops at the end.
The pour relinquished an orange-copper color liquid with a nice thick yellow-white head about 1.5 inches worth. The liquid was quite clear but the carbonation was sparse. So sparse that at any given moment, you could count the bubbles in the glass on two hands. The aroma held that familiar scent of hops. We’re going to go through with this.
The first sip was not what I expected. Sweet maltiness greeted my tongue upon entrance and a boatload of flavor followed. Then the kablam at the end. The hops dominated the swallow. It was not as surprisingly bitter as I was expecting. There was something different about this beer. The blend of the malts and middle taste ingredients made for a great full flavored beer. The bitter hoppiness at the end was like the finale at an opera where all the singers sing and the orchestra works up a sweat.
As I sequentially drained the glass, I couldn’t help but notice the nice lacing that the top foam had left on the glass. Each sip was outlined like a hieroglyph of some unknown beer language. I found it odd that a beer with hardly any visible carbonation had such a big head and such a nice frilly aftermath.
With the hoppiness notwithstanding, the malty flavor of the beer is what most likely puts this in a category above all other IPAs. The middle of the taste was full and very much like that of a fine ale. Then the hops kick in at the end and kick this beer right through the goalposts.
I’ve come to realization that all (every single one) of the ingredients that comprise a beer recipe should be tasted each in its turn. Tonight, the hops are the stars of the show with a great supporting class. If it weren’t for the malty backup flavors, this beer would more than likely not make the cut. But the perfect blend of ingredients sets this off nicely on my own palate. Next time I’m in the mood for a rollercoaster ride of flavors, this is the beer.
So what does this say about me, my palate and my anti-IPA bias? I really can’t pinpoint it on any one fact. I just know what I like and I prefer the more tongue-friendly beers. But as a homebrewer whose smelled an ounce or two of hop pellets right in the sack, I can say that I may have given these IPAs a bum rap.
In December of last year I reviewed Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Ale and panned it. After tasting tonight’s Dogfish Head IPA, I’m willing to give pale ales another chance. There are many guys who just love IPAs and contest judges who are experts at tasting them. I salute those guys. I’m adding this IPA to my favorites until another one comes along to challenge it. And there will be others. Perhaps my tongue is maturing in old age… I’m still growing up.
If you’re a guy like me who is not too fond of those bitter IPA beers, I urge you to try this one. The malty flavor offsets the bitter swallow nicely. It’s a sweet punishment with a bitter end. And you will like it.
Taste: B > Great blend of sweet and bitter.
Smoothness: B- > The kick at the end may tend to cause calluses.
Drinkability: B- > Yeah, I could do another.
Bang for the buck: C+ > Not cheap, but worth it in the end.
ABV: 9.0% (Be careful here.)