The Memorial Day weekend will be especially nice to yours truly because of the vacay day scheduled for Friday. Four great days off, four days of tasting craft beers and no rush and no worries. Except for fretting a bit over how to pay for all these craft beers.
I decided to review a beer tonight that I bought during Dark Lord Day at the Three Floyds Brewery and save a few bucks this weekend. Back in April at DLD, after receiving our four bombers of DL, we exited the brewery and bought more beer and tshirts and food. I opted for a sight unseen pair of bombers of 3F’s Life a Rich Life, a Belgian style double IPA brewed in memory of an employee who passed away.
The picture on the label looked somewhat rudimentary and hand drawn. It looked as if the artist tried to make the drawing 3D as the RGB colors were slightly offset from one another to the unaided eye. Luckily, I had saved a cardboard pair of Old Navy Gobble Palooza 3D glasses and tried it out. With the 3D glasses and with my regular glasses and the 3D glasses revealed nothing that jumped out at me. That’s what I get for thinking.
This Lead a Rich Life Belgian DIPA had me wondering about this guy, Rich Sheppard, the 3Fs employee who passed. I found this during a search:
Sheppard was known as a hard worker with a great personality. The label artwork for Shark Pants was actually inspired by his tattoo of a bear (or gorilla) wearing a shark as pants with rainbow suspenders.
Sheppard was 20 years old.
Shark Pants. I wish I’d thought that up. Hmm. Whale Boots?
What was I expecting from this beer? Double IPA would give me a big hop bang at the swallow to be sure. But what’s this Belgian aspect? Would this be brewed with those special Belgian malts and/or yeasts that give the Abbey ales their distinct flavor?
A scan of the BJCP style book table of contents stopped at Belgian Pale Ale, category 16B. Nothing for a Belgian IPA let alone a double. But when I thought of it, Three Floyds is arguably one of the best breweries in the U.S., with quite a few beers on Top 100 Best Beers lists at various beer sites. There was no way that buying this beer was a fluke. I was fully prepared to drink this beer and render an honest opinion regardless of the taste.
I was hoping for that rare synergy between the hops and the malts and any Belgian character that I might sense later would be a bonus. I might get blown away by an all hop-show extravaganza that would be a scorched Earth scenario for the throat, or I’ll be lulled into one of those deep, sensual taste experiences that only a world-class beer can deliver.
It was time to pour some special, picked-up-at-the-brewery beer.
The beer poured with the traditional IPA orange/amber color, slightly hazy but with a nice off-white head. Carbonation was moderate and all the bubbles were of the micro variety. The aroma hit the nose carrying a large charge of hops. This should be interesting.
The first sip was unbelievable. Initial taste sensations indicated that I had just slurped up some juice from the middle of a Ruby Red grapefruit half. I was impressed right from the start. The mouthfeel was bold and the taste had a bit of sweetness up front and then that big fruity hop blast at the swallow. Wow.
I started thinking about the other IPAs that I tried and I couldn’t remember one that tasted like grapefruit with this intensity. The bitterness carried a bit of a raspy feeling, but that diminished as more sips went down the hatch.
And more sips brought out more flavors. Some passionfruit or mango and perhaps some orange arose only to be outshone by the overall grapefruity citrus taste. One of things I look for in an IPA is how well it meshes with the malt backbone. The hop bitterness and the malt flavors in this one go together like Han & Chewie, like Calvin & Hobbes, like Joanie & Chachi. (I’m not too sure about that last pair.)
This was like a fruit roll-up in a glass with a little sandpaper thrown in. The taste outperforms the aroma. Right down to bottom of the first glassful, I couldn’t believe what I was tasting and I was amazed that a beer such as this even existed.
At no time did I get any Belgian characteristics form this beer. Those flavors were quite possibly muted by the heavy-handed hopping of this beer. Also the palate may have been distracted by the Strauss waltz that the malts and hops were dancing to.
The beer weighs in at 8.7% alcohol and a snippet from the 3 Floyds description states the IBUs were calculated to a whopping 260. I couldn’t venture a guess on the IBUs of this beer from taste alone, but I can say that this beer has a boatload of hops. The good kind. The kind that plays well with the malts and delivers a taste sensation this side of Valhalla.
There are very few IPAs that stand out from the crowd and this Live a Rich Life is among those elite. Firestone Walker’s Double Jack, Bell’s Hopslam and the now the triad from 3 Floyds, namely Dreadnaught, Arctic Panzer Wolf and Life a Rich Life all in the top five as far as I’m concerned. What a great experience it would be to taste all five of these side-by-side, or even the three 3Floyds. It would quite possibly be mind-blowing. And make a mess on the floor.
Towards the end of this session I realized that I had been lulled into one of those deep, sensual taste experiences that only a world-class beer can deliver.
I don’t know if Rich Life or Shark Pants is available anywhere on the shelves of the LBSes, but allow me to offer you this bit of advice. If you ever see it at an LBS near you, do whatever you can to buy this beer. Cash a bad check, ask strangers for money or use that extra $30 of mad money flattened in the back of your wallet. You must. Try. This. Beer. (Now say it in Howard Cosell’s voice.) It’s that good.
Rich Sheppard has been justifiably honored.
Taste: Bliss. Pure bliss. Tropical fruit Garden of Eden.
Smoothness: 440-grit at first, the grapefruit and the silk and satin thereafter.
Drinkability: Bring ‘em on until I fall over.
Bang for the buck: Buy it if you can find it!
Paid price: I think I paid 10 bucks a bomber at the brewery.
Wife’s all-encompassing opinion: (She’s a bit ill today and doped herself up on OTC medications. Sleeping as we speak.)
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