Beer Roundup #9: Three Double IPA’s

Food and Drink

Hop Juice

To Buy or Not to Buy?

1 = horrible
2 = bad
3 = average
3.5 = good (many better beers out there; won’t buy this again)
4 = very good
4.5 = great
5 = rare best

A Note on the Style:  Double IPA, Imperial IPA

Imperial IPA, a.k.a. Double IPA.  A friend of mine recently asked about the terminology.  Rather than referring to an increase of ingredients or the number of fermentation stages, “double IPA” is a nickname for “imperial IPA” (from the acronym “IIPA”).

Hop Juice, Left Coast Brewing Co.
Rating:  4.14 / 5
12 oz. bottle (4-pk), 9.7% abv, 82 IBU.

From a bottle into a tulip, it pours a hazy amber, with very little head, but prodigious lacing.

Remarkably reserved, semisweet aroma. A pleasing herbal and earthy hop aroma. Some barely perceptible Wonder bread in the background, though one must strain to detect the mere whiff of grain.

In the mouth it’s an interesting sub-piney bitterness.  No, wait, I’ve got it:  it’s cold sake!  Very bitter on the backend.  Balance comes from a neutral (not sweet) maltiness. No, scratch that.  As it warms, there’s a serious candy sugar sweetness. Deep hop flavors dominate, spurred on by a sharp alcohol twang.

Medium-bodied, almost chewy. Well-carbonated, with a slippery alcohol warmth.

A very good double IPA, though not as malty as I like them. It supplies a nice sweetness, but it’s missing something. Can’t quite put my finger on it. Nevertheless, I think I’ll be buying one more 4-pack (though none for the cellar).

Palate Wrecker, Left Coast Brewing Co.
Rating:  4.18/5
12-oz. bottle (4-pk), 9.5% abv, 100+ IBU.

Wow, what a great smelling beer.  Its claim to fame is its aggressive hop bitterness.  But the sweet aroma is my favorite feature of this brew.

It’s an awfully handsome, clear golden pour into a tulip, with a big cottony head that sticks around.

The aroma really distinguishes this brew. Sweet, juicy fruits galore: red grapefruit, pineapple, and finally sweet tangerine. Perhaps a honey/floral tea character.

In the mouth, the early sweetness is all fruit juice. Yum.  The hops come on as a salty, white grapefruit bitterness. There’s almost no malt sweetness; the sweetness is fruit, only. Not candied fruit, just ripe, juicy, sweet citrus. Once it’s down the gullet, the aftertaste turns sharply bitter, as if smearing the the throat with white grapefruit rind. That hurts this beer.

Great medium-bodied richness. The high carbonation is a welcome cleanser.

Heelch O’Hops, Anderson Valley Brewing Company
Rating:  3.95 / 5
12 oz. bottle (4-pk), 8.7% abv, 100 IBU

This brew was featured in a Draft Magazine article that had everyone talking, “Three Imperial IPA’s That Rival Heady, Pliny.”  The title truncates the full names of the two beers roundly considered among the best double IPA’s, “Heady Topper” and “Pliny the Elder.”  Those two are also among the most difficult to find beers in the US.,  which is why people are always looking for close substitutes.

Heelch O’Hops ought not to have been included in that article.  (The other two beers featured:  Doozy by Mother’s Brewing and Hopothermia by Alaskan Brewing.)  Heelch O’Hops is certainly not bad.  It’s just not anywhere near the vicinity of elite class brews.

It pours a finger of white head atop a thin, clear, yellow liquid. The foam leaves lacing stuck hard.

A disappointingly subdued, peppery aroma of shy hops. No detectable malt presence in the nose.

The flavor is also disappointing in the mouth. Where’s the malt, the sweet, or the bread that I want in a IIPA? The hop character gives grapefruit pith, rather than sweet orange or tropical fruit. An astringent pine on the back end forces one to take this brew seriously.  It’s that bitter.   Finishes bitter-dry.

Thin body, with moderate to high carbonation.

A quality brew, to be sure, but disappointing that it’s merely an IPA on steroids:  it’s got none of the malt balance or bigger body or sweet fruit of the double IPA’s I love, such as Hopslam, Chillwave, Hi Res, or Double Crooked Tree. Especially disappointing at $12.00 / 4-pack.

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