Food, Beer, and Travel

a dump from the mind of Jon Piper

Posts Tagged ‘Imperial IPA’

Dreadnaught IPA

Posted by jwpiper on February 1, 2009

I’ve had this several times since the side-by-side with Pliny the Elder. I’ve since decided that my original impressions of this beer were not fair. This has taught me not to taste a beer for the first time side-by-side with another excellent beer. Back-to-back perhaps, but all by itself is best. While I have a leaning towards dry, minimally sweet IPAs, this beer is an excellent example of the other style, often referred to as East Coast, though some of the best examples are brewed in the Midwest. I would never call this beer a good value, because in all honesty, the price is pretty ridiculous. But it is delicious. This will be the intersection of several tasting notes in each case the beer was poured at cellar temperature (~55 degrees) or just cooler into a snifter.
Appearance
4.5
Pours a medium orange-amber color and clear. Nice 3cm white head.
Smell
4.5
The citrus is better described as lemon and oranges than grapefruit. Not orange peels, like some hopped beers, but oranges. Malt sweetness.
Taste
4.5
Very nice orangy sweet flavor. Not overly bitter, and the bitterness on the finish is carried and accompanied well by the sweetness.
Mouthfeel
4
Thick, creamy, and smooth without being chewy. Medium bodied, and not dry. Not as clean or dry as I prefer in a big IPA.
Drinkability
4
Very much a sipper. Mouthfeel slows you down. ABV not as well hidden as
Founders Double Trouble or Bell’s Hopslam. Not a refreshing thirst quencher.
Overall
4.4
The Dreadnaught is right on par with the excellence of Bell’s Hopslam. An excellent beer which actually serves to show one of the ways that Hopslam is so excellent – the light honey sweetness rather than the heaver malt sweetness. Definitely among my favorite big IPAs. Though, in reality, this is no more available to me than is Pliny the Elder.
Price
$12/22oz. Come on, this is still ridiculous. A good beer, but not that good.
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A Hop Mess

Posted by jwpiper on February 1, 2009

Winter is supposed to be a time for imperial stouts and winter warmers, but somehow this month has become one of the best times for big IPAs here in Ohio. Sierra Nevada recently introduced Torpedo Extra IPA which utilizes a new technique for dry hopping in a beer which is just a bit to big to be called an IPA. Technically, and Amber Ale, Tröegs Nugget Nectar made it to Ohio for the first time this week just months after Tröegs decided to distribute in our great state. Founders Double Trouble is a brand new release from the Grand Rapids, MI brewery. Double Trouble is brewed to target palates more friendly to West Coast style IPAs. Bell’s Hopslam, of course, was recently released and brings its own unique take on an Imperial IPA. An impressive list of seasonals and brews brand new to the market.

It begs for a dedicated evening of hop enjoyment. And it just so happens that in the last month or two, I’ve amassed some additional deliciously hoppy beers in Three Floyds Dreadnaught IPA and Russian River Pliny the Elder.

All these hops also beg for some blue cheeses to go along, so I picked up three from Whole Foods. Gorgonzola Dolce ($11/lb) is a smooth, rich, ridiculously creamy cow’s milk blue cheese. Verde Capra Italian ($22/lb) is also rich and creamy, but a sharper more complex goat’s milk cheese. Gorgonzola Cremaficato ($17/lb) was the weak link – firmer, less complex, but still decent.

Some highlights from the tasting: Dogfish Head 60 Minute is almost swill – ok, not quite, but I won’t be buying it anytime soon. Tröegs Nugget Nectar is an incredible Amber Ale and an incredible value. Founders Double Trouble can’t quite compete with the best DIPAs from the West Coast. Bell’s Hopslam is like no other. Three Floyds Dreadnaught IPA is actually an incredible IIPA which endured a disservice by being consumed side-by-side with Russian River Pliny the Elder. I will be re-reviewing Dreadnaught based on my last two experiences with it. Finally, Pliny is hands down the best IPA I’ve ever had. And even nearly three month after brewing, as it greatness begins to fade, it was the best IPA in the bunch.

Now, it was fun to enjoy these beers back-to-back. But come on brewers, can’t we spread out the releases of these beers which don’t keep well? I’d like to enjoy these year round.

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120 Minute IPA

Posted by jwpiper on January 29, 2009

Another acquisition from Charles Street Liquors. I honestly had no idea what to expect with the Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA, so when I saw it, I had to pick it up. This beer is brewed with hops for 120 minutes and then dry hopped for 30 days straight and comes in at 21% ABV. This beer could range anywhere between terrible and life changing. Poured at cellar temperature into a wine glass.
Appearance
3.5
It pours a cloudy orange-yellow with a small off-white head.
Smell
4
The smell is dominated by pine and lemon. Medicinal. There’s plenty of strange maltiness which is a bit tough to pinpoint: orange syrup?
Taste
4
Again, pine and orange on the palate. Very sweet, rich, and hardly bitter at all – at least for a 120 minute. Very different than any other beer I’ve had. The alcohol is exceptionally well hidden.
Mouthfeel
4
The feel is smooth and mouth-coating, and a bit cloying. The carbonation is nice – light and effervescent which this beer need.
Drinkability
4
This is dramatically more drinkable than expected. But, to be real, it is a 100% sipper, with consequences when under pressure to drink too fast. I was in a bit of a rush to make my dinner reservations, and this beer is tough to drink at anything faster than a slow sip.
Overall
3.9
The exception already noted, this beer gets better and better further through the bottle. I get the impression on both the nose and palate that the hops used are a little scattered and unfocused. It creates an experience which is a bit all over the place and extremely unclean. I like my hoppy beers to be clean (thus my preference for West Coast IPAs). This beer is well balanced, even fresh; and it is easy to see how this beer would change with cellar time. I’d like to try that at some point, and I do wish this were more available for me.
Price
$10/12oz. Impossible to describe as a value. But this is worth trying, and I would buy a couple of these each year and put some in the cellar. Not this trip, but some other time.

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Hopslam

Posted by jwpiper on January 26, 2009

Bell’s Hopslam is one of the best big IPA’s offered by a brewer east of the Mississippi. I remember it as a rare treat last year, and while I’m pained by the price increase, I’ve got to pick up at least a sixer this year. Poured into a snifter at about 50 degrees. Since my last experience with this beer, I’ve had Pliny the Elder and Dreadnaught IPA. It’ll be interesting to see how this stacks up.
Appearance
4
Golden with orange tinge. 3cm off-white head.
Smell
4.5
Lots of citrus on the nose and some pine. Not as much floral notes as many west coasters, but very nice. Well, perhaps it is floral… But not in the same way. Light, bright, citrus fruits. Sweet grass.
Taste
4.5
Coats the palate nicely. Some malt backbone and a bit of a grainy taste, but the citrus hops dominate with a little bitterness at the end. Much less than expected. There is sweetness, even beyond what’s suggested from the malts. Not a super clean flavor as with Pliny the Elder, but still very nice.
Mouthfeel
4
A bit sticky. Medium-bodied. Well-carbonated with medium-sized bubbles.
Drinkability
4.5
This is rather drinkable. Very inviting hop profile, but the lack of a clean palate limits its refreshing qualities. The sweetness and lack of a bitter bite make it even more drinkable.
Overall
4.35
An impressive brew. I think I like it more than the Dreadnaught IPA from Three Floyds, but there is likely to be a side-by-side (maybe with Buckeye ’76) in the future. Plenty of interesting hop character, but I think the slight over-reliance on sweetness detracts from the beer – makes it a bit too accessible at the expense of excellence. Nonetheless, it is a great beer.
Price
$18/6pk ($3/12oz). A very good value for such a good hoppy beer. The price is made a bit painful by the fact that it was $2-3 less last year and that for the same price per ounce, you could have a Pliny the Elder if you lived in California. Alas I do not… but I’ll be there soon enough to curtail purchasing too many more of these.

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Pliny the Elder vs Dreadnaught

Posted by jwpiper on January 10, 2009

Lately, I’ve relished the opportunity to taste excellent examples of a style side-by-side. While it is fun to compare two beers which have long been favorites, it’s also a way to emphasize potentially subtle flavors and really distill what makes a particular beer special.

Given their limited and non-overlapping distribution, such a comparison between Russian River Pliny the Elder and Three Floyds Dreadnaught IPA would be quite difficult. Fortunatley, I’ve been to both breweries recently, so I have on hand reasonably fresh examples of both. Both rated among the best DIPA/IIPA’s in the world (and indeed among the best beers in the world), this tasting was greatness in the making. Each bottle was poured at about 50 degrees and split between two 500ml krugs.

In the end, Dreadnaught had a much fuller, richer, heavier malt profile. Pliny was much more floral and citrus on the nose and palate. Pliny was cleaner, drier, and more refreshing. When going from Pliny to Dreadnaught, the offering from Three Floyds felt sticky and and didn’t have nearly the strength or aroma or hop flavor. It emphasized the malt profile and even brought out a little roasted and nutty flavors. The transfer from Dreadnaught to Pliny made the piney and grapefruit peel notes dance on the tongue and tickle the nostrils.

Another worthy comparison was suggested by the impressions of these two beers: Dreadnaught vs Buckeye ’76. That tasting will be forthcoming – just as soon as I can get my hands on some more fresh ’76.

Matt C. and I both found the Pliny to be a much more satisfying IPA. Pliny the Elder just continues to amaze.

Russian River Pliny the Elder

Appearance
5
Pours a wonderful orangish-yellow with a thick head which is retained for quite some time. Pillowy off-white head which leaves foamy rings as the beer is enjoyed.
Smell
5
The aroma is amazing – so much floral hops, with citrus and pine. Some fruit, but its dominated by the hop profile.
Taste
4.5
The flavor too is very hoppy and floral with just enough malt backbone which is in no way sweet… seems to be there just to balance. As the flavor dissipates, the bitterness catches up – it’s there, but not dominant. There is citrus fruit on the palate as well it lasts all the way through. It makes the bitter end taste like grapefruit rind/pith. A very clean, balanced flavor.
Mouthfeel
4.5
The beer is well carbonated and very clean feeling. Clean, dry, and light on the palate.
Drinkability
5
This is an incredibly drinkable beer. It’s quite enjoyable after a day’s work in the yard, and it’s perfect for an introspective evening of beer enjoyment.
Overall
4.75
Truly one of the finest of one of my favorite styles.
Price
$4.50/500ml. An excellent value for this quality beer. If you can get it, do.

Three Floyds Dreadnaught IPA

Appearance
4
A darker beer than Pliny the Elder, also with a nice thick head on the pour.
Smell
4
A lesser floral and citrus profile. The citrus is better described as lemon than grapefruit. The aroma is much more subdued. A definite East Coast (er, I suppose non-West Coast) IPA.
Taste
4
Much sweeter, but still in the IPA range. The bittering hops don’t bring as pleasant a flavor, but perhaps it’s not fair to review this beer while comparing to Pliny the Elder. It does have a nice and much stronger malt backbone.
Mouthfeel
4
Thick, creamy, and smooth without being chewy. Medium bodied, and not dry.
Drinkability
4
The malts are thick and the taste is heavy, which forces a sipping approach. Not a thirst-quencher.
Overall
4
Overall, this is a very good beer. It does not fare well against Pliny, but in its own right is quite good.
Price
$12/22oz. This turns out to be a very expensive beer, and it’s tough to think of it as worth it, especially side-by-side with a better beer which is half the price. It’ll be interesting to see how it stacks up against Buckeye ’76 which is more in the same style and even less expensive than the Pliny.

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