If you are a hop head, here are some beers that you will definitely enjoy. The first time that Victory Dirt Wolf(double IPA, 8.7% ABV) came around, I missed out. Recently I got a second chance, but it may not be around much longer. I decided to have some fun and try a blind tasting between Dirt Wolf and Victory double IPA – Hop Ranch (9% ABV).
First I labeled the bottom of two identical glasses.
Then I poured the beer, turned the bottles around, and mixed up the glasses until I was good and confused.
I tasted the first beer, and took blind notes.
Cleansed my palate, and tried the second beer.
This is what I got, but didn't know which beer I was writing about until after I was completely finished.
Dirt Wolf – Aroma was mostly of dank pine, followed by some citrus. It was not too syrupy as some imperial IPAs can be, and instead had a medium body, with a bit more carbonation that I would have preferred. Crisp with a dry finish, again with mostly resinous pine flavors taking a front seat to the citrus and malt flavors.
Hop Ranch – Aroma was more flowery, with floral and citrus notes. Flavor was a bit sweeter again with floral and fresh squeezed citrus, with a nice balanced maltiness. In two words, this was fresh and juicy, and was my preferred of the two. I know that there are still bottles around of each of these and possibly some draft as well.
Another new beer, which I'm not sure has even hit Michiana shelves yet, is Goose Island The Illinois (imperial IPA, 9% ABV, IBUs 95). I was lucky enough to get a couple of samples from the brewery for review. Generally I am very impressed with the vintage and Bourbon County lines, but this is the first really impressive, aggressively hoppy beer that I have enjoyed from Goose Island. The first noticeable quality of this beer is the aroma of hops that jumped out as soon as I uncapped the bottle - huge grapefruit citrus notes from Chinook, Cascade, Citra, and Meridian hops. Unfortunately, the hop flavor was not as strong as the aroma, but still very very enjoyable. The flavor began with a nice grapefruit citrus, and pine hop burst with just a touch of honey sweetness. The sweet fadeed to some earthy hop flavors and finished with a dry bitterness. Carbonation was a bit on the lower side which allowed these flavors to show through nicely, especially as it warmed up a bit. Mouth feel and body were on the medium side and the alcohol level of 9% was hidden pretty well. Overall, this was a nice hop bomb.
Here's a hoppy beer for your Spring thaw, Smuttnose Durty Mud Season Hoppy Brown Ale (8.4% ABV, IBUs 94). We have black IPAs and white IPAs, so why not a brown one as well. Hops are very present on the aroma, but it seems to be a bit smoother, mellower citrus hop than the astringent citrus hop that is sometimes associated with IPAs – maybe some underlying chocolate and toffee. Magnum hops were used for bittering, Nugget for flavor, and it was dry hopped with CTZ and Chinook. I tasted this one almost backward from how I normally taste IPAs. Up front I got the sweet nutty, chocolate, and caramel notes, followed by the citrus hop flavors, and a bitter finish. Another nice hoppy offering from Smuttynose.
And in case you are out and about in Michiana, Miles Lab has a great current selection for hop heads:
New Holland Mad Hatter (IPA, 5.25% ABV), Iechyd Da Go Red (hoppy red ale, 5.6% ABV) Schlafly American IPA (7.2% ABV, IBUs 65), Fat Head's Head Hunter (IPA, 7.5% ABV), Bell's Two Hearted (IPA, 7% ABV), Green Flash Hop Head Red (hoppy red ale, 7% ABV), Victory Dirt Wolf (double IPA, 8.7% ABV, see above review), Founders Red's Rye (rye IPA, 6.6% ABV), and some not so hoppy ones – Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald (porter, 5.8% ABV), Fat Head's Bumbleberry (fruit beer, 5.3% ABV), Founders Imperial Stout (Russian Imperial Stout, 10.5% ABV), Boulevard Tank 7 (saison, 8.5% ABV), Shiner Bock (4.4% ABV), and Goose Island Sofie (saison, 6.5% ABV).
During my stop today, I enjoyed a nice hoppy Thirsty Dog Brewing Citra Dog (IPA, 6.5% ABV). It was a crisp hop bomb, with an overriding aroma of pine, with some underlying citrus. The hop flavors proved a bit more astringent than I would have preferred, and the pine and citrus flavors that I would have loved were a bit over powered. Overall, not an extremely drinkable IPA in my opinion, but given the right food combination could probably be worked out well.
I have really enjoyed seeing the range of beers that Mike Miles has provided for his customers at Miles Lab, and he told me today that he is really happy with range of beers that he is able to choose from. Even some of the highly allocated beers such as Goose Island Bourbon County Stout have made it to his taps. Be on the look out for Schlafly Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout (10.5% ABV, IBUs 40) to be tapped. Follow their beer list at their Facebook page.