Dark Penance is a big 100 IBU Imperial Black IPA from Grand Rapids, MI based Founders Brewing Company. It’s certainly hoppy, but it has a solid malt backbone that balances it out, making it fully worthy of that Imperial classification. The nose is spicy with prunes, caramel, and earth. The middle has sweet dark fruit and brown sugar, balanced by bitter coffee notes. More earth and spice and tart cherries are waiting in the finish with a slight metallic bitterness right at the end. The body is medium to heavy and the alcohol is a stout 8.9% ABC. This makes for an excellent fall or winter evening beverage.
I give it a 4.6 out of 5.
This review is the second 9.3% ABV Stone offering in a row, and this is the Collective Distortion IPA, an Imperial IPA brewed with elderberries and coriander. It’s not just a touch of elderberries and coriander either, their presence is pronounced. The nose is heavily scented with elderberry and citrus. The coriander is a strong note in the middle along with honey and licorice, and the finish brings back the elderberry and heavy grapefruit. This is a sticky, full bodied, full flavor beer. The flavor is unique and strong and I like it, but i don’t love it.
I give it a 4 out of 5.
Moylan’s Brewing Company of Novato, California is a specialist in big beers, be they Imperial IPAs, Scotch Ales, or Barleywine-style ales. (Among others.) However, they felt they hadn’t taken the Imperial IPA theme quite far enough, and perhaps to rectify that, a Quadruple IPA might be in order. Thus, we have Hop Craic, a American Quadruple IPA. This is a massive IPA in every measure. It’s got a heavy body, the alcohol is a stout 10.4% ABV, and the hop notes are huge and balanced with strong malt flavors. The nose is strongly orange citrus but with a bit of molasses in the background. The middle bursts with lemon and orange, followed by pine, but then transitions into a heavily malty finish with notes of toasted grain and packed with brown sugar and syrup. The end of the finish is burned toast and pine. It’s exceptionally well balanced for such a powerful beer, and I’m enjoying it immensely.
I give it a 4.5 out of 5.
It is October 31st, 2014, and so on this night traditionally dominated by fancy dress and confections, I find the time has come to enjoy my bomber of Stone’s Enjoy By 10.31.14 IPA. The “Enjoy By” series is an occasionally brewed Imperial IPA meant to be consumed fresh, thus the prominent date in the title. It, like any Stone IPA is massively hoppy and staggeringly good. The nose is packed with heavy citrus and pine. The middle laced with lemon, grapefruit, pine, and just a hint of grass and brown sugar. The finish is bitter and piney and gives the beer a profile that is reminiscent of Stone’s ultimate hop-bomb, Ruination. The body is fairly heavy and the alcohol is a hefty 9.4% ABV, but it’s actually quite subtle, buried under the intensity of the fresh hops. Another top-notch offering from Stone, and you should look for an Enjoy By if you like massively hoppy west-coast IPAs.
I give it a 4.8 out of 5.
Since yesterday was IPA Day, I decided to celebrate it last night with the biggest, baddest IPA around. Stone’s RuinTen is an “extreme” version of their already insane Runation IPA which is an Imperial IPA designed to “ruin your palate” with over-the-top intensely bitter hops. So yeah, an extreme version of that. True to its billing, this is a big version of Ruination. I wouldn’t say that it’s any more bitter, however. It generally has the same flavor profile and intensity, but with a heavier body and more alcohol. They’ve cranked up the quantity of ingredients to get here, of course, but if any of it shows through, it’s a bit more citrus sweetness from heavy orange and grapefruit notes in the middle and finish than any additional bitterness. So overall there is a ton of pine, and a ton of grapefruit and orange, both bitter and sweet. The body is heavy, and the alcohol level is a relatively high 10.8% ABV. This is still a big, over-the-top bitter west-coast style Imperial IPA like Ruination, but if anything it’s slightly more well rounded and an excellent, excellent beer.
I give it a 4.9 out of 5.
Trust the Canadians to come up with an excellent pun for the name of an Imperial IPA of the American style. In this case, it’s the Canadians of Howe Sound Inn & Brewing Company of British Columbia. The nose has faint citrus and pine, and is predominantly malty, reminding me of maple syrup. The middle packs a bitter punch of citrus rind and pine. The strong bitterness is reminiscent of Stone’s Ruination or Green Flash’s Palate Wrecker. The finish is well rounded citrus flavors with some sweet grapefruit and orange to temper the bitterness. The body is medium to heavy and the alcohol is 8.0% ABV which is about what you’d expect for a big Imperial IPA. This is a big, tasty, bitter beer, and more proof that the Canadians know how to brew a beer properly.
I give it a 4.4 out of 5.
Ruination IPA is another classic that I’m not quite sure how I’ve managed to miss reviewing over these last few years. I’ve certainly drunk enough of it, one would have thought that I’d have managed to review it, but apparently not. Well, late is better than never, so here goes. Ruination IPA is an Imperial (or Double) IPA so named because it “ruins your palate.” And so it does. This is not a great beer to drink with a meal, because the intense bitterness will utterly overpower the flavors of any food you might be pairing it with. Even hot wings. Not regular hot wings, but the ones with names like “Fire” or “Inferno” or “Atomic.” Sure, you’ll still have the pain from the high concentration of Capsaicin, but you won’t be able to discern the flavor of the delivery device. It might have been a chicken wing, or pig’s foot, or the fist of a cop who’s shoved his pepper spray canister directly into your mouth. This beer will numb your taste buds like no other I’ve ever experienced. So does that mean it’s not good? No, by no means. In fact, it’s fantastic. This is the epitome of a West Coast Style Double IPA, bar none. This is the standard by which they should be measured. The nose is actually slightly sweet and floral. It reminds me of honeysuckle. The middle is bursting with citrus in the form of grapefruit and orange, the sugary sweet juice is there, but overpowered by the bitter rind. The finish is bready with hints of pine and a tiny bit of booziness. The body is fairly heavy, and the alcohol level is a strong but moderate 8.2% ABV. I don’t drink this beer with meals any longer, but it is one of my all time favorite brews.
I give it a 4.8 out of 5.
Maximus by Lagunitas is, as they say, “a bigger, badder version of our favorite style.” That means a super-hoppy IPA, and it’s really more of an Imperial IPA. It’s west-coast-ish, but there isn’t a ton of pine…Just a bit in the finish. The head is sticky and heavy, and dissipates moderately quickly. The nose has grapefruit and honeysuckle. The middle has big sweet grapefruit and orange notes, fighting some bitter burnt toast and herbs. The finish has the aforementioned bit of pine and more sweet orange. The sweet and bitter notes in this beer aren’t so much balanced as they are both simply strongly present. The flavors are all fine and nice, but the strength of the different flavors, and their lack of cohesion means that this isn’t going to be a session beer. Not that the the alcohol level (8.2% ABV) would allow it to be a session beer in any case. I like it, but I don’t love it.
I give it 3.9 out of 5.
A slam it’s called, and a slam it is. Stone Brewing Co. from San Diego, California is the brainchild behind the Stochasticity Project and its inaugural beer, Grapefruit Slam IPA, and that isn’t terribly surprising because this beer is crazy. Stone’s known for their bitter west coast style IPAs, sometimes taken to extremes in beers like Ruination, and one thing west-coast style IPAs are known for is a large helping of grapefruit flavors. So, the fine folks at Stone though something along these lines: “Hey, what would happen if we took a big west-coast IPA, and added about a trillion metric tons of grapefruit zest to it?” The answer, as you might suspect, is Grapefruit Slam IPA. They don’t specify exactly how much grapefruit zest they add…Just that it’s a lot. The bottle is non-specific in its note that added is “an immense dosing of grapefruit peel.” Now on to the specifics. The coloration is a bright golden amber, slightly cloudy. The head is dense and sticky. The nose smells like a bag of grapefruits dragged through pine resin. The middle is bitter, the grapefruit rinds ensure that, but this is not a one note beer. All the typical imperial west-coast IPA flavors are here. Not only the bitterness of the rind, but tons of sweet grapefruit sugars reminding me of a Texas ruby red, as well as a bit of pine that’s fairly muted, not by its absence but by the sheer volume of the other flavors at play here. The pine comes more to the fore in a very dry finish, along with plenty of additional grapefruit rind and some warming alcohol. The body is medium-heavy and the alcohol is a big but manageable 8.2% ABV. If you’re not a fan of bitter IPAs, you’re not going to like this beer, I can promise you. I, however, do, and I have a particularly fondness for grapefruit, and I think that it’s absolutely fantastic. Crazy, perhaps, and out of mainstream for certain, but wonderful.
I give it a 4.7 out of 5.
Palate Wrecker is a big West Coast style IPA that was originally brewed for Hamilton’s Tavern and has clearly been influenced by Stone’s Ruination. (So called because it “ruins” your palate.) It’s an Imperial IPA, so big on flavor, body, and alcohol. The head is creamy and the nose has a ton of grapefruit, grass, and some pine. The middle is heavy and sits on your tongue, imparting flavors of grapefruit, lemon, and honey. The finish explodes with pine, a bit of grapefruit rind, and some booziness from the alcohol. (9.5% ABV) This may be the purest Imperial variant of the West Coast style IPA that I’ve had, and for all the marketing around the 100+ IBU score for this beer, it isn’t anywhere near as strongly and ruinously bitter as Ruination is. I love the west coast style and to me, this is a truly outstanding beer.
I give it a 4.8 out of 5.