Wednesday, July 15, 2009

DIPA Battle Royale

Double IPA ("DIPA") or Imperial IPA ("IIPA"), whichever you fancy, has become the crown jewel of the craft brewer. The DIPA allows the brewer to showcase his (or her) hop and malt prowess to the max. DIPAs typically have alcohol content in excess of 8% by volume. International Bittering Units (general measure of a beer's bitterness, although there is some controversy on how IBUs should be calculated) are very high, 70+ are typical for the style. The "imperial" reference in the latter name for this style is most likely a tip of the hat to the Russian "Imperial" Stout, a significantly stronger version of the English Stout.

This truly American invention, most likely started in San Diego - generally most people recognize that the first DIPA (at least the first commercial DIPA) was brewed in 1994 by Vinnie Cilurzo of the Blind Pig Brewing Company (currently the owner of Russian River Brewing!). Cilurzo claims he "accidentally" created the style by adding 50% too much malt to his mash tun. He then "corrected" this mistake by adding 100% more hops.

Some argue that many of the stronger DIPAs could be alternately classified as American barleywines or even, dare I say, a Triple IPA ("TIPA"). As a relatively new style, it is still being determined. It is currently one of the fastest growing styles in the craft beer industry.

In the last two weeks I had the pleasure of trying three new (at least they were new to me) DIPAs.

Ohhh it's on!

Dogfish Head Burton Baton

In this corner the east coast king of hops, Dogfish Head. Most everyone in this area is familiar with Dogfish and their portfolio of adventurous beers. Dogfish can claim at least 3 different DIPAs in their "regular" rotation of beers: 90 minute IPA, 120 minute IPA (although if you are going to have a TIPA category, this one would fit the bill), and Burton Baton.

Burton Baton as described by DFH is, "a blend of oak-aged English strong ale and our 90 Minute I.P.A." First, this beer is quite difficult to find, I had been looking for it for close to a year. Well having a wife who works at a beer store has its perks. Mrs. HolzBrew was able to pick us up two bottles of this last week, after Norm's received all of two cases from the distributor. It weighs in at a strong 10% ABV.

Look: Hazy amber with a moderate lining of off-white lace. Absolutely sticks to the side of the glass.

Smell: Aroma is noticeably oaky and woody, with a sweet, malty aroma. The hops are herbal and blend well with the oaky aroma, but not overly hop pungent as some DIPAs can be.

Drink: Citrusy, spicy, and earthy hop flavor, but no over the top hoppiness. Lots of maltiness, tons of sticky sweet caramel flavor. A little oakiness towards the end. Despite the high ABV level there is very little in the way of noticeable alcohol astringency.

Overall Grade: I thought this was a pretty cool beer. I guess my only critique was that it was a little too sweet, making it difficult to ever drink more than one per evening. Good stuff from a great brewer, I give it an B+ overall.

Stone 13th Anniversary Ale

In this corner, the west coast king of trash talk, Stone Brewing Company. A lot of people know Stone from their Arrogant Bastard Ales as well as their incredible IPA and regular year round DIPA offering, Stone Ruination. Multiple times Mrs. HolzBrew has claimed that Stone makes hands down the best American IPA on the market, this coming from a woman who knows her hops is no distinction to be taken lightly. Well every year Stone releases an anniversary ale and wouldn't you know they decided to go big this year to declare that they have finally become a teenager. As described by Stone, "Stone 13th Anniversary Ale has 4.5 lbs of hops per barrel-more hops per barrel than any beer Stone has ever brewed." Impressive to say the least. (Note: Technically Stone is calling this an Imperial Red, I'm not sure there is much of a significant difference and I thought it was close enough to a DIPA to be included in this competition.) 9.5% ABV.

Look: Pours up a deep red, but completely clear, no haze whatsoever. I'm always impressed at how clear Stone beers are. Thick ring of head.

Smell: Citrusy, grapefruit and piney hoppiness. Additionally, the malt is also there with caramel, and toffee aroma. Smells awesome.

Drink: Big citrus flavors come out in the front, a little oily. Then very malty flavors through the middle, toffee and caramel like flavor. Finishes noticeably bitter but not brutally bitter. Complex and very balanced.

Overall Grade: Pretty Awesome! If you can find it on the shelves and you like hops, pick it up. Overall Grade A-.

He'Brew Bittersweet Lenny's R.I.P.A.

In this corner the King of the Jews, He'Brew Brewing. I can't remember if I have tried this one before. But lucky me they had it on tap two weeks ago at Galaxy Hut in Clarendon. He'Brew makes some pretty good stuff, I reviewed their Jewbelation 12 back around Christmas (or more appropriately Hanukkah), and loved it. I actually believe they are a contract brewer and a lot of their stuff is brewed by Anderson Valley. You gotta love a brewer with a sense of humor though. I believe this one is dedicated to the late Lenny Bruce. Another big one at 10% ABV.

Look: Pours a very copper color. Topped healthy and thick, off-white foam head with great retention.

Smell: Piney and resiny hop nose with some slightly peppery notes most likely form the rye. Aroma also is sweet maltiness with caramel and even some tropical fruit in there.

Drink: A very dense chewy and creamy mouthfeel. The taste is malty no doubt with lot of syrupy fruit flavor and caramel, and toffee notes. Huge hop flavor of grapefruit, orange, and a spicy pine. A little noticeable alcoholic heat on this one , but it complements the spiciness of the rye and bready flavors quite well.

Overall Grade: This beer is straight baller. Crazy delicious like Mr. Pibb and Red Vines. A+++.

Well, it was a great battle, but my favorite DIPA of these three has to be the He'Brew Bittersweet Lenny's R.I.P.A.. Quite honestly if you are a self described hophead you'll love all three of these.

Keep it DIPA, IIPA, or TIPA,


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A Night of Debauchery

Ahhh yes, we all have our guilty pleasures. And sometimes we take it to the excess. Well, the wife has girls night tonight and I was left all on my lonesome. What's a fella to do? Indulge in temptation!

Knowing that I would be left to my own devices I swung by ... KFC on my way home. That's right HolzBrew, a man with such a sophisticated palate, secretly loves mass produced fried chicken. As I was near Norm's Beer and Wine, I stopped in to pick up some beer to accompany my bucket-o-sin. After informing Jeff, one of Norm's finest lieutenants, of my intentions he vehemently recommended Rogue's Dad's Little Helper Malt Liquor. I admit to have fallin' way too easily.

How does it end? Well the Colonel never disappoints (perhaps its his high ranking military title). First, don't be deceived by the measly three pieces of fried chicken you see served up above. I managed 7 pieces and that did not include any wings. I suspect my stomach won't be thanking me in the morning. But what about the beer? Well its a malt liquor, and it bought back some suppressed memories from college that's for sure. But here is a review for heaven's sake:

Look: Poured with some bubble bath style (sudsy) white head that faded expeditiously. Straight yellow in color.

Smell: Aroma of grainy malt. I detect some corn in the background and a slight note of ethanol.

Drink: Upfront sweet taste, just enough hops to keep the malt from being overwhelmingly cloying. Graininess and alcohol presence are showcased to say the least. Finishes sweet.

Overall: C

As far as malt liquor goes I guess this is the best I've ever had, but that's not saying too much. It served its purpose as a redneck accompaniment to my fried chicken. But I believe the shelf price was $5.99 for the 22oz. bottle, there are so many better choices in the same tax bracket.

Keep it greasy and malted,