Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Review #3 - Great Divide Hercules Double IPA

Posted by: Stonecipher
Jan. 31, 2011

Last night I was very happy to be sitting down with a large glass of beer after racking my brain all day with class and work.  Like the Dreadnaught, I have tried Great Divide’s Hercules Double IPA in the past, but I did not review it.  I remember enjoying it, but I was also eating at one of my very favorite restaurants in Chicago, Bad Apple on Lincoln, just kitty corner from the Half Acre Beer Company – home of Daisy Cutter Pale Ale.  It’s always tough to tell if the burgers or the beer is better there, the selection of both is phenomenal, but I digress. 
Here are some basics for the Great Divide Hercules Double IPA
ABV: 10%
IBUs: 85
Brewery Location: Denver, Colorado
Style: American Double IPA
Average Beer Advocate Rating: A-/4.2 – Excellent
My Beer Advocate Rating: B+/3.9 – Very Good
Current Number of Reviews/Rank in the Top 20 on Beer Advocate: 1,184/10th
Brewery Description: Great Divide Brewing Company
Bottled On: July 1, 2011

By the way, you’ll notice the Avery Brewing Company glass, a Colorado glass for a Colorado beer.  Haven’t been to the Great Divide Brewery yet, but may be making the trip when I’m in Denver and Boulder in March.  That also may have to be the time I review Avery’s Maharaja – One of my all-time favorites that just so happens to be in the Top 20.

So, with the weather getting increasingly worse here in the Chicago Area, I sat down last night to sample the Great Divide Hercules Double IPA and here’s what I found:

APPEARANCE:  Poured a hazy, medium copper into the Avery pint glass.  A decent looking, fluffy white head dissipated rather quickly.  The Hercules is a good looking beer, but there is nothing particularly notable about the appearance.  One thing that was interesting is that this beer did break the streak of my Double IPAs only lacing on the left and right sides of the glass.  The Hercules had a more typical lacing pattern, with big thin rings lining the opposite side of the glass from top to bottom. 

SMELL:  The first word that came to mind when I sniffed the Hercules was intense.  And that’s just the way I like my beers.  The strong, piney hop smell steals the show, but there are also hints of grassy and citrus aromas.  Great Divide certainly knows how to create an appetite and excitement for a hop head.

TASTE:  The first sip was a little bit of a letdown.  I was expecting a bitter hop bomb, but instead tasted more sweet malt flavors.  That wasn’t a terrible thing, just unexpected.  As the beer began to warm, however, the bitter hoppy flavor became more apparent and the sweetness was relegated to the background as a balancing agent.  Hints of citrus, mostly lemon, came through at the tail end of the sip as the bitterness emerged for the aftertaste.

MOUTHFEEL:  If I remember correctly it was Barq’s whose motto was “Barq’s has Bite”.  Well, Hercules has bite, particularly if you hold it on the tongue for a couple of seconds.  The carbonations digs into the tongue, but strangely the rest of the palate seems to get more of a pleasant mouth coating sensation at the same time.  This combination seems to be responsible for making the aftertaste exceptionally strong, an unusual, but excellent feel. 

OVERALL:  This is a somewhat erratic and funky beer.  In my last review I described the Three Floyds Dreadnaught as a roller coaster ride, and the Hercules is the same in some ways, except that the roller coaster is old, rattling and extremely shaky.  For the roller coaster connoisseur, my guess is that the rattle and shake might add to the excitement, but for a rookie, it might be terrifying.  I thoroughly enjoyed this beer, but I can see how it would frighten some light beer drinkers away in a hurry. 

DRAWBACKS:  Once again, the roller coast ride was both a plus and a minus.  The Hercules is a very complex beer and with complexity comes a variety of tastes, smells and feels.  The likelihood that one beer drinker will love all of these is fairly low, so as the odds would have it, there were a few characteristics that didn’t quite do it for me.  One was the appearance.  I do believe appearance is the toughest category to screw up (I mean how often do you look at a beer and say to yourself “Well, I just don’t want to drink that”?), but the Hercules did leave something to be desired as far as its appearance went.  Additionally, the early sips were too sweet for me.  I understand the need to balance the hops out with some malt, but it took longer than I wanted for the correct balance to appear. 

SOUND:  This was a tough one, but I have to go with Miles Davis’s “Bitches Brew”.  What can be grating and, well, downright scary to the untrained ear can also be a thing of beauty to a jazz aficionado.  The Hercules is going to be a classic that must be respected, but may not be fully enjoyed or appreciated by everyone, just like Miles in 1970.

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