Saturday, February 5, 2011

Thunder Snow Night = Moylan's Hopsickle Imperial India Pale Ale Review

When the winter weather is miserable, most people get snow days, but as a bartender, on Tuesday I got a snow night – and to top it off, it was no ordinary snow night, it was a thunder snow night!  I figured a thunder snow night would be the perfect time to review Moylan’s Hopsickle Imperial IPA.  As was the case with my review of FFF Dreadnaught and with Great Divide’s Hercules, I had tasted this beer in the past, but I did not do a proper review.

The first time I tried the Hopsickle, I split a 22oz. bomber with my roommate and my girlfriend and it was very good.  This time, however, I made an effort drink the entire bottle and my results were drastically different.  Maybe this was a beer built for sharing, either way; here are some quick facts about the Moylan’s Hopsickle:

ABV: 9.2%
IBUs: 100+
Brewery Location: Novato, California
Style: American Double IPA
Average Beer Advocate Rating: A-/4.14 – Excellent
My Beer Advocate Rating: C-/2.7 – Not Worthy
Current Number of Reviews/Rank in the Top 20 on Beer Advocate: 782/20th
Brewery Description: Moylan’s Brewery
Bottled On: No date on Moylan’s

APPEARANCE:  What first struck me about the Moylan’s Hopickle Imperial Ale was its haziness; it was a very cloudy and opaque orange color.  My pour was fairly aggressive, but it did not produce much of a head – just an eighth of an in or so and it settled down right away.  Head retention is not Hopsickle’s strength.

SMELL:  Just like the look, orange was the most noticeable characteristic of the nose.  It dominates the aromas as hops and other citrus flavors linger in the background. 

TASTE: The Hopsickle is a distinct departure from the previous DIPAs I’ve reviewed here at 20 Beers in 20 Nights.  Rather than the usual sweetness, this one is all about the hoppy bitterness.  There is some balance early in the sip, when the beer hits the tongue a mild malt flavor is present before giving way to a wave of orange that lasts until the hop bomb explodes.  It is about half way through the sip that the orange flavor suddenly disappears and a tongue-ripping bitterness assaults the palate.  The assault is just straight-forward, bitter hops and lasts all the way through to the aftertaste.  As the beer goes down it seems to be taking taste buds with it. 

MOUTHFEEL:  As I mentioned above, the Moylan’s Hopsickle seems to be ripping the taste buds out as it goes down.  It is extraordinarily dry on the back end and it leaves the palate begging for something to quench its thirst.  After cycling through from the back end of one sip to the back end of another a few times water needed to be introduced to the equation, at least in my case it did.

OVERALL:  This is the perfect illustration of why one needs to finish an entire serving of beer when it is being reviewed.  That first experience I had with Hopsickle was completely different than the last one.  The hop explosion I experienced in the seven ounce pour was fantastic, just like the first third or so of this particular bottle.  After that, however, it just went too far for my taste.  I genuinely appreciate a brewery making an effort to satisfy the true, bitter, hop craving of many DIPA fans out there, but when the second half of the beer cannot be tasted, it ceases to make sense. 

DRAWBACKS:  I feel that I’ve already been fairly tough on Moylan’s for this one, so rather than rehashing what I didn’t like about the beer I will simply recommend that you split a bomber with a friend or two.  It is certainly worth trying and who knows, some people may like to have their taste buds ripped to pieces, I know I like to have mine pushed to the limits.  To sum it up though, like Hunter S. Thompson said “The Edge... there is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over.”  Well, the Hopsickle has taught me where the edge of my hop tolerance is, something I never really thought I would figure out.

SOUND:  This beer brought to mind my college days when I was a DJ on our campus station and I was deeply involved in the college music scene.  The Hopsickle is one of those bands/songs that all the cool kids know, and are supposed to love, but in reality isn’t that pleasant to listen to.  You can respect the effort, musical talent and complex production that went into the song, but sometimes complexity doesn’t equal beautiful.

Just to provide a little balance here at the end of this piece, I do have to say that many of the other beers I have tried from Moylan’s are outstanding.  Don’t let this piece discourage you from checking picking up a bomber or two from Novato sometime.

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