Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Review #16 - Southern Tier Unearthly Imperial IPA

Posted by: Tyler Rippeteau

May 31, 2011

I first reviewed this beer about a year ago and came up with some surprisingly similar thoughts for both reviews, particularly in the mouthfeel department, but I won’t give that away just yet.  Anyhow, since there wasn’t much of a fight (or any fight for that matter) put up to obtain this beer, let’s just roll right into it:

ABV: 9.5%
IBUs: 150+?
Brewery Location: Lakewood, New York
Style: American Double/Imperial India Pale Ale
Average Beer Advocate Rating: A-/4.13
My Beer Advocate Rating: B/3.6
Current Number of Reviews/Rank in the Top 20 on Beer Advocate: 959/16th
Brewery Description: Unearthly Imperial IPA
Bottled On: NA

APPEARANCE:  (4.5 out of 5) Wow, the head on this thing is huge.  After pouring the Unearthly Imperial IPA into a 20oz. glass a big, fluffy, white, full-inch-thick head rested on top of a hazy, orange-yellow beer.  The fluffiness of the head, did not lead to as quick a dissipation as I expected and a few streams of tiny bubbles flowed up from the bottom of the glass giving it a vibrant look.  The lacing followed suit with the head and was very clingy, getting good coverage particularly on the back side of the glass.

SMELL:  (4.5 out of 5) The Unearthly smells exactly like a Double IPA should.  The aroma is straight up, floral hops.  Piney, dry and crisp smelling, the only other aromas that sneak into the nose are some light citrus hints, particularly grapefruit and orange.  This is an outstanding smelling beer.

TASTE:  (3.5 out of 5) The first sip is much sweeter than I expected after the taking a sniff of it.  Honey (which was nowhere to be found in the nose) and orange dominate up front before balancing out with a bitterer grapefruit flavor at the back end.  Pine provides a backbone to this Southern Tier offering, running from start to finish while there is a surprising lack of floral notes throughout.  The smell and the taste are almost like two different beers, but overall, it is tasty despite being a bit too sugary.

MOUTHFEEL:  (2 out of 5) Not exactly my cup of tea in the mouthfeel department.  This one is not just oily and mouthcoating, but it crosses the line into syrupy.  The big, lively head did not translate into a well carbonated beer at all, which was a major disappointment. 

OVERALL:  (3.5 out of 5) The Unearthly Imperial IPA started out with a bang.  As I dove deeper into this beer, however, it lost momentum quickly.  The look and smell were absolutely outstanding, but then the flavor was just a little above average for a double IPA and the mouthfeel was unimpressive.  If this beer tasted like it smelled and felt like it looked it would be one of the best beers in the world.

DRAWBACKS:  The mouthfeel all but killed this one for me, which is an odd thing to say, but making a big, rich and syrupy beer and then selling it in 22oz. bottles isn’t the best idea in my opinion.  It would make for an excellent splitter, but to sit down and throw down the whole thing is a bit intense.  To be fair, the recommended serving temperature from Southern Tier is 42 degrees and I tend to like mine a tad warmer.  I probably hit somewhere near 55 and that certainly could have made a big difference in the feel, but I don’t think the flavor would have been there at that temperature, so it’s a tough call.  Next time I will chill it and see what happens.

DISTRIBUTION:  Southern Tier's distribution includes the following 28 states and Washington D.C.: AL, AK, CT, DE, FL, GA, ID, IL, IN, KS, ME, MD, MA, MI, MN, MO, NJ, NY, NC (Sometime Soon), OH, OR, PA, RI, SC, VT, VA, WA, WI.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

20 Down, 0 To Go!

Posted by: Tyler Rippeteau

Aug. 15, 2011

I started this blog way back in January of this year.  Now, about 7 months, 40 posts and 20 American Double IPAs later, I have reached my goal - to drink and review the Top 20 Most Reviewed Beers on Beer Advocate.  For any of you who are active reviewers on BA and happen to be as much of a beer nerd as I am, you can understand why the little blue check marks in the picture to the right make me happy.

That, by the way, is what the list looked like right after I completed my last review - AleSmith YuleSmith (Summer).  The list wasn't always in the same order, there were some changes in the rankings along the way, but all 20 beers on the original list remained there for the duration of my project and I am grateful for that.

The original list had the 20 beers ranked in this order:

1.   90 Minute IPA - Dogfish Head
2.   Stone Ruination - Stone Brewing
3.   Bell's Hopslam - Bell's Brewery
4.   Pliny the Elder - Russian River
5.   Hop Wallup - Victory
6.   120 Minute IPA - Dogfish Head
7.   Maharaja - Avery Brewing
8.   Dreadnaught IPA - Three Floyds
9.   Hercules Double IPA - Great Divide
10. Hop Stoopid - Lagunitas
11. Burton Baton - Dogfish Head
12. Double Simcoe IPA - Weyerbacher Brewing
13. Maximus - Lagunitas
14. Gordon Ale - Oskar Blues
15. Unearthly - Southern Tier
16. Founders Devil Dancer - Founders
17. YuleSmith (Summer) - AleSmith
18. Double Dog Double Pale Ale - Flying Dog
19. Hopsickle Imperial IPA - Moylan's Brewery
20. Founder's Double Trouble - Founders

Below is what the list looks like today.  You'll notice that the biggest mover was Founders Double Trouble going from 20th all the way up to 12th.  It is a seasonal release from Founders that can be difficult to track down, but this past winter when it was released around the same time as Founders super-popular Kentucky Breakfast Stout the Double Trouble got a decent boost as the best Founders beer that you were allowed to buy more than two bottles of at the liquor store.

The only other real significant move was AleSmith YuleSmith.  It dropped from 17th down to 20th.  Sure, it is a seasonal beer that was out of season for most of the duration of this project, but I was surprised that once it was released in July it didn't jump back up.  At this point, it seems to be a likely candidate for getting knocked out of the Top 20 since this year's batch is starting to dry up in the few states it is distributed in and it's only 15 reviews ahead of the number 21 spot - Smuttynose's Big A IPA - a year-round release. 

1.   90 Minute IPA - Dogfish Head
2.   Stone Ruination - Stone Brewing
3.   Bell's Hopslam - Bell's Brewery
4.   Pliny the Elder - Russian River (Will need some help finding this one for sure)
5.   Hop Wallup - Victory

6.   120 Minute IPA - Dogfish Head
7.   Maharaja - Avery Brewing
8.   Hop Stoopid - Lagunitas
9.   Dreadnaught IPA - Three Floyds
10. Hercules Double IPA - Great Divide
11. Burton Baton - Dogfish Head

12. Founders Double Trouble - Founders
13. Double Simcoe IPA - Weyerbacher Brewing
14. Maximus - Lagunitas
15. G'Knight Ale (Formerly Gordon Ale) - Oskar Blues

16. Unearthly - Southern Tier
17. Founders Devil Dancer - Founders18. Double Dog Double Pale Ale - Flying Dog
19. Hopsickle Imperial IPA - Moylan's Brewery
20. YuleSmith (Summer) - AleSmith

I did not reach my goal of finishing this project before I moved to Boulder, but I did get pretty close - only reviewing one beer here in Colorado.

By the way, some of the other stats from this project:

10 beers were distributed year-round in Chicago and I had no problem getting my hands on them, they were:

Dogfish Head 90 Minute
Stone Ruination
Victory Hop Wallop
Lagunitas Hop Stoopid
Lagunitas Maximus
Three Floyds Dreadnaught
Great Divide Hercules
Southern Tier Unearthly
Flying Dog Double Dog Double Pale Ale
Moylan's Hopsickle

7 Beers were seasonal or only made a few times a year and I had to wait for them:

Bell's Hopslam
Dogfish Head 120 Minute
Dogfish Head Burton Baton
Founders Double Trouble
Founders Devil Dancer
Avery Maharaja
AleSmith YuleSmith (Summer)

4 Beers were not distributed to Illinois at all:

Russian River Pliny the Elder
Oskar Blues G'Knight Ale
AleSmith YuleSmith
Weyerbacher Double Simcoe IPA

I travelled to get the G'Knight and the Russian River.  Oddly, I now live a half an hour away from the Oskar Blues brewery, but I ended up trying it for the first time in Nashville, Tennessee over the winter.  The Russian River I had for the first time when visiting Estes Park, Colorado before I moved to the state.

The Double Simcoe and the YuleSmith I got in trades.  Thanks to nevins and ren over at Beer Advocate for being great traders and coming though for me.

In addition to having to travel and trade for some of these beers I almost missed out on two of them even though they were distributed in Illinois.  The Dogfish 120 Minute IPA was an exceptionally rare beer this year.  After not producing it for quite some time Sam and the guys over in Milton, DE finally put together a small batch of it, but demand was very high and supply extremely low.  My former roommate worked at one of the biggest Whole Foods in Illinois and his store only got 8 beers.  One of which he was able to snag for me for $12 only because a customer who was on the waiting list for it failed to show up.  I later managed to get spoiled with two bottles at my local hang-out in Evanston - and that was 25% of their supply.

The other tough one was Founders Devil Dancer, which oddly was released on the same day.  I miscalculated how much of it would be available and I focused all my efforts on finding the 120.  As it turned out, however, while liquor stores were only allowing one bottle per customer of the 120 Minute, they were only allowing two Devil Dancers.  After I finally got the Dogfish I turned my attention towards the Founders offering and realized quickly that I might have screwed up big time.  None of my regular bars or liquor stores had it by the time I got around to searching for it.  I then proceeded to do a ton of research and make about 25 phone calls before I was able to find a full 4-pack.  At least it was full until Dan, my brother-in-law agreed to drive me 30 minutes to go pick it up.  As a new DIPA enthusiast, his fee was one of the four bottles.  Thanks Dan!

Speaking of thanks, I had to rely on a lot of help from several people and they all deserve a big round of applause: Emily, Dan, nevins, ren, Robb from Poppy's Pizza in Estes Park, Kyle and Phil from Prairie Moon in Evanston, Carlos at Fischman's, Beer Advocate, r/beer and all of you who have read the blog, especially those who commented on the site.  It has been a blast.  We're not quite done yet though, there will be a 20 Beers in 20 Nights Awards posting for the DIPA Project along with rankings.  Not 100% sure when, but it's coming soon.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Review #15 - Victory Hop Wallop

Posted by: Tyler Rippeteau

May 25, 2011

Courtesy of A Microbrew Review Blog
The final quarter of The List is going to be a tail of five beers.  Not so poetic, but they will be split into two categories; beers that have already been purchased and are currently sitting in my fridge and beers that I will have to wait for. 

Today’s beer, Victory Hop Wallop, of course, comes from the former category.  I picked up a 6-pack along with the Southern Tier Unearthly Imperial IPA and shortly afterwards I tracked down Flying Dog’s Double Dog Double Pale Ale.  The remaining beers are going to simply be a waiting game.  Founders Devil Dancer is due out in July, the Dogfish 120 Minute IPA seems to be anyone’s guess at this point and the AleSmith YuleSmith (Summer) is going to be a combination of a waiting game and a trade.  That said, given that by the end of the summer I will be living in Boulder, Colorado, so it shouldn’t be too tough to find some good trade bait.  Anyhow, back to the Hop Wallop:

ABV: 8.5%
IBUs: 70 (Needs Confirmation)
Brewery Location: Downingtown, Pennsylvania
Style: American Double/Imperial India Pale Ale
Average Beer Advocate Rating: A-/4.06
My Beer Advocate Rating: B/3.68
Current Number of Reviews/Rank in the Top 20 on Beer Advocate: 1,694/5th
Brewery Description: Victory Hop Wallop
Bottled On: March 16, 2012

APPEARANCE:  (4.5 out of 5) Great color and great head on the Hop Wallop.  It poured a pristine, bright orange and had a gorgeous inch-thick head that stuck around from the time I began this post until now (about 5 minutes).  The lacing is skimpy, but consistent throughout the glass and very pretty and arch-like.

SMELL:  (3.5 out of 5) The aroma is not strong, but it isn’t weak either.  Orange and grapefruit dominate with a hint of hops lurking in the background.  At this point I could see this beer going either way, sweet and citrusy or a complete hopslap.

TASTE:  (4 out of 5) The latter it is.  Grapefruit and a nice, bitter hop flavor dominate almost all the way through the sip, but particularly at the tail end.  The grapefruit provides one last punch of bitterness just at the tail end leaving a dry and (oddly) a slightly smoky aftertaste.  Backtracking, there is a quick blast of sweeter orange right up front, but it lasts just for a moment or two.  As it warmed it also became a touch sweeter. 

MOUTHFEEL:  (2.5 out of 5) This one is a palate scraper.  The dry bitter aftertaste sits on the tongue for what seems to be an eternity and is only cleared by the next sip.  In an odd way, the Hop Wallop has a dry mouthcoating feel to it, which is OK at first, but becomes a bit tough to deal with towards the end of the glass.

OVERALL:  (3.5 out of 5) I enjoyed this beer with some good, spicy, southern cooking; red beans and rice, chicken and crab cakes all smothered in hot sauce.  It was an excellent pairing with this hop-bomb, or Hop Wallop.  That said the bitterness was not pure and perfected in the same sense as Stone’s Ruination.  It went just a bit too far on the bitter side without much balance, somewhere between the Ruination and the Hopsickle from Moylan’s. 

DRAWBACKS:  In addition to going just a tad too far on the bitter side, I also felt that what little balance there was lacked any subtlety.  It wasn’t a slow transition from sweet to bitter, rather it was sweet for a second and then, BAM! all of a sudden, just as the palate realizes what is happening, the bitterness explodes on the palate.  It can be a jarring experience and I would expect this to solely be for the hop heads.  Regular beer drinkers need not apply.  I don't normally like a massive malt character in my beers, but at least some indication that it exists would have been nice.