According to the experts, when you run a beer tasting you should always begin with the lightest beer with the lowest abv; however, when you’re tasting only imperial IPAs, this might mean you start at 8%. My friends Kate and Orie came over to help Ben and I taste a mixed sixer of double IPAs so I wouldn’t end up with an article on alcohol poisoning instead.
We had some pizza while we did our stretches and a few warm-up sips of a Brooklyn East IPA — overall a very responsible preamble. We also did a little research, by which I mean we talked at our phones and accepted Wiki definitions as good enough. Turns out Imperial just refers to any beer that has extra bunches of hops or malt, resulting in extra bunches of alcohol. It originated when the British had to brew their stout extra forte to make the journey to the royal Russian court. Basically, big and bold beers, regardless of style.
We start out with Hopmouth, a double IPA from Arcadia Brewing in Kalamazoo, Michigan. At 8%, Hopmouth was dangerously smooth — sessionable, even. Overall it was good, quite drinkable, but not our favorite.
Brooklyn Brewing’s Brooklyn Blast, at 8.4%, is up next. (Side note: this name is embarrassingly hard for me to say even without alcohol, transposing my Ls and Rs like I was Long Duck Dong in the spectacularly un-PC Sixteen Candles.) Kate takes a sip and trills, “it’s the tips of the hairs on the back of a bee! A ferocious honeysuckle meringue!” (Side note 2: I should also mention that Kate and Orie are musicians, poets, artists, beautiful people with shiny, twisty minds.)
Third is Sock Knocker from Coronado Brewing in Coronado, California, an 8.5% brew. Orie pinpoints the unique but familiar flavor immediately: Tootsie Roll. It’s faint, but there. All agree that this is the best delivery method for said flavor, and also that Orie’s rap name should be Tootsie Whip. Kate declares it “a lick from a tame bear, a honey bear!”
The next beer, Unsessionable Imperial IPA from Revolution Brewing in Chicago, is our first 10%er, and it is most decidedly not a session. This floral beer is gorgeous, heavy on the back beat, thick and resiny. I remark that I probably could take only one pint of this in an evening and Kate says matter-of-factly, “peony fudge.” I can’t disagree. A discussion begins about the symbiotic relationship between the flower and ants and suddenly my DJ name is Peony Wax. Dig it.
Oskar Blues’ Gubna Imperial IPA is up next, a 10% beer out of Brevard, North Carolina. Our structure is devolving: Ben gets the giggles and Ike and Tina are blasting from the turntable. This one has a good end, and we dub it the Storybook IPA.
One more (come on people, pull yourselves together!), this the Apollo Single Hop Imperial IPA from Flying Dog in Frederick, Maryland. We finally remember to cheers: to friends, our hometown, prosperity, and surprises. Then my notes say, “I hope you put candles in your eggs that day,” and I have no idea what that means. We go on to note that it has a slow-burning bitterness and a residual, though not unpleasant, tang. Then something that I wrote down as “bus potatoe.”
Our overall group conclusion is that Revolution Brewing won this round, but that they were all pretty damn good. And that we need to start a band. This is DJ Peony Wax, signing off.