I have been debating picking this up for a while now. I even went as far as to ask around the blogosphere for opinions. I finally decided I could resist no longer, although the $20.99 price tag on a four-pack did make me reconsider more than once. I was also a little hesitant because it was bottled almost two months ago and I seem to have a nasty habit of sampling IPAs past their fresh, hoppy best. I’m not sure if 2 months is too long, but I’m not going to let it get any worse. Let’s pour!
Aroma 12/12: I can’t recall if I have ever smelled such a complex hop profile. As soon as the bottle is opened the aroma rushes out. Once poured, it starts very grassy and not without some musty/funky notes. It slowly shows more fruit sweetness, but it is not the citrus we so often associate with hops. This is more like white grapes or apples and very nice. A spice note then joins the fray and combines with the grassy smell to make something that smells almost like marijuana. Maybe even like wet, decomposing leaves in the fall. Warmth becomes gradually more apparent without interfering and last to the party are the pine needles. This is outstanding!
Appearance 3/3: While the generous head does not remain for a gratuitous amount of time, it does its job and then remains as a disc on the surface. The color is phenomenal! A radiating orange glow of pumpkin and rust and not without its redder highlights. Blood orange anyone? Gorgeous.
Flavor 20/20: A thick, creamy, caramel-laden malt is the first to greet you. And it has an firm-ass handshake! Wow! The transitions into the backbone with brown sugar-like sweetness and a faint dark fruit. How do they get this much malt into one bottle? The IBU’s are listed at 112, but with all this malt it almost seems balanced. In the same way a symphony would if you played it through rock concert speakers. The pine, fruit, and resin are strong and present at the sides of the tongue, but tend to fade a bit when it is held in the mouth. Again… big, huge, truckloads of caramel and brown sugar. Not in an overly sweet way, but in a MONSTER beer way. The finish is instantly resinous and bitter, but once the beer has run over the back of the tongue it fades back into a balance with the malt but with bitter peppery lingerings. The aftertaste is an ink-like bitter and lots of the pepper. All sweetness has left, but the beer does not leave the mouth dry. I just noticed that in that whole flavor profile that not once was the 12% ABV mentioned. Talk about well camouflaged!
Mouthfeel 5/5: To say that this is a big beer, feels like an understatement. It is insanely full-bodied, thick, and makes you want to scrape the extra flavor off of the sides of your tongue with your teeth. The carbonation becomes very low toward the end of the bottle, but oddly enough, the peppery hops tend to give it that little extra prickly sensation even if it is in a false way. Big flavors need big bodies and this beer delivers. And amazingly, does so without becoming syrupy.
Overall Impression 10/10: Wow. Wow. and wow again. This is a ginormous, gargantuan, goliathan, humongous, colossal beer. Bitter beer lovers need look no further, though hop heads may be disappointed with the large amounts of balancing malts. The ridiculously complex nose and intense, large flavors had me going and the technical prowess puts it over the top. This is, without a doubt, a superior beer.
Total 50/50: This score makes this beer only the second ever that has received a perfect rating! Boy, does it deserve it. I may never hesitate to buy ridiculously expensive beer ever again! The risk was definitely worth the reward in this case. Craft beer lovers, I am speaking to you now. Do whatever it takes to find this beer. Lie, cheat, steal, swindle, barter, ransom, heckle, trespass, jaywalk, blackmail… it doesn’t matter. It will all be worth it in the end before you go to prison. The flavor is immense (I’m not sure if I made that clear earlier), the aroma is probably a felony in 13 states, and I’m not sure, but I think my palate just got into a bar fight with Bas Rutten.
The fact that I had gone 70+ reviews and never found a perfect score, but then find two within two weeks of each other is awesome to me. It just goes to show that you never know where you’re going to find you’re next favorite beer and I’m SO glad I have 3 of these left. Here’s the best part: IPAs aren’t even my favorite style of beer. This beer is just that damn good. I wish I could shout “Cheers!” loud enough so that the boys in Michigan could hear me. Kudos Founders! I’ll definitely be looking for this one again.
Joel R. Kolander is the Cheif Blogger for Sud Savant, a beer-savoring blog for the rest of us. We’re not here to get plowed. We’re not here because we are world-famous beer critics. We’re here because we enjoy savoring a great beer with even better friends. Sharing great beer is just as amazing as finding it in the first place. Lets share!