I have no idea how I’ve not reviewed this beer yet. I like to review these big IPAs as soon as possible while they are fresh and closest to how the brewer intended them. I got through some of the big boys, but this one has somehow eluded me. It’s another big DIPA from Michigan (Hopslam from Bell’s being the other that I’ve reviewed) and it is often paired against its interstate “rival.” Heck, a local bar in the Quad Cities had an event for just such a purpose!
On a note entirely separate I FOUND MY DIGITAL CAMERA! No longer will my shots be imbued with a pinkish hue. I giggled like a school girl when I found it. Not only will I be able to take higher quality shots for the blog again, but I found it just in time for beer fest season! Now you can be inundated with all sorts of high quality digital images (I know you’re excited)! Enough with the ramblin’. Let’s pour!
Aroma 11/12: You can easily smell this brew before ever pouring a drop! It starts of sweet with mandarin oranges and pine, but quickly goes through many permutations. The first being a bit more tropical with bits of mango, lemon zest, and a hint of warmth. Next some faint caramel and toasty malts appear. It settles into what at first seems like a lemony note, but the tropical theme hasn’t had it final say yet! It turns into a sugary pineapple with a classic grassy hop behind it. Absolutely beautiful, even if it’s not much balance.
Appearance 3/3: Extremely high clarity for an IIPA, but it still manages to show a moderate range of gold and honey tones. A nice column of carbonation ever-ascends to the top and helps keep the aroma strong The head is fair in size, a light orange pastel in color, and appears wet and creamy upon settling. Oops, there was a splash left in the bottom of this bottle that managed to put a nice haze into it and remove some of that surprising clarity.
Flavor 17/20: Bitter, bitter, and more bitter. First things first, this beer was bottled on 01/06/2012, so it’s not even two months old. I can’t assume hop characteristics would fade a ton in that amount of time, but I am allowing for some flavor decay. This beer begins with a dainty lemon zing before delving into the more brawling flavors. The caramel comes next, which adds a nice, mellow roundness to the whole works and helps the bitterness seem slightly less aggressive than a mother wolverine with a kidney stone. The bitterness in this in intense and dominates the flavor profile. Grapefruit is not hard to find behind this bitter (big surprise), but other flavors must nearly be sought out in order to be detected. As mentioned, caramel, bitter and grapefruit come forward rather easily, but the notes of pineapple (or any of the other fruits for that matter) are all but imagined. As I mentioned in the “Appearance” section, there was a splash left in this bottle when I began tasting it. I cannot state how important it was to pour in that last splash of beer. It completely changed the clarity and the flavor. Before that splash, this beer tasted bitter with little else at all! Adding that last splash, gave a somewhat balancing caramel and strengthened the citrus. The finish on this is a continuation of the grapefruit and the bitter, which leads into a dry aftertaste.
Mouthfeel 5/5: I can’t believe that this is 9.4% ABV! I never would have guessed. The body is medium-full and very pleasantly smooth from all the caramel malts. The carbonation is ample, but nearly absent toward the end of the bottle and teeters on becoming non-existant save for a quick swish in the mouth. The beer also posseses a light creaminess not typically found in IIPAs or DIPAs.
Overall Impression 8/10: Lots to love here if you love hops. It’s a well-crafted beer in many areas, including: body, appearance, head, and hidden warmth. Its smell was more complex than the taste (far from a sin), but the flavor seemed a bit content to overpower its drinker with hop bitter instead of hop flavor. If you love a bitter beer, this is a match made in heaven! If you’re looking for a bit more balance or to see what hops can TRULY offer a beer, then this beer will still be tasty, but perhaps not your ideal IIPA. I enjoyed this beer, it is far from being bad or lacking in flavor. However, to only focus on the bitter of the hop, sells that plant short as it is capable of so much more.
Total 44/50: This score places it at the tip top of the “Excellent” category and rightly so. It’s very well made, laden with flavor, and has not only camouflaged its alcohol warmth, but also apparently wrapped it in stealth technology. This is a hop lover’s DREAM. If you love hops and you love bitter, then look no further. However, as I mentioned earlier, I believe that hops are capable of so much more than simply landing vicious right hooks to my tongue. They can be sweet, tropical, spicy, herbal, piney, woody, and floral (amongst others). Why not utilize those capabilities? I certainly know that Founders is capable! I also know that while some of those characteristics would not have jived with the beer they were trying to make, some of them would have and we wouldn’t have been any worse off for it. I’ll certainly buy this again next year when it comes around, but I’ll be buying for the bitter and not for the balance. In finishing, I’d like to give Founders props for making a behemoth beer and calling it an IIPA, when it seems all too easy to call a beer an “Imperial” and then try to get away with something less than. Good work, Founders. This certainly qualifies
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!