Deschutes Hop Henge Experimental IPA is a beer I know nothing about before tasting it. While that might not make for very interesting reading or back story, it should provide for a very honest and unbiased review. We just started getting Deschutes in the area within the last four months or so and I am definitely OK with that. I don’t buy sixers that often and since the selection of Deschutes we have thus far is primarily six packs I have not been picking up a whole lot of it. I’ve also had all the current varieties thus far and choose to focus on new experiences. However, when I saw this bomber which was both new and from Deschutes I had to snag it. Besides, try and tell me that the label art doesn’t look promising. Hops are spilling forth from bags from bags! It’s a veritable monument to hops, right? Let’s pour!
Aroma 11/12: A promising beginning shows plenty of citrus aromas with pineapple and grapefruit leading the way. Floral notes are not too far behind, but resin seems distant at this point. The caramel sweetness is present and doing its best to mingle with the hops, but its definitely second fiddle. After the beer warms it opens up beautifully. A rich honey note steps in to dance with the hops, which remain strong, and the piney resin begins to kick things up a notch.
Appearance 3/3: This bright beer’s transparency really helps showcase the honey and pumpkin hues. The head was particularly pleasing in texture, size, and retention. A creamy color to match the wet, creamy looking texture as bubbles breached the surface everywhere they could.
Flavor 18/20: I had to wait until my taste buds acclimate before I could truly get a handle on everything that was going on in this bottle. There are a pair of large flavors at work and its hard to hear anything else of the din of those two oafs. Largely the huge caramel malts are fighting the hop pine flavors tooth and nail, but behind that are some solid flavors as well. In fact, the caramel flavors are apparently in a tag team with some biscuity malts that take over because the sweetness seems to die away rather quickly. The beginning shows us brief splashes of the aroma’s citrus before it is almost immediately washed away by the two larger flavors. Those two gorillas give make for a backbone thick with caramel sugars, pine, resin, and… no that’s about it. Hopheads should love the finish particularly as it gives the tingle of hop acids, alcohol warmth, and spicy black pepper before it begrudgingly sticks and slides down your throat. The aftertaste is what one should expect in a strong IPA with plenty of bitter resin, a persistent pepper, and a slight drying effect despite the plentiful malts. Not the biggest IPA I’ve ever had, but definitely enough to satisfy those seeking their daily ration of humulus lupulus.
Mouthfeel 4/5: My first note on this was “thick.” It was accurate. All the malts required to balance the “henge’s-worth” of hops result in a big body beer that stumbles and bumbles its way across your taste buds. The carbonation is spot on and leaves most of the tingly sensations to the resin, peppery hops, and a warmth that seems to only make an appearance in the finish and aftertaste; an interesting trick in a 10.9% ABV brew.
Overall Impression 8/10: The amounts of flavor in this beer are certainly to be reckoned with. I also appreciate the body and the fact that the beer somehow maintains a perfect level of carbonation regardless of how warm it gets in the glass. The transition of flavor from sweet (brief citrus & caramel) to bitter (biscuit, resin, pine, grapefruit’s bitter) is also an interesting characteristic to which one should pay attention.
Total 44/50: I’m trying really hard not to be fickle or hypocritical. On one hand, I often criticize beers for not “bringing the thunder” when it comes to flavor. This beer certainly does bring with it some substantial flavor, but brings it with all the nuance and tact of a bowling ball. It’s just… asserts itself with flavor. Again, flavor is good! I’ll never fault a beer for having flavor, I just want to taste more than just the splatting of ingredients on my tongue. Sure, I tasted several different flavors, I just really had to search for them behind the giants in the way. The imagery of a paintball being fired on the tongue refuses to leave me. Not because this beer was so over-the-top intense, but because it basically all came at once until you get to the finish. SMACK! Where was the chance for flavors to develop on the tongue? I don’t know. The more I type the more I sound to myself like a whiny idiot. Maybe this is what happens when an amateur tries to put into words the subjective notion of flavor.
TL;DR: Deschutes Hop Henge Experimental IPA is a good beer. Lots of flavor. Expect a car wreck of hops in your mouth, but not a wide spectrum of flavor.
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!