Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Foamy Furlough: TUESDAY

For today's Foamy Furlough© installment, my idea was to select a beer whose name had something to do with "war" or "Mars," as these are etymologically associated with the word "Tuesday." Then it occurred to me that, in rock radio parlance, today is commonly known as "Two-fer Tuesday," hence, this is an excuse opportunity to swill critique a high-alcohol big-flavored style like a double bock or double IPA.

There is a boom right now in the American craft brew industry of "big beers" -- styles with higher alcohol content, higher bitterness, more massive overall flavor. At the far end of this spectrum is the freakshow of "extreme beers," touting better than 20% alcohol by volume, with a few even encroaching into the 40% range typically occupied by distilled spirits. Closer to the mainstream -- yet a bit beyond the traditional style standards -- there are quite a few offerings in the 10% ABV range that a beer aficionado might actually encounter on the local beer store shelf. These are beers that are testing the boundaries of styles within reason and without the competitiveness and chest-thumping that often goes along with the extreme beer culture.

And if you're intrepid, there are many great beers to choose from in these styles. I considered showcasing the Troegenator Double Bock, winner of the News Journal's "beer bracket" last year. (I'd link to that article, but... well, try for yourself to look it up on DelawareOnline.com and see why I didn't.) I also came close to choosing the walloping Stoudt's Double IPA, or Stone Double Bastard Ale, which weighs in at a non-trivial 11.2% ABV.

I finally settled on Hercules Double IPA from Great Divide Brewing in Denver, Colorado, because the brewery has a strong reputation and I've never tried any of their beers. The Great Divide product line sports attractive retro-styled labels that look like they could have been designed by someone at Sterling Cooper in 1963. The Hercules Double IPA comes in a standard-issue 12-oz. brown glass bottle. I am pouring into a goblet to allow the bigness to do its thing.

Pouring produces three-eighths of an inch of dense cream-colored foam that doesn't hang around for long. There is much lacing in the glass. The beer is amber orange and just slightly hazy. Its aroma is almost exactly like a cold slice of banana bread -- extremely appealing. As it warms, more of a caramel note emerges.

I am delighted to report, folks, this is a REALLY delicious beer! The flavor is predominated by citrus hops that rounds into an appropriately large flowery fruitiness -- rose hips without cloyingness, maybe? It has a substantial mouthfeel, but is not overly heavy. In fact, that fruitiness does a fantastic job of masking the alcohol, as this brew has none of the wince-inducing fusel notes that have prevented me from becoming a repeat customer of some other big beers. The taste settles across the outer edges of the back of the tongue and exits with a very long but mild creamy guava-like finish.

This is one of the nicest discoveries I have made since getting hip to the grapefruity marvel of Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA during the beer bracket last year. I hope my tastes have not become so skewed in favor of bitter IPAs that I'm steering you wrong on this one, but I really think that Hercules Double IPA could appeal to a broad audience. It has a very refreshing taste that anyone partial to the caramel malt body of American amber ales should be able to relate to. At $15.49 per 4-pack, it's not liable to become a staple in my household, but I will definitely be adding it to the rotation for special occasions. Like, you know, being sent on furlough...

Featured beer:

http://greatdivide.com/#/beer (then click on "Hercules Double IPA")

Honorable mentions:





Previously on FOAMY FURLOUGH©:


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