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Westbrook Citrus Ninja Exchange

Westbrook Brewing Co.

Mt. Pleasant, SC

Citrus Ninja Exchange Double IPA

9% ABV

About a year ago, Westbook got a little hot and heavy with the guys at the Charleston Beer Exchange. Both were turned on by their mutual love for citrus-forward IPAs, and when their love was consummated, they birthed a beautiful - and delicious - bundle of joy known as Citrus Ninja Exchange. The Cascade single-hopped DIPA was stuffed with 50 lbs. of grapefruit, then dry-hopped four times. Needless to say, it was hoppy, juicy and heavy on the citrus.

Or so I’ve heard. The first born was a draft-only concoction that I never got to try. But this year, they got together again and gave that first brew a younger brother, this time with a simpler malt bill and a blend of American and New Zealand hops for Citrus Ninja 2.0.

Ninja pours a classic deep, hazy orange color. There’s about half a finger of head that disappears pretty quickly, as you’d expect a 9 percenter would. That’s coupled with some very nice lacing and alcohol legs.

If they were going for a citrus-foward beer, they achieved it in spades. The grapefruit wafts out of the glass as you’re pouring, and there’s just an epic grapefruit note on the nose.  It’s very astringent and a tad boozy. Just imagine sticking your face in a freshly cut grapefruit and inhaling. It’s like that, but with less pulp.

Tastewise, there’s a slight bitterness on the tongue and a medium mouthfeel. There’s sort of a syrupy sweetness and a New Belgian-esque bready maltiness to it. Of course, that’s all taken over by the gigantic explosion of grapefruit on the back. It seriously tastes like eating pure grapefruit. The alcohol burn on the middle and back of the palate are exactly what you’d get from a fresh grapefruit. There are also hints of other citrus - lime, lemon, orange - but it’s overwhelmingly grapefruit centric. There’s also sort of a pulpy aftertaste and a dry finish. The beer, in a word, is amazing.

Fruit- and citrus-forward IPAs are my favorite. They can have an aggressiveness and power to them, but still mellow nicely and become more enjoyable as your palate adjusts. Citrus Ninja is an assault on the taste buds, what with its huge tartness and astringency, but it’s one you just want to keep drinking. The flavor is full, lush biting, but just oh so damn good. Here’s to hoping this becomes an annual collaboration. 

Filed under Westbrook Charleston Beer Exchange Charleston IPA DIPA

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Stone Ruination Tenth Anniversary

Stone Brewing Co.

Escondido, CA

Ruination Tenth Anniversary IPA

10.8% ABV

What is there to say about Stone Ruination that hasn’t been said before. As one of catalysts for double and imperial IPAs, the intensely hoppy, insanely bitter yet incredibly drinkable beer is well known and much loved by hopheads.

So, what to do when your “liquid poem to the glory of the hop” celebrates its 10th birthday? Kick it up a notch.

Everything in Stone’s 10th anniversary celebration of Ruination is turned up to 11. The ABV was upped from 7.7% to 10.8%, the amount of hops used in the brewing process was doubled to five pound per barrel, and then another pound of Centennial and Citra hops are used during dry hopping. While Ruination is phenomenal and easily one of my favorite DIPAs, the 10th anniversary is easily one of the best imperial IPAs I’ve ever had.

The pour is a clear brownish orange with a finger or two of head that lingers for a while, surprising for a high ABV beer. There’s some really gorgeous and very strong lacing and nice alcohol legs around the sides of the glass.

The nose is, in a word, delicious. There’s massive, epic notes of tropical fruits such as peach, pineapple and mango. There’s kind of a candie sugar note as well, I’m guessing from the increased malts used to balance out the hops. 

For a beer this bitter, it was surprisingly mellow on the front. I have a feeling that’s just because the bitterness destroyed my tastebuds as it explodes with a huge hop note in the middle and settles into a surprisingly smooth and juicy finish. It just glides across your tongue. The bitterness is, of course, damn strong, but it’s evened out with all the malts that go into the brew. If there’s a beer that’ll give you hop mouth, it’s definitely this one. Big piney hops on the back.

This is absolutely an A+ beer for me. Ruination changed the game for me as far as hoppy beers go, and what the guys are Stone have done with this special batch is really impressive. It’s still insanely hoppy, but incredibly drinkable and show just how damn good the guys at Stone are. Pick one up if you’re man enough to handle it. (Sorry, couldn’t pass up the chance for a bit of Stone arrogance.)

Filed under Stone IPA DIPA

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Terrapin Hopzilla

Terrapin Beer Co.

Athens, GA

Hopzilla Double IPA

10.7% ABV

Terrapin's Hopzilla Imperial IPA originally stated out as part of their one-off Side Project entries that was so well-received that the Athens, GA-based brewery decided to make it one of their seasonal offerings as part of the Monster Beer Tour, replacing other entries in the consistently-awesome series.

Hopzilla is a wrecking ball of booze. Brewed with a mound of Maris Otter malts and Bravo, Centennial and Chinook hops with an extra round of Citra dry hopping. There’s an incredibly astringency to it and, as the name entails, it’s a hop monsters.

Hopzilla pours a very hazy yellowish orange. There’s about a finger’s worth of head that disappears quickly, not surprising for a nearly-11% beer. The lacing dissipates quickly as well but the alcohol legs go on and on,

The hops waft out of the glass as it’s being poured. There’s a big hit of peach, pineapple, mango and other tropical fruits. The astringency on Hopzilla is huge as well. A slight danikness is present as well. It’s a very rich and robust smell.

The hops, obviously, are huge on the tongue. There’s that signature bite of hops on the front of the tongue and a unique kind of sweetness. The dank hops come through on the back of the throat, at least until the alcohol burn punches through. It really is like taking a shot of liquor. It’s similar to Hopslam, but the alcohol burns much more. Not in an off-putting way, but it’s unmistakably boozy. That contrasts well with the rich and almost creamy mouthfeel.

For being so boozy and alcohol forward, the sweetness of Hopzilla balances it out quite nicely. It’s a bit of a sipper but one you’ll want to take your time with. Your tastebuds and liver will thank you.

Filed under Terrapin DIPA

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Dogfish Head Burton Baton

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery

Milton, DE

Burton Baton Imperial IPA

10.0% ABV

One of the earlier Dogfish Head beers I remember having was the Burton Baton, an imperial IPA blended with an English-style old ale and then aged in oak tanks for around a month. Before my palate really developed, I was turned off by the oakiness and sweeter notes from the beer. But as I grew to appreciate it more, Burton Baton has become one of my favor offerings from DFH.

The beer has a very hazy appearance to it. There are hints of amber, orange and brown coming through the glass and a huge head on top. It’s about three fingers worth and lingers for a good time. I wouldn’t expect that from a 10% beer. Of course there’s nice lacing and some strong alcohol legs, too.

On the nose: oak, oak and more oak. This bottle had been in my fridge for a few months and the sweeter old ale characteristics - sweet caramel, toffee, dark fruits - were coming through a lot stronger than the hops. There’s a bit of a toasted vanilla note to it too from the oak barrels. The hop profile is a bit muted, but it’s still got a slight bite to it. 

The taste is very smooth on the front of the tongue. The hops come through a bit more in the middle and back of the palate. It’s topped off with a crisp hop bite. The old ale definitely comes through more with age. I got big toffee and vanilla notes and definitely a woody character from the oak aging. It really shines through after a couple months. There’s kind of a cloying sweetness on the back as well.

Burton Baton is one of those beers you can have now, later and way down the line. The hops are much more prevalent when it’s fresher, but the mellow in flavor of a richer flavor after a couple months. I have one in my cellar, so I’m interested to see what a year or two of age will do to it if it’s this good after only a couple months in the fridge.

Filed under review dogfish DIPA

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Three Floyds Dreadnaught

Three Floyds Brewing Co.

Munster, IN

Dreadnaught Imperial IPA

9.5% ABV

Saturday was Three Floyds' annual Dark Lord Day, the day beer geek and imperial stout fans from across the country (and world?) descend on Munster, IN, for one of the country's most sought-after beers.

But with me being hundreds of miles away and with no desire to brave the crowds, I decided to enjoy some of the brewery’s other offerings I obtained through a recent trade. On top of the bottle of Zombie Dust I recently had, I’ve continued making my way through FFF’s hoppier offerings, starting with Dreadnaught.

The hops off this thing hit your nostrils as soon as you pop the cap. There’s a slight haziness to the sunset orange color and about a finger of a tight bubbly head. Little lacing, but the alcohol legs are crazy for only a 9% beer. 

Great peach and mango notes on the nose. A slight pine from the hops and a touch of grass. There’s definitely a malt note present, and I got a slight woodiness off it as well.

There’s little to no hop bite on the front, but a wave of crazy rich flavors come bursting through in the middle of the palate. Pineapple, mango, peach are all in there. I got a slight hop burn with a really strong malt backbone, but it doesn’t damped the IPA-ness of it. Grapefruit and pine come through more on the back, as does a really dry finish.

Damn, you guys in the Midwest can make some good beer.

Filed under review three floyds DIPA

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Sierra Nevada Hoptimum

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Chico, CA

Hoptimum Imperial IPA

10.4% ABV

Last year was the debut of Sierra Nevada's Hoptimum, a whole-cone imperial IPA clocking in at 100 IBUs and hopped to the high heavens. It was a much-hyped and sought after beer.

And for me, it’s was met with a resounding “meh.”

For a beer that screams “hop” - from the name to the color of the label to the fact there’s some freaky Silent Hill looking dude on the label with a hop cone for a head - I was quite underwhelmed. It wasn’t bad so much as it was just a major disappointment.

I’m guessing they went back to the drawing board with Hoptimum, because this year’s batch is simply astounding. First, a tribute to the hopping process:

First, the beer is brewed with German Magnum and Simcoe as well as some secret proprietary hop variety. Following that, it’s dry hopped with more Simcoe and proprietary hops, and then “torpedo hopped” with Citra and Chinook. Torpedo hopping is described as an “espresso machine for beer,” releasing the resin and essential oils without imparting any additional bitterness. 

Anyway, on to the beer.

Hoptimum pours a crystal-clear brownish orange color. There’s a good two fingers worth of a bubbly rocky head, but it dissipates very quickly. (This is a 10% beer, after all.) Some really nice alcohol legs.

The Simcoe hits you on the nose to start. You get those wet pine and resin characteristics. There are hints of sweet fruits, oranges and peaches.  There’s some astringency and a little malt note but otherwise just a really sweet, juicy smelling beer.

There’s a muted bitterness on the front of the tongue, but it just explodes in the middle of the mouth. A real nice bouquet of pine, bitterness and sweeter fruits take over the palate. The grapefruit really comes through on the back.  There’s a slight maltiness that works well balancing out the hops and kind of a sweet finish, but the bitterness masks it slightly. It does have a nice bitter dry finish to it, an interesting end to an otherwise rich and flavorful beer.

Kudos to the folks at Sierra Nevada. This year’s batch is a vast improvement over last year, and I like the break from 22 oz. bombers for 12 oz. 4-packs. Makes an already drinkable yet ass-kicking beer a bit more accessible.

Filed under review Sierra Nevada ipa DIPA

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Coast Boy King

Coast Brewing Co.

Charleston, SC

Boy King Double IPA

9.7% ABV

With last Friday being 4/20 and me with no herbal refreshment to enjoy, I figured now would be a good a time as any to crack open a little liquid dank and enjoy one of the best double IPAs on the East Coast: Coast's Boy King.

During my frist visit to Coast last year during American Craft Beer Week, I was able to try Boy King for the first time, albeit in the form of a 4 oz. sample. For whatever reason, I didn’t buy a bottle that day and went on to really regret it as a lot of my friends began waxing poetic about all the bottles they had.

This year, I was more prepared. A friend in Charleston hooked me up with a couple bottles (bottled 4/4) and I helped a friend polish off a fresh growler about a week ago. I really had forgotten just how amazing this beer is. It’s heavily hopped and topped off with a round of Citra dry hopping, but it’s not a hop bomb. It’s smooth, flavorful and extremely drinkable for a high-alcohol DIPA. In my opinion, it rivals any DIPA on the East Coast, if not the rest of the country.

Boy King pours a rich orange with a darker amber tint toward the middle. There’s a slight haze to it, but it’s nearly translucent. Not much of a head, which doesn’t surprise me for a high ABV, but there are some nice alcohol legs.

Rich pineapple is the first thing that hits you on the nose. There’s tinges of mango and papaya and those standard tropical fruits. There’s a hint of astringency and a wet, dank hop smell, too.

On first sip is a really rich and juicy fruit taste, but that transforms into a focused hop bite as it warms. That hop bitterness also comes through on the mid and back palate. There’s a dry finish on the back, at which point a great piney hop taste comes through. As for flavors, it’s all over the place. I got lemon peel, citrus, peach, mango and pineapple. The tropical flavors come through more and more as it warms. And there’s a very slight booziness to it, too.

Boy King is one of those beers that explodes on the BeerAdvocate trading forums when it’s released, and with good reason. For a small brewery in Charleston to put out a beer that highly sought shows just how good it is. High in alcohol but still very drinkable, it’s on its way to being in the upper echelon of East Coast DIPAs. Get it while you can.

Filed under review coast dipa