Styles & Seasonals
January 8, 2004 Written by JohnC
Mission Viejo, CALIFORNIA -
Looking through my beer inventory one day, I realized that I had quite a few beers that I’d like to share with friends. With the holidays upcoming, there would be ample opportunity for this. To further encourage me to do this, I had already arranged a trade for some Victory Hop Wallop (thanks hopsrus). An Imperial IPA tasting was starting to make sense. In my modest beer collection I already had Dreadnaught, Yulesmith, 90 Minute IPA. With the Hop Wallop soon to arrive, all that was left was to get the troops together and get a couple of more brews to fill in the blanks of Ratebeer’s top Imperial IPA’s.
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(left to right: Victory Hop Wallop; Rogue I2IPA; Alesmith Yulesmith; Stone Ruination; Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA; Marin White Knuckle; Three Floyds Dreadnaught)
Locally, herbjones (Bob) and elnadeau (Larry) are the only other RB’ers close by. Getting together during the Christmas/New Year’s break wasn’t too much of a challenge, especially when there’s beer to be had. Besides, having some excellent brews with friends is always fun.
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(left to right: herbjones, elnadeau, jcalabre)
The next step was to get some Stone Ruination so that we would have the top five Imperial IPA’s. Both Bob and Larry were able to bring some. Bob also brought some Marin White Knuckle (so we actually wound up having the top six) and a Rogue I2IPA.
What really surprised everyone was the vast difference in color between the various beers. Hop Wallop poured a yellow gold. Yes, it looked like that fizzy yellow stuff. Yulesmith and White Knuckle each poured an amber/orange almost brown color. Perhaps this range is to be expected, given that "Imperial IPA" is a new style designation. The other beers fell somewhere in the middle, as far as color.
As far as aroma, to the surprise of no one, there was a distinct smell of hops in the air. What we all noted was that Hop Wallop had far less aroma then any of the others. To me, it initially had a dusty aroma. When our glasses of the Wallop had been out for a while, we did start noticing a hop aroma in it.
What does this say? Yulesmith and Dreadnaught are great beers, but both Bob & I remembered a better Dreadnaught that was bottled for us (before 3 Floyds started bottling it) by hopsrus. Larry’s only experience with Dreadnaught was the bottled version, so his rating is perhaps more unbiased. Ruination and 90 Minute each justified their inclusion in the top 50.
The big surprise was that Hop Wallop came in dead last in each of our views. We all agreed that Victory’s Hop Wallop was a good beer, but certainly Not a Top 50. Next to these other bad boys, it came across as a big American Pale Ale rather than an Imperial IPA. Perhaps a better side-by-side taste test would have been with Stone 7th Anniversary. Maybe next time. It was a good beer in its own right, but not outstanding. Nice, but nothing special. Oh well.
Here are some of Larry’s thoughts on the tasting:
“The rare opportunity to be able to sample the "royalty" of such a big beer style side by side was an incredibly cool experience, and, as it turned out, somewhat revealing. Once you are in the "hop zone" (the nail is firmly seated in your nose), the subtle differences between these examples can more easily be discerned; although for all but the Hop Wallop, it seemed to take a few cycles to fully form preferences. The Hop Wallop set itself apart from the others - it seemed to deviate, perhaps by a particular ingredient, from the recipe the others (we can perhaps assume by taste) were following.
Again, once you are past the intense hops-shock, the qualities are apparent; the Ruination, DFH 90 and Dreadnaught have a classy balance to present. The DFH 90 and Yulesmith also star in mouthfeel, with the Yulesmith possessing more of a light syrupy feel and the DFH 90 being somewhat creamy. I had expected the DFH 90 to be more in line with DFH 60, which I am pretty familiar with and know to have an "earthy" quality, so its taste was a bit of a surprise. I noticed that we seemed to agree that the Rogue I2IPA was a bit better than we had in our previous experiences with it. The White Knuckle was also better for me than in a previous tasting I had attended at BevMo. In the end, after a session such as this, if you had previously harbored any trepidation about being blown away by intense hops (not that any of us did), you can open your next bottle of Imperial IPA without an ounce of fear."