Empire Strikes Back is a concept beer that answers the question, "What happens when you make a big Northwest-style IPA with all-English malt and hops?" We are unabashedly local when it comes to raw materials here at Double Mountain, and rightly so, given their impeccable quality. But as a big fan of big British beers, I figured a Brit-inspired brew (on steroids) would make for a nice contrast to our regular lineup.
Straight out of the gate, we knew this would be a malty affair, as the Maris Otter "pale" malt from Crisp Maltings appeared anything but pale. Maris Otter is floor-malted and turned by hand, which suggests some inherent variability. Our batch of 20 bags was a darkish khaki color with some mild scorch marks -- not at all like our beloved house Pilsner malt grown in British Columbia. We added a bag of Crisp "Coloured Malt" to add richness and color. The malt yielded particularly well, giving us a nicely high starting gravity above what we’d been shooting for. (In our world, this is a good problem to have…)
As expected, the Fuggles and Kent Goldings hops we sourced via Hopunion were very muted by Yakima standards; the Fuggles were nicely spicy, the Goldings herbal. We packed the hopback with copious quantities, then saved a bunch for dry-hopping. After a two week fermentation with our house yeast, we rested the beer on 1+ lbs per barrel of Goldings for about two weeks. The final product came in at around 6% ABV and 65 BU.
The resulting beer is big and aromatically malty, very mouth-filling for its strength, with a decided lean towards sticky toffee flavors and aromas. The hopping almost devoid of the citrus character we associate with "hoppy" beers here in the Northwest, but they do provide a backbone of clean bitterness, and a tad of spicy/herbal hop aroma. The mid-palate hop flavors are pretty much overwhelmed, however, by the massive malt attack. Definitely a malt-lover’s IPA…I don’t think anyone would ever guess it had over three lbs per barrel of hops in it. But that’s how it goes in the world of one-off brewing.
Beardface (1517) - Eugene, Oregon, USA - AUG 11, 2010
3.7 AROMA 7/10 APPEARANCE 4/5 TASTE 7/10 PALATE 4/5 OVERALL 15/20
On tap at the release party at the Moon and Sixpence. Nice orange pour with about an inch of off-white foam capping it. Smells of toffee malt mainly, with a bit of nuttiness and some definite spicy earth hop notes as well. Flavor profile is also heavily toffee malt, very nicely balanced with earthy/spicy hops and also a little nuttiness in the flavor as well. An interesting beer, but I enjoyed it. Had multiple pints actually.
neepsntatties (1208) - Portland, Oregon, USA - MAR 30, 2010
3 AROMA 6/10 APPEARANCE 3/5 TASTE 6/10 PALATE 3/5 OVERALL 12/20
Had this on tap recently at Bailey’s Taproom in Portland, OR. Colour... translucent golden-apricot with no head. Nose... grassy, lightly hoppy and husky. Palate... lightly bitter, kind of fruity and floral like jasmine flowers, hay and cut grass. I dunno.... seems more pale ale-ish than IPA-like. Rather one dimensional.
boFNjackson (4134) - Portland, Oregon, USA - MAR 15, 2010
3.7 AROMA 7/10 APPEARANCE 4/5 TASTE 7/10 PALATE 3/5 OVERALL 16/20
Tap @ Belmont Station... Poured orange with an off-white head. Aroma of toffee malts and crisp, earthy hops. Wonderfully smooth, caramel malt flavors, and light ginger like spices and musky hop flavors that lent to a light lemon, tea-like quality. I’m not too into the British style (ingredients and all) beers), I’m a big west coast pale ale guy, but Double Mountain did this justice. I think it’s their house yeast, which does so many wonders to their beers.
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