Imperial IPA Tasting – 2/15/11

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We were able to get nearly all the Craft Beer Social contributors together in one place for an epic tasting. We tried six different imperial IPAs, including the very-hard-to-find-on-the-east-coast Pliny the Elder. It was a great night of hops, hops and more hops and we thank Matt for opening his Black Lab Bar for the evening.

We chose what are arguably the best imperial IPAs we could get our hands on and added in a local favorite for good measure. We worked our way through the entire library with 2oz pours of each and then went back for more if necessary to round out our ratings. Each person was asked to rate each beer 1-6 and then we added the ratings of the eight people in attendance to come up with our collective ratings (lower score = better) for the six beers. All participants took notes and may share those in future posts.

We all took notes on appearance, smell and taste. While there were some clear favorites, we had some interesting findings. On to the final results!

1. Russian River Pliny the Elder – 15 total points (four 1st place votes)… No surprise here, although it’s interesting to note that it received 3rd and 4th place votes. Some folks clearly weren’t impressed. It poured a beautiful orange/gold, smelled fresh and flowery and tasted, well, great. Overheard during the tasting, “It appears to be delicious.”

2. Founders Double Trouble – 20 total points (one 1st place vote)… With three 2nd place and three 3rd place votes, this one was unanimously well liked. It pours slightly hazy and bit lighter than Pliny, smell floral with a hint of “bubble gum.” Overheard during the tasting “it smells like a hockey locker room.”

3. Wachusett Larry – 22 total points (one 1st place vote)… Another solid, well-liked entrant. It poured a very similar color as the Pliny. The smell had hints of apple and orange and the taste was a bit lighter than the previous two, a fresh and delicious example of imperial IPA. Overheard during the tasting “I’d wear this as a perfume.”

4. Great Divide Hercules – 33 total points (two 1st place votes)… With two last place votes, this was a polarizing beer. There was also a big drop off between the Larry and this one; it might have been personal preference. Unlike the first three, Hercules pours more of an amber and smells of malt and caramel. It’s actually a bit sweet with hints of mollases. The hops comes through with a pine taste, which is in direct contrast to the first three that were fruity and flowery.

5. Dogfish Head 90 Minute – 38 total points (zero 1st place votes)… Poured a cloudy gold color, smelled of alcohol and chemicals and had hints of grass in the taste. Perhaps a bad bottle or two? We’ll need to give this another try.

6. Avery Maharaja – 41 total points (zero 1st place votes)… This one poured a cloudy orange and smelled musty. The taste profile included malt and mollases. One person suggested it tasted “syrupy.” There was also a very distinct alcohol finish. We’ll need to give this one another try.

It was a great evening. I wish we had Bell’s Hopslam and Heady Topper from The Alchemist to try alongside this group. Thanks to the gang for taking time out to get together for this and especially to Shannon who not only procured the Pliny, but also pulled together most of the other beers for this tasting.

What do you think of our ratings? Would you put them in the same order or did we #%@$ something up? Let us know. We’re social!

5 comments on “Imperial IPA Tasting – 2/15/11

  1. I was one of the 4th place vote-givers for the Pliny. It’s possible that freshness was an issue with this one (which pains me to say given the lengths to which Shannon went to procure it, and its rarity on the Right Coast, but I wasn’t going to bump it up on reputation alone.Is it possible it was a victim of its own hype? Possibly. I may have been expecting to be able to hear choruses of angels or be able to communicate with Matt’s dog after sampling it, but my doors just weren’t blown in by it. Next time I’m in a state where it’s available, I will make an effort to hunt it down and give it another shot. Some people we know have willed significant portions of their estate to this beer, so there must be something there to discover. I just didn’t see it this time.

  2. I think for me the biggest surprise was how well the Larry stood up against some of the biggest, brightest DIPA stars. I love eating (and drinking) locally, so to find out that a Wachusett beer is one of my favorites was great. I’m totally a Larry-evangelist now! Way to go, Wachusett!

  3. I’ve been fortunate enough to have 4 out of 6 of these beers in their brewing regions. I am surprised by your ranking of Maharaja, though I remember it having a heavy alcohol finish (as you noted) I thought it was overall better than the Hercules I tried at the Great Divide Brewery. However, I’m now on the hunt for Founders Double Trouble, will have to check it out.

  4. <html><body bgcolor="#FFFFFF"><div>Mike:</div><div><br></div><div>I was surprised as well as I’d tried it one other time and loved it. I think we may have gotten a bad batch.&nbsp;<br><br></div></body></html>

  5. I have had Maharaja fresh on tap and thought it was great. Not sure if the bottle is still around, but it should say the batch number and bottle on the front. I tried zooming in on the image, but couldn’t make it out.

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