Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Imperially Tasting

Over the course of the summer, I had stocked my beer closet with a half-dozen Imperial IPAs. My original intention was to include a couple fellow craft beer loving friends in a little taste test, but life got in the way, so I never made that happen. Finally, I figured it was about time to just drink them myself.

Beginning in early November, I had KJ serve them to me one at a time, over the course of a few weekends, so I could have my own blind taste test.

It's interesting to note that it took me about a month to drink all six of them. That's pretty much how it works these days. One beer a night, on Friday and Saturday nights only, is basically my limit. Although, in my defense, I will say that they're always strong beers, so they're generally the equivalent of two. And, with parental responsibilities entering the equation, I can't really afford to overdo it these days.

I'm not really sure how to write a post about a blind taste test, to be completely honest. You'll have to trust me that I truly didn't know what I was drinking at the time I was drinking it. In fact, even as I write this, KJ still hasn't revealed the brands.

So, what I'm going to do is refer to them as Imperial IP-A, IP-B, IP-C, etc., then reveal them at the end of the post. Since IPA stands for India Pale Ale, and pretty much everything I drink is an ale, the A is kind of a moot point anyway.

Imperial IP-A (11/5)
My stuffy nose didn't allow me to detect much aroma, but it's nicely balanced—tastes strong but is still pretty easy going down—and not overwhelmingly hoppy for the style.
Rating: B+

Imperial IP-B (11/12)
Nice subtle grapefruity aroma (there's a hint of some spice I can't make out too). Malty upfront—tastes pretty strong—with just the right amount of hops aftertaste.
Rating: B+

Imperial IP-C (11/24)
Pours a little cloudy, but in a good way. Nice grapefruity aroma with a hint of sweetness. Really well-balanced, almost perfectly: malty up front with excellent hops aftertaste. Rating: A

Imperial IP-D (12/2)
A very sweet, even malty, aroma (KJ says there's a coriander undertone). Not quite as malty going down, though, although just enough to balance its considerable hoppiness.
Rating: B/B+

Imperial IP-E (12/3)
This one has a ton of hop flavor, although not an overwhelming hop aroma (unless it's just my nose that's not quite working right again). It's slightly on the bitter side of the balance equation, which is what keeps it from moving up to A- or A status. Rating: B+

Imperial IP-F (12/4)
Most beers of this style are an assault on your senses, but in a good way. Other than a pretty typical IPA undertone of bitterness, this one does no such thing. Rating: B-

As you can see, I went through all this trouble just to essentially rate them even, with the exception of C (the best of the bunch) and F (the worst of the lot). Obviously, D was also a notch below the rest, and at this point, I'd have to say that E was probably the second-best, since I considered bumping it up to an A- rating.

So, without further ado, here are the results:

1. Imperial IP-C: GUBNA Imperial IPA (Oskar Blues)
2. Imperial IP-E: Hercules Double IPA (Great Divide)
3. (tie) Imperial IP-A: 471 Small Batch IPA (Breckenridge)
3. (tie) Imperial IP-B: Hop Crisis (21st Amendment)
5. Imperial IP-D: Captain's Reserve Imperial IPA (Captain Lawrence)
6. Imperial IP-F: C-Note Imperial Pale Ale (New Old Lompoc)

The top three—Oskar Blues, Great Divide, Breckenridge—are all Colorado breweries. 21st Amendment is from San Francisco, Captain Lawrence from New York, and New Old Lompoc is the Portland, Oregon brewpub that I ranked my favorite in the city just prior to my last visit. So, needless to say, I was quite surprised with that aspect of the results.

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