Big Hoppy Monster

Thursday, February 04, 2010

A beer I can drink all night long is a nicely-done Irish Red Ale. Not that fake Killian's stuff, but a real staple of Irish beer culture. A really great Irish Red is all caramel and roasted malts with just enough hops to separate it from its thicker, sweeter Scottish cousins.

So when I got a bottle of Terrapin Brewing Company's Big Hoppy Monster, billed as an Imperial Red Ale, I was intrigued. The "Imperial" moniker in beer connotes taking a style to its extreme. So while I eagerly anticipated an Imperial Red to be a malt bomb, its name (Big Hoppy Monster) threatened to put me off just a bit. But why anticipate it when I should just get to actually tasting it?

The Monster turned my pint glass a nearly-opaque copper red. The deep copper haze yielded enticing ruby highlights. The cap on this beer was a perfectly-level half inch of off-white foam that clung to the sides of the galss all the way down. Lacing like that screams thick, sweet malt.

The aroma is where I understand the "Big Hoppy Monster" name comes from. But even though hops are much more aggressive in this beer than a standard Red, there is a lovely trio at first: a balance of rich caramel, huge citrusy hops and an alcohol burn. There is also a beautiful roasted malt flavor that hangs out underneath the Big 3, and even the barest hint of pepper. The hops are the star here, mixing a bouquet of flowers with citrus-fruit rinds. But that sticky-sweet caramel strikes a great balance and reminds me of the root of this beer: Irish Red.

This is one of those beers where the aromas set the right stage for the flavors. Nothing is lost between the nose on the tongue with Terrapin's offering; in fact, I think some is gained. Big grapefruit flavors from the hops compete with thick caramel, bread and toasted malt...and in this competition, the hops lose, but not by much! The lovely, spicy alcohol burn enlivens he tongue and heats the throat, enhancing the malt-and-roast flavors typical of a great Red. But again, despite the aggressive hops in this beer, the malts still shine.

Despite the copious malts, BHM is a little lighter-bodied than I would have guessed. But the moderately-high carbonation gives the impression of lighter body.

What I liked most about this beer is how Terrapin Brewing Company enhanced the flavors and boosted the alcohol of a normal Red ale, as well as all those beautiful hops, without destroying the character of the base beer. It's a giant Red ale that I can still tell is a Red ale. With every brewer in the universe taking "extreme" beers to the extreme, it was refreshing to drink an "extreme" beer that remembers where it came from.


Bob 8:53 AM  

Not bad, me likes the Red Ales, so this would be a nice twist.

Good review, nice to see them back!

Smitty 10:31 AM  

The name of this beer is a tad misleading. It is hoppy for sure, but with a title like that I was expecting a triple IPA.

nice to see them back


Greg,  5:22 PM  

Woo-hoo! I only bring the best for you to sample! Next time is will be Imperial Iron City! And Big Hoppy Gennesee Cream Ale!

George 7:18 PM  

Sounds yummy. Our best local brew pub, Hollister Brewing, does a delicious Imperial Red. And they had it on cask recently. !!!

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