Thursday, October 28, 2010
Big, giant beers will always hold some sort of magic voodoo over me. I do, and always will, enjoy a well-crafted beer of nearly any style; Short's Bellaire Brown and even Michigan Brewing Company's Majestic Nut Brown are wonderful examples of a simple style done well...and enjoyed copiously. But there's this allure for me for these impossibly big beers. Perhaps it's my own predilection for larger-than-life? Plain bacon sucks; gimmie a bacon that smells and tastes like a camp fire. Folgers is crap; a Cafe' Americano is the lightest coffee I drink (and drink it I do...). While I appreciate subtlety and simplicity, it's bigness and boldness that really gets me going. I tolerate baseball and watch basketball, but love football and hockey. Subtle as a train wreck.
So when beer buddy Greg journeys to the far-off metropolis of Pittsburgh and returns with a beer from Terrapin Brewery's (Athens, GA) "Monster Beer Tour" series, I just can't help myself. He knows me so well.
This offering is Terrapin's Rye Squared Imperial Pale Ale. Add the word "Imperial" in front of your beer, and you've sold me; Imperial Anything holds the promise of ridiculously big flavors. I'm a sucker for marketing. Terrapin says "double the malt, double the hops, and double the flavor of the original Rye Pale Ale recipe." I'm verklempt.
Rye Squared pours a bright orange with an off-white, creamy head. The thick head leaves beautiful rings of lacing down my glass. Slightly hazy from the loads of hops that Terrapin drowned in this brew, the appearance of this beer alone is enough to convince me it's a beer I'll enjoy.
But I can't just look at a beer; that'd be a waste. I'll prolong my anticipation by taking-in the aroma first. Big huge citrus aromas hit me and remind me of my favorite West Coast IPA; all grapefruit, orange peel, orange blossom and tart apples greet my nose and promise me that I'm going to love this beer. And if evoking the memory of the best IPA I've ever had isn't enough, the huge malty sticky syrupy aroma behind the wall of Floridian fruits seals the deal for me. Gotta have some. Complimentary to the malty-sweet is just a hint of bread dough. But clearly on the nose, the hops win all my attention.
The taste doesn't disappoint. Hops and malt work in conjunction to bring me the beer I was hoping for: a sticky-sweet hop bomb. Big tangy citrus mixes with a northern Michigan pine forest to drive my tongue mad. Far from being all-hops, though, all of the sticky-sweetness of caramel and toffee are front-and-center, providing a great base for the huge hops to not overwhelm your tastebuds. I'll cast a few platitudes to breadiness and even some floral hops as well. Mild carbonation serves to cleanse the tongue between quaffs, helping enjoy this resiny, sticky beer without losing all sensation.
This Imperial Pale Ale bridges the gap between Pale Ales, Barley Wines and India Pale Ales of the highest order. It is truly a separate style from each of those three, deserving a class of its own to be sure. If you are a fan of giant Barley Wines or tangy West Coast IPAs, this is your beer. Surprisingly, though, it's not overwhelming. It's a do-able gateway to even bigger beers, even though it's a big beer in and of itself. And for this big beer enthusiast, Terrapin Rye Squared certainly kept me captive throughout the entire pint.