Imperial IPA night, and DFH World Wide Stout

Concon had a bomber each of Moylan’s Hopsickle Imperial Ale and Bear Republic Racer X Double IPA, which called for an Imperial IPA tasting at the usual place, Nicole’s house. Unfortunately, with Gilmore Wines and Spirits all out of the stuff and Global Beer Exchange closed, we had to make do with what we had. Thus, the lineup consisted of the two aforementioned 22 oz. bombers, bombers of Rogue Yellow Snow IPA (not an Imperial), Stone Cali-Belgique IPA and a 12 oz. bottle of the ever-reliable Stone Ruination. These were served with a dinner of Fantastic (that’s the brand, but it did deserve the name) Hungarian sausage pasta (incidentally, I’d just made my own version, and will post about it soon), Tajima yakiniku beef, tokwa’t baboy and Happy Valley Lechon Macau.

We began with the Yellow Snow from Rogue. It was pretty much hop bitterness in the finish all the way. Nothing outstanding. I would’ve wanted to seriously taste the Rogue I^2PA but it unfortunately wasn’t available at Gilmore Wines. I got to taste the latter beer at the Beer Club of Manila Christmas party, but as with everyone else, my recollection of the event is hazy at best.

After which came the Stone Cali-Belgique IPA, a cross between a west coast IPA and a Belgian pale ale – that is, assertive American hops and earthy Belgian malt and yeast. The first time I tried this brew, it was largely underwhelming. This time, it was surprisingly much more alive – the flavors from the malts and yeast were brighter, and the hop bitterness at the end was a lot more aggressive than it was when I had my first taste almost a year ago.

Stone Ruination is a personal favorite. Interestingly, I haven’t written about it yet, because I drank a lot of it before I began this blog, and supply ran out soon after I started writing. I’d been meaning to do a lengthy feature on it since the new shipment arrived a couple months ago, but I just haven’t gotten around to it. I do have a draft post on this and another Imperial IPA, paired with buffalo wings. I’ll work on that soon enough.

The bottle we had of Ruination though, was disappointing. The distinctive grapefruit aroma from the Cascade hops was missing – and it was not a matter of freshness either, as other bottles we’d had recently were up to snuff. Too bad, as the usually formidable Ruination could do nothing but get blown away by…

Moylan’s Hopsickle. A triple-hopped Imperial Ale, this brew laughs at Ruination’s claim of ruining one’s palate for the rest of the night because of its intense bitterness. With (International Bittering Units) IBUs over 100, just like Ruination, is a veritable hop grenade. Moylan’s blows Stone out of the water though, with this beer. Not only is it stronger, at 9.2% ABV compared to Ruination’s 7.7, but the pure unyielding hop barrage of the Hopsickle attacks your taste buds from start to finish. While Ruination has a tease of sweetness up front The Hopsickle is all hops, all the way, with a bit of alcohol heat on the tongue. I quite enjoyed it, except for what I felt was a lack of aroma, other than a faint trace of pine and resin. The lingering bitter finish was what really put Ruination to shame, and it just seemed to intensify with time. Usually, a good beer is able to cut through the fat in a certain food, cleansing the palate. With the Moylan’s I actually had to finish tasting with a gloriously fatty piece of lechon Macau to clear all the hop bitterness and ready myself for the next beer.
Luckily, the pork fat worked, because Bear Republic’s Racer X Double IPA definitely was the beer of the night! It prides itself on being a well-balanced DIPA, and that it is. If the Cali-Belgique was a marriage between Belgian malts and yeasts and American hops, this was one between traditional British malts and California hops. The biscuity maltiness up front recedes, replaced by that familiar barrage of hops, just enough to wash over the palate without overwhelming it. This was also the most aromatic beer of the night, with the requisite IPA citrus from the hops and the distinct biscuit smell of English malts.
The Racer X, the big brother of Bear Republic’s Racer 5, was a rare beer, being a limited release that has been bottled only for the first time. I am lucky to have been able to try it. This was like an upgraded Sculpin, and I’d rank it next only to Pliny the Elder among the Double/Imperial IPAs I’ve been able to try.

Having run out of IPAs, we opened a couple bottles I brought. The first was Admiral Ackbar’s favorite, and last beer. It’s La Trappe! This was a Dubbel from the only Dutch Trappist brewery, and they also produce a Quadrupel. After taking one sniff, Bryan immediately exclaimed that it smelled like gulaman, and that it did. This pales in comparison to Chimay Red, with much less body, being almost watery. It has the requisite fruitiness – think dried berries – and malts, but the initial gulaman comparison just really threw me off from appreciating this. While I am not a fan of Dubbels in general, I know a good one when I taste it, and the peg for me will always be the aged Ommegang Abbey Ale that I was fortunate enough to taste.

The last beer for the night, and fittingly so, was Dogfish Head’s World Wide Stout, “a very dark beer  brewed with a ridiculous amount of barley.” This was a gift from a friend who was part of the internationally-acclaimed Philippine team to the Jessup Moot Court Competition from UP Diliman which reached the semifinals of this year’s competition. They bowed out to the eventual champion from Russia, and were the last remaining Asian and “third world” team.

The DFH WWS should also have disclaimed that it was brewed with a ridiculous amount of alcohol, as well. Initial tastes yielded exclamations of surprise at how boozy it was. While we guessed at the alcohol content, a quick search on the net yielded a variable content of 15-20% ABV, with an average of 18%. From what I know of big beers, alcohol content may vary, especially when bottle-conditioned, since the fermentation continues as the beer ages. This was a 2012 release, and definitely much too young to be enjoyed properly, but nonetheless worth tasting, for comparison’s sake at least.

Thus, in two years, I’ll open the other bottle I received, and hopefully the overpowering booziness will have mellowed down into a more balanced and drinkable stout. The roasted malts, chocolate, and slight soy saltiness were definitely overpowered by the wave of alcohol that followed. If beers above 10% ABV in general are helped by a year of aging, then this holds true even more for the bold World Wide Stout. In the meantime, it will have lots of time in the back of my closet to bond with the Unibroue releases and the Victory V-12 Quadrupel that I’ll be picking up from Global Beer Exchange later.

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