Welcome back, everyone. Today we’re kickin’ things hop style with Left Hand’s 400 Pound Monkey, an awesomely named English Style IPA. Like one of the several million American IPA that every brewery has these days, and English IPA brings a big hop flavor to the table. Unlike the American style, there’s a larger malt profile in the English versions that creates more of a balance within the beer. The result is the hoppy freshness that all IPAs have, with an added heavy richness that darkens the entire experience. Don’t worry, it’s tasty darkness. Now, I’ve never had 400-Pound Monkey, but I have had a few English IPAs before, and they’ve been quite tasty, so I’m looking forward to opening this bottle. Let’s not keep it waiting!
Cracking the cap, the familiar bloom of hops works its way out of the bottle – fresh, piney, with a citrus edge at the back. However, compared to an American IPA, these hops aren’t as in your face. It doesn’t have that “headbutting a pine forest” vibe that other IPAs have. The pine is there, but more of an essence, not as the dominating flavor. There’s a mild earthy undertone that chills out under the hops and brings a bit of caramel sweetness – just a touch, but enough to set off a distinguishing aroma. While it does retain a fresh crispness up front, each breath ends with a malty heaviness on the nose, stretching the aroma out for a while.
As for the bottle taste, hops arrive first to the tip of the tongue. The pine is there, but the sharp, bitter edge is quite subdued. It’s quite hopped, don’t get me wrong, but rocketing up the IBU scales is not a goal of this beer. It’s not even a thought. Once the hops arrive, the malts show up immediately behind, creating a base of sweet breads and biscuits, with an earthy edge all around – almost like a spicy funk, but very mellow. Despite that, a distinct freshness still finds its way to the party, brought on by the hops but overcoming the gripping heaviness of the malts. It seems to hone the sweet edge of the malts just a tad, completing the entire taste. There aren’t too many flavors, but those that are here are evenly balanced, and work quite nicely with each other. They just aren’t too strong either, compared to what they definitely could be. The aftertaste isn’t all that strong either, lingering for a bit as a hop infused slice of bread.
Poured out into a pint glass, the major aroma note is once again hops. But, they’re fairly subdued compared to the bottle aroma. Malts push back against the hops this time, bringing notes of bread, as well as an earthy vibe that smells quite a bit like fresh grass clippings. It’s quite nice. Besides this though, the post-pour aroma is fairly mild. Visually, it’s definitely darker than an American IPA – pouring a rich Amber that retains the IPA crispness, as well as the thin, bubbly head.
From the pint, the taste is almost the same as the bottle – featuring a slight boost in all around potency. Hops still arrive first, but the sweet notes shop up right after. It’s slightly more bitter on the tongue once it’s poured, but the sweet notes of the malts return after a few moments and set up shop on the back of the tongue. It’s quite crisp, featuring that sharp IPA bite as it goes down, but leaving your entire mouth filled with hoppy-malt flavor. The aftertaste remains a mellow, hop/bread combination that fades rather soon.
In the end, this monkey falls just a little short. As an English Style IPA, the hops don’t rein supreme, allowing some bready malt warmth to shine through. Despite that, fresh pine is still here, reminding you that this is, in fact, an IPA. Unfortunately, most of the flavors are timid and a little short lived on the tongue, lasting just a few extra minutes as super mellow shadows of their initial tastes. The aromas were a little lack luster as well, revealing just the basic hints of hops and malts without creating too complex of an aroma. Slow drinking is recommended in order to enjoy the blending of bready malts and hops. The price isn’t too bad, so for those wanting a slight change from the “in your face” aggression of an American IPA, you might be willing to pick this up. For others that have had English Style IPAs before, this isn’t the best out there.
This beer would do well on an early fall or spring evening, just chilling out with friends and family. There’s a warmth to this beer that seems to speak of company. It’s also good for any hop heads on a mission to try everything hop. It’s a decent beer, and earns a solid B.
Lasting Strength: 7.5/10
Overall: 8.4/10 B