It’s reclamation time here at the Daily Beard! Just what is being reclaimed? Beer reviews, of course, snatched out of the vile clutches of those Twin Evils – Time and Schedule: specifically, my lack of either. But, such trying times are now behind The Beard, and the future is bright with tasty beer, video game happy funtime reviews, and pages upon pages of writing. In fact, what better way to celebrate than with beer? Today, it’s Deschutes Hop Henge IPA, a big bottle of mountain-born tastiness, achieved without such theatrics as “cold-brewing” or a silver CGI train. Let’s get to it, shall we?
Starting out with a slow, lazy pour, the aroma rises up as hazy clouds of musky pine, grapefruit peel, and tropical fruits. The bitter notes are bolstered by the tropical vibe and the pine funk, not quite as deeply potent as an imperial IPA, but still enormous and rich. Subsequent breaths reveal damp hints of fresh, green vegetation and biting juniper, adding another dose of oomph to the pine zest. At the back of each breath, hints of floral hop spices settle over the established juiciness, drawing out some moments of citrus and ending with a whispy vapor of orange peel. Visually, it pours a rich mixture of gold and bright orange, all beneath a fluffy white crown of foam.
With the overt punch of hoppy freshness showcased in the aroma, I figured the flavors would be more of the same. And, in a way, it was more of the same indeed. But, in place of a total hop dictatorship, a faction of malty freedom fighters found some footing and set up a stronghold over the tongue. Beginning smooth and creamy, the flavors arrived as Optimus Pine on a stroll through your mouth. The initial taste was a burst of juicy bitterness – bristling with bitter pine and tropical fruit. However, the biting strength subdued fairly quickly, darkening into an earthy, herbal heaviness. The fruits took on a hint of musky sweetness as well, as if a shadow had descended over the brew (a delicious shadow). Supporting this new darkness are mellow hints of cracker malts, buried beneath the various hop veins but managing to push a touch of savory richness onto the tongue. Notes of caramel add a breath of sweetness that mingles with the citrus and tropical juices, but these sweet tones are faint and fade rapidly. The malty tide has a few moments of strength, but a sudden surge of juniper and citrus peel scatters the richness and brings the biting snap of hop back to the tongue, aided by a mild heat of alcohol that rears its head now and then. Because of its creamy mouthfeel, the flavors linger on the tongue for a while, finally fading as mellowing flavors of pine, citrus, and cracker malts.
Deschutes Hop Henge Experimental IPA is a big brew full of swirling complexity and shifting flavor. Hops are king here – specifically big pine and tropical fruits – but a savory surge of cracker malt rises up from the sea of hops and provides layers of heavy flavors that mingle with the bitterness. A mild edge of alcohol resides under the surface of each drink – standing tall every now and then to show its 9.5% ABV, but otherwise remaining well masked beneath the hops. At only $6 to $7 for a 22oz bottle, this beer is definitely worth it, priced some $3 cheaper than similar hop-potent brews (not that you shouldn’t drink those as well). Do yourself a favor and stock up.
The potent brightness of this beer would be well suited to the coming Spring thaw, enjoyed on an evening when you might open the windows for the first time of the year. But, should Winter continue to loom, its rich strength will be sure to keep the chill away while Mother Nature rears her icy head. Truly, you couldn’t go wrong with this beer, which is why it earns an A of delicious proportions.
Lasting Strength: 9.5/10
Overall: 9.3/10 A