Starting with this beer review, I’ll be including The Daily Beard Beer Wheel – a nifty little chart for everyone who prefers a more visual beer-summarizing experience. Just click the picture and it’ll bring up the full chart. Of course, you should still definitely read the review, but maybe you just need that basic info, and don’t have time to read. I don’t know, you live your own life. Onto the review!
Lately, I’ve been all over IPAs. I know it’s been a while since my last review, but the easiest way to sum up what I’ve been drinking is: hops. And I’ve come across a number of wonderful brews that showcase the hop to near perfection. One of these is Dark Horse’s Crooked Tree IPA, a lovely brew of hoptitude that I just can’t wait to share with you all. It’s also the younger brother (or perhaps, smaller older brother) of Double Crooked Tree, a massive 12% ABV imperial IPA that’s ranked near the top of Doubles. Needless to say, Dark Horse knows how to make beer, so even if you don’t live in Michigan, do whatever you can to find a Dark Horse brew. That being said, it’s time to get to the task at hand – the liquid wonderment that is Crooked Tree.
Starting things off, an aroma of pine and citrus erupts against your nose, bringing out notes of grapefruit peel and orange zest from the get-go. A damp freshness (like just-sliced vegetables) rides alongside the citrus, adding a hint of florality as well as a pleasing juiciness that fills the nose. At the back of each breath, light caramel and cracker malts create a balancing base that is definitely present, but subdued enough to ensure the hops stay center stage. As a whole, the bouquet is quite crisp and wonderfully fresh, bringing out the brightness of the hops that blooms and eventually fills the entire room. Visually, this brew is chestnut-brown with a creamy off-white head.
On the tongue, pine and resin arrive immediately, flooding over the tongue like wave of hop cones. Bread crust and mildly toasty cracker malts arrive just after the pine, settling in beneath and supporting just as they did in the aroma. Again, the malts are noticeable, but their mild sweetness and heartiness only brightens the hop qualities. Along the sides of the mouth, moderate grapefruit peel bitterness arises, remaining constant for the entirety of the drink. Hints of orange zest and peaches compliment the citrus bitterness, adding a tropical sweetness that couples nicely with the malts. It begins rather creamy, rolling down the tongue with an initial stickiness before growing crisp at the end, fading from the tongue rather quickly. It’s a bit astringent, leaving the mouth feeling a little dry (this is aided by the crispness that arises at the end of each drink. It also makes you want to take another drink, which is always good). After each taste, toast and bitter citrus manage to cling to the tongue for a while, just long enough to keep the essence of flavor until the next taste.
For a standard IPA, Crooked Tree brings the thunder, flooding your mouth with a hoppy deluge that leaves you with a smile. A hop-leaning balance between the citrusy pine and toasty malts creates a back and forth experience that allows layer after layer of flavor to flow across your tongue. At 6.5%, you’ll be able to enjoy an extra bottle or two without knocking yourself out. Even if it were stronger, its bright and fresh aroma wouldn’t leave you much choice – it’s a difficult beer to put down. At times, the malts stuck out a bit too far, but even that wasn’t a bad thing. It simply distracted me (ever so slightly) from the overall IPA vibe I was enjoying. But, if every distraction in life was as nice as the malt flavors, the world would be a better place.
Crooked Tree is a perfect brew to enjoy over the course of a lazy afternoon and/or evening. Try it with spicy food if you happen to love spice, or some citrus-glazed chicken if you want to bring out the citrus in both the dish and the drink. It’s also perfect for Summer, showcasing the brightness of the season with an added oomph that’s always nice.If you’re looking for a perfect example of the IPA style, Dark Horse’s Crooked Tree is definitely a top contender, earning 9 Beards out of 10
Lasting Strength: 9/10
Overall: 9/10 A-