Sunday, August 08, 2010

A Whole New IPA Experience at Great Divide

The Beer Geekette doesn't drink IPAs, period. It's not just the hop bombs she doesn't like; she eschews lousy, watered down ones too because the acidity to the hops flavor is off-putting to her, no matter its strength. But on Friday night, she discovered Great Divide's new Rumble IPA. And suddenly, this one beer that she had just met did something that her husband of four years had never been able to do: Convince her that IPAs can be a truly wonderful thing.

But while my wife's awakening was shocking, it was not, as I talked to others, the only such mind-changing that occurred during Great Divide's release party for its two newest beers, which are expected to hit liquor store shelves later this week and be available for the next two months. More than one person who had looked askew at hop heads suddenly found themselves relishing this new creation, which truly does present the IPA in a new way.

Rumble, you see, is an American IPA aged on American and French oak, and while the hops provided the bass line that helped to tell the story of this beer, it was the oak flavoring that played the main guitar. It lent the beer an air of a soft Scotch whiskey, a woody taste that permeated every taste bud without overwhelming them. And, in what may be the key to its cross-over appeal, this was an IPA that made its mark but then faded without leaving behind the bitter aftertaste so familiar to the style.

The 7.1% ABV concoction was served slightly warm, giving drinkers a chance to observe even more its nuances. (One really should think about serving this in a tumbler, in fact.) You are likely to walk away considering this a "thinker" beer in which every taste gives you a chance to mull the many flavors without jerking your head back in any taste-bud assault.

That said, the other star of the night - though clearly the Apollo Creed to Rumble IPA's Rocky - was also impressive. The new Smoked Baltic Porter takes a classic dark-and-thick as night style and lays a not-so-subtle smoke flavor on top of it to toughen up a genre that wasn't lacking in manhood before. The smoke competes with but ultimately outstrips the malt, leaving this a beer that almost seems better made for cold nights months down the road.

Regardless, it's a daring style that, like Rumble, will take your taste buds for a ride. Unlike Rumble, however, it stops short of redefining an entire genre of beer.


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