Shane: York inspired me recently. When he put together a collection of West Coast IPAs from up and down the coast, highlighting the different available styles from several renowned regional breweries, I thought it was a very cool way to really dig deep into a specific style of beer. It also occurred to me that when I’ve been putting together beer for us to sample together, I’ve been focusing too much on what I personally enjoy. And while big, hazy, fruit-bomb New England IPAs dazzle my personal palate, I know that York in particular enjoys a different style. So, for this batch of beers, rather than grab a few of my favorite fruit-bombs and package it off, I’ve nabbed a bunch of IPAs and double IPAs from area breweries that run the gamut of styles. There’s a lot to dig into here, and I’m excited to see what both Pete and York have to say. In particular, I’m interested to see York’s impression of Space Juice, a beer that has drawn some acclaim in New England while never quite hitting my personal sweet spot, and Ricochet, a beer brewed in Boston but specifically marketed as a "West Coast IPA."
York: Now we’re talking! Bunch of double IPAs plus a myriad of other hoppy brews on top of that?! Pumped for this batch, especially the Simcoe dry-hop from Backlash and the intense delicious hop profile I’m expecting out of space juice. I've only had one brew from Liquid Riot and a handful from Lawson’s, but they were some of my favorites of our entire Beercation numero uno, so definitely looking forward to their IPA, too. I love variety in beer and it’s how I’ve gotten through most of my self-teaching on beer, but this is my favorite way to really take it to the next level. Having six or seven brews of a similar style, especially from a similar region, is assuredly going to help me pin down what I do and don’t like about the IPA’s we typically get from Shane. I’m expecting a decent gap in preference between the three of us on a few of these which always makes for good discussion so thats something to look forward to as well!
Pete: So this is a lovely collection of hoppy beers. Punctuating this batch with Green really intrigued me. I have tried some of these breweries and some I have not. I am interested to see how my ratings hold up. My first reaction to this list was...how am I going to space these out. Because if you have too many hoppy beers back to back, you can’t really taste the differences. Plus, as time goes on they start to lose the quality that the brewer intended when they created it. Overall, this is a nice group of IPAs.
Shane's Thoughts: This is the first beer I ever had from Backlash, and it left me immediately craving more. The fact that Backlash labels this beer a "West Coast style IPA" made me immediately think "York needs to try this." Add in the Simcoe dry-hop, and it sounds like a winning recipe for me. This beer has some fantastic dankness to it, and while that flavor profile can sometimes be a little overwhelming, it's measured really nicely here. York describes it as "wet" and I think that fits. I get some solid fruit on my palate from this beer, but the Simcoe dry hop gives it a nice, piney aroma and crisp finish. This feels like a really nice blending of East Coast and West Coast IPA styles, and I'm very very happy with it.
York's Thoughts: Big, wet, dank IPA right here. I expected something pretty fruit-forward given the hops and the middle-of-the-road ABV, and while there's some fruit on the nose, the body and finish can be described no differently than "dank." There's a little gumminess to it that I can't put my finger on, so I'll have to stay tuned to Backlash to see if it's evident in other beers. I dig IPAs like this so long as they don't fall into the palate wrecker category I always complain about. This one skirts a fine line. It's got some stick to it as expected with such an earthy profile, but doesn't completely take over your senses and drinks fairly crisp. Considerable haziness reminds you that it's a New England brew, however--I'd put this in the same category as the Eagle Rock we tried as a "cross-coast" IPA.
Pete's Thoughts: This beer has a very clean can look. West Coast-style East Coast beers seem to be a thing we are all looking for. Me, I just like the hops, no matter how they come to me. This beer bursts with a rush of pine when you crack the can, so you know it’s going to be good. The flavor is really spicy, tropical, a little piney, and very crisp and refreshing. The color is bright gold and there is no visible haze to speak of. Even with that, it is ridiculously hoppy and really refreshing. It's got a lot going on and a lot of my favorite hops in it, so I am a happy man. It's always nice to be reminded that a lot of what is hoppiness in beer does not have to be haze.
York: Big and dank without being a palate wrecker. Fun cross coast style IPA. 8/10
Pete: Really robust and fruity with a lot of different characters. 8/10
Shane: Dank and fruity at the same time. Fun style. 8/10
Shane's Thoughts: Green is a beer that inspires a fascinating range of responses from Tree House devotees. The brewers themselves have maintained that it might be their favorite beer to brew and drink. Some customers agree. Others say it’s the weakest of Tree House's main line. Never having had the opportunity to try it, I was excited to see gauge my own reaction, and the truth is that I can understand the different opinions. If you're a fan of juicy, tropical, southern hemisphere hops, then you're going to love this beer. It combines all the best elements of a New England IPA with the big flavor of Australian hops. For New Englanders looking for the orange, grapefruit flavor they've come to know and love, this beer might be something of a departure. For those seeking a more tropical, lemon-lime, pineapple, tangerine flavor, this beer is definitely for you.
Pete's Thoughts: Green, Green, Green, Lights On, Green, Green. That pretty much sums up the conversations I have had with Shane when he would make trips to Tree House. I have wanted to try Green….. a lot. It is probably the most iconic beer for the brewery next to Julius. It's got a wonderful reputation as being a sublime expression of Galaxy hops that rivals Hill Farmstead. I have to say, this beer really lives up to the hype. It's rich, tropical, peachy, a little mango flavor. Just smooth fruit forward hop flavor. It actually numbs your tongue a little bit because it's that hoppy. It pours a little bit more of a bright orange than Julius, with that classic Tree House haze. It attacks your senses with hop flavor the second you crack the can. My next goal is to try this beer right off the line. Not that this was old in any respect, I just would like to see how I enjoy it and how much this beer changes. Really a pleasure to drink and I can't thank Shane enough for making these random Tree House journeys.
York's Thoughts: I wish I hadn't seen this beer in a glass. It is unappetizingly thick and hazy [EDITOR'S NOTE: Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but eventually we will convert you to the hazy side, York]. Thankfully, the quality, flavor and experience is far above and beyond the appearance. For as hazy as Green is, there isn't much stick for me to complain about, and there's much less lingering bitterness than I'd expect. It's different from the juice bomb that is JJJULIUSSS and focuses more on the Southern Hemisphere profile hops in the best of ways. We've had mixed opinions on Southern Hemisphere hops like Nelson and Galaxy, but whatever Tree House is using here, they've done so expertly. I will say that I'd have guessed this was about a full percentage point higher in ABV, but 7.5% is still close enough to expectations for an IPA this big in flavor.
York: Consider the Tree House conversion complete. This is top notch. 9/10
Pete: All day, everyday, Galaxy, my second favorite hop of all. 10/10
Shane: It's hard to see how Tree House could possibly make this beer better. 9/10
Shane's Thoughts: Double Dose is a tale of two completely different experiences for me. I grabbed a bottle off the shelf when I first saw that it had been released, and was blown away by the quality of the beer. It's everything you expect a beer to be when you see the Lawson's name on the label: rich, fruity, complex, and much more drinkable than its 8.5% ABV would lead you to believe. Unfortunately, when I went back to grab a four-pack to share with these two, I was disappointed to see that every bottle was filled with an EGREGIOUS amount of sediment. Now, I like New England IPAs. I like unfiltered beers. I like haze. But this goes beyond haze and into downright unappetizing territory. I let the beer sit so the sediment would settle out, but even then, the last few ounces of this beer are tough to swallow. This is a delicious IPA marred by either sloppy execution or questionable intent, and the fact that I can only drink about 8 oz of it before it's mostly hop resin is mighty disappointing.
York's Thoughts: I've had beers from both of these breweries that I liked a lot. The idea of them collaborating was really exciting, and I know Shane and Pete are both pretty high on Lawson's. This brew is not for me. I suppose that if you like really heavy, sticky beers that have a good hop profile then this may be in your wheelhouse, but I won't be your roommate there. Double Dose isn't quite as opaque as some of the Tree House and Bissell that Shane has grabbed, but it's pretty hazy and has a whole lot of solids. Add that this is an ultra sticky IPA which makes it real easy to pick out the high ABV. If I had to draw a comparison, this might most remind me of the Sap from Tree House, for which I had similar complaints. Can't say I agree with Shane that the flavor makes up for the sharpness either, unfortunately. There's perhaps a trace of citrus in the nose but I get little other than a sticky bitterness through most of the glass. I'll take Shane’s word that this may be an off batch, but as it's all I have to go on, it's not the brew for me in this group.
Pete's Thoughts: This is very bright and citrusy, but it is all orange. I see there is some bitterness in this beer that starts to build. It gets a little astringent at the end of the experience. It would probably be best to pour only 90% of this beer into the glass and proceed with caution on the part you leave in the bottle. My knock on this beer is that the profile is very one-note. It is a slightly hazy New England IPA that really just speaks of orange to me. Normally that would be a lock for a higher rating, but at this point the market has gotten flooded with enough beers that play multiple notes that one just doesn't cut it. I like this beer a lot, but for a collaboration, I expect a lot. This has some good, but I just expected more given the parties involved.
York: Takes hazy and sticky to a level I just can't get on board with. High expectations didn't help, especially since it’s outside my IPA preference range. 6/10
Pete: This is really good, but I like the flavor profile. It might be a little basic but definitely good. 7/10
Shane: 9 for flavor. 5 for execution. I really did love my first crack at this beer, so I'm going to give it a 7/10
Shane's Thoughts: I've been eager to try Bent Water's offerings for a while, but the brewery is just out-of-the-way enough that I haven't found a convenient time to visit. So when I saw a few of their cans in a local beer store, I figured, hey, why not? Thunder Funk is a malty, easy-drinking IPA. I get a lot more fruit in the aroma than I do in the body of the beer itself, which makes it an interesting mix between citrus and malt. The hoppy, resinous finish is welcome, and that resin makes it stick a little more than I expected considering the pine notes on the finish. Overall, I'm a fan of this beer--and I look forward to trying more from Thunder Funk. It's a nicely balanced IPA that touches on a range of flavors.
York's Thoughts: This was the first beer I cracked for this batch because, by the brewer's description, it seemed the most like others that Shane has sent before. That theory definitely held as this is a real cloudy, juicy, layered IPA that actually has so much tropical flavor you can easily lose track of the hops until the finish. That said, that stick that I always complain about is nowhere to be found. This reminds me a lot of the big IPAs that I've come to love from Cellarmaker in San Francisco. Nose is very malty, body is all tropical and finish gives you that kick of hops that Bent Water promises. Great balance, and definitely for those looking for a juice bomb that doesn't make you forget it's beer.
Pete's Thoughts: This beer is not as fruity as I expected based on the description. I get way more pine than the citrus and tropical notes that the beer description points to. The finish is very tropical at the back end, but it's bitter on the front end. It does have some juicy notes but not overwhelming, which I was expecting. Very good malt backbone but the hops don't jump off the glass. Maybe I just had a few too many strong IPAs before having this. It is good, and I would absolutely try a few more from this brewery. This just is a little too bitter for my taste.
York: Excellent layered IPA that has the best of several flavor profiles. 9/10
Pete: This is ok, it just doesn’t do it for me. 7/10
Shane: I like this beer, but the finish leaves me feeling a little muddled. 7/10
Shane's Thoughts: Space Juice was a beer that I was eager to include, mainly due to the fact that I expect wildly different impressions from both Pete and York. Space Juice is rich, malty, and with a healthy dose of pine. I'm not sure that the Citra and Mosaic hops come through very strongly, but the earthy elements really hit you in the face. I've always liked Long Trial, but they've never blown me away. Space Juice fits that profile. There's a lot going on with this beer, and they develop a nice depth of flavor here. The piney, earthy flavor of the brew basically sums up what I expect from Long Trail, and it really fits with their logo and marketing: this is the sort of beer that I want to throw into a backpack and pop a few of out in the woods. The fact that it clocks in at 8.7% but drinks like 6% highlights the fact that there are some very successful elements here.
York's Thoughts: Well, I thought I was getting better at picking out hop profiles, but this makes me doubt myself. I get none of the citrus normally associated with hops like Citra, Mosaic, and Galaxy. This is a very piney double that comes across with a lot of malt, a lot of earth, and a really nice bright finish. I was expecting a big New England IPA here and instead got what I'd consider a more West Coast-style IPA. Reminds me a lot of what 21st Amendment is putting out with their Blah Blah Blah DIPA in that it's got an obvious high-end ABV and uses bitterness from hops to cut that booziness out of the finish. Space Juice is a brew that I'd say has the unfortunate result of combining a few great styles, but making them compete with one another. Great, drinkable beer and definite bonus points for being so smooth with an 8.7% attached.
Pete's Thoughts: Oh yeah, that's the stuff. This beer is straight strawberry juice for me. It's big, fruity, and drinks with almost no bitterness. I have always been hot and cold with Long Trail but this is an absolute win for me. It is all berries for me, and almost not citrus. It's odd given the combination, but really impresses with the different fruit notes. Also, I would say this beer scares me because it does not drink like an almost 9% beer. It is light, bright and just easy drinking which can be deceptive. I am glad I got a can of this, and would absolutely seek this beer out again.
York: Really fun having a West Coast style out of New England. Well brewed for damn sure. 8/10
Pete: This is like strawberry juice. I can't say enough good about it. 8/10
Shane: My impression is more in line with York's than Pete's, but I'm not quite as high on it. 7/10
Shane's Thoughts: I had to laugh when I first grabbed this beer, because a labeling error on the can had it listed at 4.5% alcohol, which...well, could you even call it a double IPA at that point? (NOTE: Most cans have stickers correcting the error, but, for whatever reason, the four-pack I grabbed did not.) I'm always endeared to little mistakes like that, because, hey--we're all human, even the master brewers of delicious beer. Which Undine certainly is. While there is a tiny bit of bite from the booze, it drinks real, real smooth. I'd almost be prepared to believe the 4.5% label, that’s how smooth it is. This beer is an interesting one to review, because it doesn't have the layers of flavor that some other double IPAs have. Whereas some breweries pound you with powerful flavor after powerful flavor, Down the Road seems to have chosen a different path, offering a simple, easy-to-drink option. It's not what I’m used to in New England--and in a way, that's sort of refreshing. It doesn't have the depth that I really crave in a double IPA, but a smooth, strong, drinkable beer is nothing to shake a stick at.
York's Thoughts: Going to have to agree: it's a fun happenstance that they had an ABV printed that was only half the actual, but it's so smooth that it'd be believable. Really bright double IPA with almost exclusively fruit notes relative to anything that would resemble earthy or piney. I got very little in the way of a malt profile, which makes the fruit component pop even more. Normally, I really appreciate a straightforward beer in a straightforward style, but I keep looking for more in this one. The lack of complexity, while creating a really refreshing brew, makes it very boring. At a high ABV, clearly being sessionable isn't the goal here, so a flavor profile that keeps you interested would go a long way.
Pete's Thoughts: This beer and this brewery has some of the most unique can art I have seen. It is delightfully absurd in a darker Looney Tunes-esque way. I picked up some of their beers over the summer in Cape Cod and am interested to try their double IPA. It is Citra and Mosaic, so I am intrigued. The beer body is crisp and gold with a nice white head. The aroma is very, very piney for a beer with these hops. The flavor reminds me of some indistinguishable tropical fruit and pears. There is a definite bitterness on the back end. Very different, not my style, but very unique. I really liked their Berliner, so I will try them again. This is just not my favorite.
York: Very conflicted on awarding a rating here. Love the smoothness for a high ABV, but looking for something a bit deeper at each level. 6/10
Pete: It's very misleading from the can art and the hops. Not my favorite. 5/10
Shane: It's a different sort of New England DIPA. I respect it for what it is, but I'm not sure how craveable it is. I think I'm with York. 6/10
Shane's Thoughts: This beer was probably the biggest surprise of the batch. I'm familiar with Liquid Riot, and we shared a crowler of their NSFW triple IPA during our New England Beercation. When you hear the words "blond IPA," you're probably picturing something light, fruity, and wheaty. This beer turns that expectation upside down. Yes, there is definitely a really nice balance of fruit in the flavor of this beer, but it is rounded out extremely well by the addition of the British pale malt. This beer pours much darker than I would have expected, and that British malt gives is an almost caramely richness that somehow doesn't overpower the lighter notes of the fruit. There's an almost strawberry-like element to this that is very, very nice. Pete describes it as "Juicy Fruit gum" below, and I think that is as good of a descriptor as any I'm likely to come up with. It's a really great beer--I'm not sure I can think of a beer that balances so many different elements so successfully.
York's Thoughts: Ka$h Money is damn right! The nose on this beer is incredibly enticing, with lots of fruit up front and a very evident inclusion of that pale malt they used. The taste is a wonderfully simple interpretation of a blonde IPA in that you certainly won’t forget you're having a craft beer since it's got whatever that slight stickiness is that comes from craft brewing. But at the same time, this makes the list of beers I could sit down with a six pack of. The hop profile is an A+, playing three deliciously tropical and citrusy hop profiles with the pale malt to create bright freshness at every level. Azacca and Cashmere are both hops that I have extremely little prior exposure to, but will certainly be keeping an eye out for them, especially when paired with anything else bright.
Pete's Thoughts: Bling bling? This is a very drinkable Eastish/West Coast IPA with a lot of bold flavor. It's very peachy, mango, and tropical with a nice tangerine backing. Not too bitter and has a crisp mid palate that makes it crushable. The haze is right on and I like the darker malt bill which gives it more of a sense of dried fruit on the back end. It smells like Juicy Fruit gum, and isn't overly sweet. Overall a very good IPA from a brewery that I would like to keep trying more from. The delightfully over-the-top can art is a nice bonus, but it's good to see that the product inside is not just for show.
York: Thought this was going to be my least favorite of the batch, might just be my #1! 9/10
Pete: I really like this, solid drinkable IPA. 8/10
Shane: Turned my expectations on their head while striking an outstanding balance. 8/10
Best of the Bunch
York: Both Green and Thunder Funk could win this spot in another batch, but I've got to give it to Ka$h Money. It's got all the flavor from Green and the big nose of Thunder Funk, but it's notably less sticky and cloudy than either of those. This batch was such a good test of styles, and I think Ka$h Money takes the very best aspects of a few of them.
Pete: Green for me, easy. This beer was all hype and lived up to it in a way that keeps making me want more of it.
Shane: The answer is definitely Green, but shoutout to Ricochet. That was my introduction to Backlash and now I can't wait to try more.
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