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Beer Reviews

Satisfaction Jacksin

Ale Asylum
Madison, WI
USA
http://www.aleasylum.com/

Style: Imperial/Double IPA
ABV: 8.25%

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Outstanding within its style.)


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America is a diverse, eclectic country with a number of locales, from general regions to specific cities, which are unique. From the liberal leanings of the coasts to the “traditions” of the South (some would use the term “backwards,” but I’ll refrain from starting a geographic war); from the down-home but still progressive vibe of the Midwest to the down-home, not-as-progressive “red” states that twice elected a former Texas governor as President, America has a little bit of everything.

Among the cities that often stand out: Los Angeles and New York due to their sheer size and diversity, not to mention this country’s continued obsession with celebrity. The vibrant Hispanic/Cuban vibe of Miami. The alternative culture found in the foggy gem known as Seattle. The gaudy glitz and greed of Las Vegas. The desolate depression that has become Detroit. The southern charm of Charleston.

And then there’s Madison.

While technically not a native of Wisconsin’s capital city, it was de facto home for a small town boy as the closest city of any size. While I always knew Madison was a tad different, it never hit me until my sister went off to college at UW and during my high school years, when my friends and I spent many a day cruising the mall, State Street, or playing pickup games at James Madison Park. I began to understand the “counter-culture,” if you will, and appreciated the vibe.

It’s hit me again recently, as in the past few years I’ve returned after a long hiatus. Milwaukee suits Nigel quite well and is a mere hour away, but there’s something about Madison that will always resonate with me. A recent visit to a beer festival there offered a couple of the chestnuts that make Mad City so different. Two cab drivers, both of whom were college educated, the last of which left us with a quote from Jean Paul Sartre. Bums sleeping in the finest of bus stops I’ve seen anywhere. A tiny, hole-in-the-wall restaurant/bar with fine Asian cuisine and craft beer on tap just off the square, with NO SIGN out front. And, of course, drunken Badger fans celebrating another victory over Minnesota on the gridiron.

But what really makes Madison special to me is their continued passion for craft beer. Sure, there’s really only one distributing brewery in the city, that being Ale Asylum (Capital is close, in suburban Middleton and the Great Dane, though very good, doesn’t bottle). But in the surrounding towns you find Tyranena, Lake Louie, Furthermore, Gray’s, and, of course, New Glarus. Madisonians both know and love their beer, and no trip is complete without checking out one of the many local establishments offering a variety of craft brews, many of them the local variety.

With that having been said, my latest review is for the new double IPA from Ale Asylum, Satisfaction Jacksin. A couple of weeks ago, Eddie Glick, in a rare moment of generosity, offered me two bottles as a sort of “thank you” for contributing to the website. Little did Webmaster Glick know that my contributions were about to wane, but, feeling guilty, I’m trying to step it up again and make his gift fully deserved.

Most offerings by Ale Asylum skew on the hoppy side, and this is no exception. I loved AA’s Ballistic IPA from earlier this year, and Satisfaction Jacksin seems to go above even that (8.25 percent ABV, over 100 in the IBU meter). The weapon of choice in this hop monster is Centennial, which is fine with Nigel as one of his favorite varieties.

Satisfaction Jacksin (take any spelling issues up with the brewer) pours well, with a nice, creamy tan head of just over an inch that quickly dissipates, leaving a nice fizzy lace on the top throughout and some stickiness on the sides. The color is a beautiful, deep mahogany with some murky sedimentation and slight carbonation. It looks like an attractive, fiery brew in the glass.

Aromas are, well … hoppy, but three pounds of Centennial hops per barrel will do that. Like any Centennial-dominated brew, the aroma is a crisp, light bitterness with huge notes of citrus (grapefruit and orange zest) and evergreen, with that typical hoppy floral undertone. If you can recover from the nostril-numbing hop aroma, there are notes of sweet, sugary malt (caramel and dark brown sugar) and grain (an earthy, toasted barley aroma), but the hops dominate. Fortunately, I didn’t get zinged too much with an alcohol aroma.

The flavor is extremely good, but again, anything loaded with this many hops typically is good in Nigel’s book. While I believe Satisfaction Jacksin falls short of the elite, five-mug threshold, it’s nonetheless a serviceable imperial IPA. The Centennial hops immediately hijack the flavor just as they did the aroma, with an onslaught of bitter, piney, citrusy notes that never really relent. However, to Ale Asylum’s credit, this isn’t solely a hop monster; on the contrary, there is a huge malt profile to back it up, making it extremely balanced. The initial bite of bitter, piney, floral power is quickly tempered by sweet sugars, mainly caramel, molasses, and toffee, as well as a more subtle earthiness from the roasted barley. The balance is a nice change of pace for an imperial IPA, particularly from a brewery so known for hops like Ale Asylum. While strong, at no point does the boatload of Centennials overwhelm, and the 100 IBUs is well hidden. Also hidden is any hint of the 8.25 percent ABV, which is also nice. Medium bodied and somewhat rough on the palate (though not nearly as much as it could be), Satisfaction Jacksin has a strong hoppy aftertaste and is by no means a candidate for a session beer, although it’s smooth and balanced enough to have more than one in a sitting.

Much like its home city, Ale Asylum’s Satisfaction Jacksin is a bit of an enigma that ultimately ends up quite pleasing. It’s powerful but balanced, hoppy but with a solid malt backbone, strong but with a subtle flavor. While it doesn’t do enough to push it into my elite five-mug hall of fame, it’s solid nonetheless. I recently saw Satisfaction Jacksin in Milwaukee, so it appears it’s available in select locations outside of the Madison area. Pick it up if you like hops, but expect to pay a pretty penny (I saw individual 12 oz. bottles selling for $3). Satisfaction may not be guaranteed, but it’s pretty damn close.

Cheers!

Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on October 26, 2009.
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