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Big Eddy Imperial IPA

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Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company
Chippewa Falls, WI
USA
http://www.leinies.com

Style: Imperial/Double IPA

Jug’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (World class.)


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This weekend I was lucky enough to find myself a few blocks away from one of The Great Dane's brewpubs in Madison. I am no stranger to the Great Dane, nor am I one to squander the opportunity to hit a great brewpub. This article could have easily turned out to be about the brewpub, but the truth is, what I found inside was much more interesting.

The Great Dane is famous for their house brews, but to make a long story short this particular location cannot yet serve their own beers due to an obscure pre-prohibition law. I knew this going on but I also knew I could expect to find classy craft beers on the menu.

My date (an Irish lass with a great appreciation for fine beer) and I grabbed a booth by the bar. After studying the beer list I ordered a rather unremarkable trippel and some brats (which were awesome). I scarfed down the brats and washed them down with my flavorless trippel. Just then our waitress appeared and asked if I would like another beer. "Of course, but not another one of those," I answered and did a quick study of the beer list. I needed something to go with the spicy Wisconsin bratwurst—an IPA. The only IPA on the list was one brewed by Leinenkugel's named Big Eddy Imperial IPA.

I had never heard of this beer before, but I am rather offended by most IPAs in circulation today. IPAs are a classic style of beer made in England. Historically IPAs are brewed to fit either the "English" or the "Imperial" classification. The rising popularity of craft beers in the United States has somehow distorted and destroyed this classic style. Far too often I am handed an IPA that is actually an over-hopped American Pale ale. They are usually pale in color, light in body and aggressively hopped with the all too common Cascade hop (which only grows in America and has no place in the IPA craft brews at all). This trend actually coined a new subclass of IPAs called American IPA. (You know, it's the pale ales America made to ship to India when it was an American colony. Oh wait, that wasn't America—why do we call them American IPAs then?) Honestly, I expected nothing different when I ordered the Big Eddy.

The first indication I was wrong was as soon as the waitress set the pint in front of me. "It takes this beer a little while to clear," she explained. I looked down to my deep copper-colored ale and was shocked to see the nitrogen bubbles still rushing to form its bright white, fine-beaded head. I must have looked shocked, because the waitress said, "We use the same style of pump to draw this beer as we do with the Guinness." A nitrogen beer engine? Now I was intrigued.

I waited for the beer to clear and studied it carefully. It was a slightly cloudy, deep coppery color topped with the nitrogen head. Its aroma was rich and malty balanced with a medium but complex hop nose. I sat and studied this beautiful beer for another minute, then it was time for the real test.

I raised the glass, closed my eyes and took a sip. Big malt flavor, I mean big. A sweet caramel maltiness balanced with toasted malts dominate at first. It finishes dry with a complex british hop flavor. The nitrogen gave it a silky smooth mouth feel despite its big body. A deceptively slight alcohol flavor could be noticed but you have to search for it.

I can't say enough for this beer. It reminds me of an old recipe I made called "Octane IPA." This is one of the few beers I believe can truly live up to and claim the IPA title. Although the nose of the brew indicated possible Cascade hops, the taste indicated british origin with Kent Goldings and Fuggles being the likely suspects. This beer lends itself more to the English IPA class than the Imperial IPA class, but it certainly is not an American rip off of this style.

God bless the Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company for sticking to their guns and brewing a great beer. I honestly did not expect such a great rendition of a classic style out of them but I am pleasantly surprised. This beer is meaty and hard hitting. It may not be for the lesser beer dorks out there, but it is nothing less than perfect for this one.

Prosit!

Reviewed by Jug Dunningan on July 1, 2007.
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