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Beer Reviews

Hopmouth Double IPA

Arcadia Brewing Company
Battle Creek, MI
USA
http://www.arcadiabrewingcompany.com

Style: Imperial/Double IPA
ABV: 8.1%

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Recommended)


Comments:
Pair With:
I had a sub for lunch today. It was a tasty treat from a local sub shop (not one of those nasty chains that gives you “fresh baked bread” with half a slice of meat and eight pounds of lettuce), one that had turkey, provolone, lettuce, tomato, green pepper, onion, and jalapenos, topped off with mayo and oregano. Delicious.

Who cares, you say? Likely no one, but there’s a reason I mentioned it. You see, ten years ago, that same sub would have included meat, generic orange cheese, lettuce, and 18 pounds of mayonnaise. The thought of tomatoes or peppers getting anywhere near anything that I was planning to digest was absolutely reprehensible. I despised all things tomato (yet I enjoyed ketchup … how ironic), and I failed to see the appeal held by any member of the pepper family. Today I enjoy all types of peppers (the hotter the better), and, though I’m not the guy who eats plain tomato slices, I do enjoy fresh tomato. On the flip side, I used to love me some black olives, and now the sight of them makes me gag.

The lesson in all of this is that our palates are in constant evolution (or God is changing them, for our conservative readers), and each individual experiences noticeable changes in personal tastes and styles over the course of a lifetime, often in just a few short years.

The folks at Arcadia Ales in Battle Creek, Michigan, home of Tony the Tiger and Dig’Em, better damn well hope that’s the case again with Nigel. I’ve taken an Arcadia hiatus for nearly two years now, and for good reason. My experiences with them over the couple of years prior were best summarized as a major disappointment (read: they sucked). I’ve always been amazed that in a state so loaded with world-class craft brewers, there’s one that I would find so disagreeable. Perhaps my tastes have changed over time.

To test that theory, I recently picked up a four-pack of Arcadia’s Hopmouth Double IPA. As a hophead, if there’s any style that’s going to elevate a brewery from crap sandwich to filet mignon, it’s one loaded with hops. One of my unfortunate past experiences with Arcadia was their standard IPA, which was one of the worst I’ve ever had. Perhaps they don’t do hops well. Perhaps they don’t do anything well. We shall see.

Hopmouth pours nicely, with a medium pillowy white head that quickly dissipates, leaving mild lacing throughout with some stickiness on the sides. A deep, translucent mahogany hue, it’s a touch darker than you’d expect, but not outside the parameters of the style. Thus far, it looks like a decent brew.

The aroma is where things start to get off course. While not an unpleasant aroma by any means, it’s shockingly weak for a style that often singes the nostrils. I shouldn’t have to struggle to get an aromatic profile of an imperial IPA, but I did with this one. Ultimately, it’s a weak hop aroma that is mostly citrus (grapefruit, orange zest, and some green apple), with a slight touch of pine. A very faint malt profile is present as well, with light sugars and earthy grains. Hard to believe a supposed hop monster could start off so timid.

The flavor isn’t nearly as weak as the aroma, but it doesn’t do enough to redeem Hopmouth from the purgatory that is the three-mug rating. The various nuances associated with the style are much more noticeable, beginning with the hops. While there was only a faint profile in the nose, the flavor reveals more of the bitter, zesty bite one would expect. Large notes of grapefruit and orange zest hit the tongue, with hints of evergreen coming through at times. The key word with the flavor is balance, as after the initial hop bite, a noticeable malty profile begins to take hold. Equal parts sweet sugars (caramel and toffee) and earthy, bready grains, the malt does quite a bit to elevate the overall flavor after the somewhat disappointing hop profile. As the beer warms, the grain and sugar grows, while the hops fade into the sunset. Unfortunately, the 8.1 percent ABV begins to makes itself felt as well, though it never gets out of control. Medium bodied and smooth on the palate, Hopmouth leaves a mild aftertaste. Though seemingly tolerable, the high ABV means this shouldn’t fall under the “session beer” category.

While Hopmouth didn’t do enough to change my overall opinion of Arcadia, it’s the first time I’ve come away somewhat satisfied. An important note should be made: Arcadia has a distinct English theme, which could explain why their double IPA has less tongue-numbing hops than some of their American brethren. Nevertheless, this is in the bottom tier of the imperial IPAs I’ve sampled, even if it’s not a total train wreck. I probably won’t completely give up on Arcadia, but I can’t say I’m going to be rushing out to find more.

Cheers!

Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on January 19, 2010.
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