I probably drink IPAs, especially Imperial/Double IPAs, with less frequency than the average craft beer drinker. It’s not that I don’t enjoy them, it’s just that I often find myself unsure of their freshness, which is of paramount importance with IPAs. It seems true to me that some hold out better/longer than others, but even so, most hopheads are going to want their IPAs as fresh as possible, for maximum hop aroma and flavor.
With many of the IPAs on the shelves, the drinker does not know what he/she is getting. Dogfish Head puts dates on its bottles, but many other craft brewers don’t – so unless you know that Brewery X released Batch 10 of its Double IPA two weeks ago, and the bottle you’re holding is of that batch…..you really have no clue how fresh your IPA is. Until you drink it, of course, at which point it will become apparent that you picked up a liquor-store Methuselah. Old IPAs aren’t necessarily “awful beers,” they are just crappy IPAs. The sweet malts come forward, often with some oxidized sherry-like notes. Hop bitterness may still remain, but lacking will be the nice tropical fruit, green citric hop flavors and aromas for which most people drink IPAs. They essentially become barleywines-in-training, especially at the Double IPA end of the scale. So drink ’em fresh.
That said, I’m taking a chance on this Dreadnaught Imperial IPA from Three Floyds, simply assuming that it’s fresh. I’ll know soon enough. I wish more breweries would date their beers…to not do so strikes me as dishonest.
Out of Munster, Indiana, not far from Chicago, Three Floyds requires no introduction to anyone following the craft beer scene, but for those who don’t know, “3F” is one of the celebrated American craft breweries, most known for its “Dark Lord Day,” an annual holiday that sees beer geeks from all over the country line up outside the brewery to purchase Dark Lord, a limited-release imperial stout. 3F has other celebrated beers in its portfolio, of course, most notably the Dreadnaught I’m drinking, Behemoth (a barleywine), Alpha King (a pale ale), and Gumballhead (a hoppy wheat ale). Do you want these? Go to Chicago, or have someone in Chicago send them.
Oh yeah. I got lucky. This is a nice bottle of Dreadnaught; I don’t even need to taste it to know it’s good. It smells green and pungent right from the bottle – that’s exactly what I want. This isn’t going to be two-weeks-ago fresh, but just smelling it, it’s certainly good enough. I’m getting a lot of peach and apricot aromas, and something that I’d describe as overripe mango. I think I like a “green mango” smell better, but I’m not going to complain. Pineapple, passion fruit and guava underneath too – this is reminding me of another legendary Double IPA, Russian River’s Pliny The Elder. It smells so sweet and fruity, almost like nectar. Pliny also has lots of tropical fruit aromas and flavors.
Taste doesn’t follow the aroma here, in the sense that it’s not sweet. It’s all bitter hop throughout, with the tropical fruit essences hitting with a flash up front, then lingering in the finish. Mouthfeel is somewhat viscous and almost creamy, with a big malt backbone. The hops do take center stage here, but underneath it’s apparent that the malts aren’t lacking.
Along with Pliny The Elder and Maharaja, I think this is one of the best Double IPAs out there. This will take on very spicy foods, as will most DIPAs, but since this isn’t distributed in South Florida and thus is relatively difficult to get, I’m savoring it on its own. Outstanding, but to think, this likely isn’t even the freshest bottle out there. It’s good enough, but not what it would have been two weeks after bottling.
The only real substitute I’d say we have in South Florida for this is Avery’s Maharaja. It has a slightly different flavor profile in that it’s more grapefruit-citric than tropical fruit, but there’s still tropical fruit to be found, and it’s still a world-class DIPA that blows a lot of people away when they first try it. You think you don’t like bitter hops? Try Maharaja and get back to me.