Receiving a package in the mail, whether its batteries or a book, brings me such a charge of delight. This particular package was beer, it was recently acquired on my brother’s trip to Vermont and thus naturally, it was awesome.
One thing I realized after trying all these Vermont beers is that the NE IPA style is great, but not all of them are perfect or the same. Additionally, not everyone is making the full throttle hazy, low SRM, hop aroma/flavor driven, and low bitterness beers in Vermont. There are IPAs and Pale Ales all over the spectrum (and some others sprinkled throughout), however this set did focus on those qualities aforementioned.
Here is the lineup:
14th Star – Tribute – IIPA 8.1%
Burlington Beer Company – Elaborate Metaphor – APA 5.4%
The Alchemist – Crusher – IIPA 9%
The Alchemist – Skadoosh – IPA 7%
The Alchemist – Heady Topper – IIPA 8%
The Alchemist – Beelzebub – Imperial Stout 8%
The Alchemist – Lightweight – Blonde Ale 4.4%
Fiddlehead – Mastermind – IIPA 8.1%
Fiddlehead – Second Fiddle – IIPA 8.2%
Foam – Built to Spill – IIPA 8%
Lawson’s Finest Liquids – Sip of Sunshine – IIPA 8%
Simple Roots – Good Neighbor – IPA 6.5%
Trout River – Hangry Angler – IIPA 8%
Upper Pass – First Drop – APA 5.7%
Yet to crack: Crusher, Heady Topper
Now there is a mix of styles in this lot, which may cause some unfairness, but I am just going to rank all of them together and change the rankings then update the post as I try more. Also these are not all in one sitting nor one setting, so that could skew results, but who cares!
- Elaborate metaphor
Why did Elaborate Metaphor take the top spot? Dense hop flavor led by spicy citrus, hazy appearance, solid amount of both foam and retention on the pour, substantial mouthfeel, and all in a 5.4% ABV package! Not to mention the can looked sweet. This was the first can I opened and it would be interesting to see the results side-by-side other similar beers. Here are the brief notes I took: citrus rind, hop resin, spice, super hazy, slight onion, dry but sweet enough. This one reminded me powerfully hoppy Citra-Bomb sort of double IPAs coming out right not, but with low ABV, which I think is so cool.
- First Drop
I wish I could have tried First Drop next to Elaborate Metaphor, but this one was pretty awesome for the same reasons. First Drop’s bitterness is more intense, making the flavor more intense as well. The hop flavor had a unique tangerine flavor followed by a spicy and herbal pine bite, which is what placed this one at the top. As the beer warmed those unique hop flavors became more pronounced, bringing even further enjoyment.
- Built to Spill
This beer was a classic NE IPA as I know it. The flavor was tropical fruit and citrus (lots of orange) with a hint of spice or herbal quality, the bitterness was low and it was glowing yellow-gold with a gnarly haze. This was a very mellow beer for the alcohol content and on the midrange for intensity on the style. I love the can, which I think swayed my perception fairly heavily. The one downer for this one was the lack of foam! In reading their website and their name, I was ready for a pillow of white foam on the top and it just wasn’t there! Otherwise this beer was spot on and well done.
- Second Fiddle
Second Fiddle hit a note higher in flavor intensity and crispness than the Built to Spill. The bitterness was higher, but also the hop flavor leaned more toward pine and hop resin with notes of stone and darker fruits and grapefruit in a supporting role. I think I may have ranked this one higher than Built to Spill if the can was better! This one reminded me more of Heady last time I tried it (A year ago, so..) as the hop character was more balanced than many of the fruit bomb sort of IPAs as of late.
Tribute and Second Fiddle were very similar. The flavor and aroma resided primarily in the pine and wood arena, not too dank or fruity, maybe some orange, but mostly flavors I associate with Simcoe and maybe Chinook. The body was balanced and what you would expect from a simple grain bill with higher ABV. Bitterness was medium. The beer was extremely balanced if you like a bold, flavorful, and hoppy double IPA.
This beer is an odd one out within this group, but very tasty! Lightweight is uhh.. light, crisp and effervescent, rather than packed with flavor. The initial impression for me was a fresh 2-Row and bright flowery and light citrus (lemon) hops. The taste was in conjunction with the smell: a crisp bitterness and citrus/floral hop flavor. I would call this a cross between a kolsch grain palate and and very light Pale Ale hops line up. It was never malty or sweet, but also had a substantial “mouth-feel” and presence.
- Good Neighbor
This beer reminded me a lot of my Bed Stuy Trio IPA. It certainly featured mosaic in the flavor and aroma. The body of the beer was clean and not too full. The bitterness was minimal and gave most of the stage to the hops. This beer was sweeter, but not in a malty way as it was still extremely drinkable. The very low bitterness may have contributed to the impression of sweetness.
I really don’t like dark beers. However, the first impression on Beelzebub was a pleasant surprise as it was not sweet and fairly hop forward. The flavor was intense with roasted malts leading the way, followed by American hops focusing. The hop flavor that came through was fairly generic, mostly resin and grapefruit. By the end of the beer (I shared it with 3 people) I was happy to taste it, but was ready for something else!
Mastermind was so much more malt driven than what I expected! The appearance of the beer looked scrumptious, a shade or two darker than a 2-Row base malt beer, almost glowing orange, hazy, and great head of foam that stayed. The flavor was led by malt, then a fairly traditional grapefruit bite and a tiny amount of tropical fruit hop flavor followed, with minimal bitterness. I tried so hard to get different hop flavors out of the beer, but just couldn’t get around the malt! With that said, the beer was extremely balanced and drinkable, just more malt than I enjoy.
- Sip of Sunshine
Sip of Sunshine was an extremely solid beer: it’s balanced and well-crafted. However, the beer fell too far on the traditional IPA side for me, with an assertive bitterness, supportive “malt backbone”, and grapefruit/floral hop flavors. I would like to have Sierra Nevada Torpedo and Sip of Sunshine side-by-side, as I think they would test pretty similarly, with Torpedo finishing slightly more sweet.
Skadoosh was intense. The main reason it wound up so low was the presence or “mouth-feel” of the beer seemed to have been ripped to shreds by the yeast, which is something I have experienced when fermenting Conan too warm. The body of the beer felt thin and it looked like beer colored sparkling water from the amount of foam on top (none), which worsened the beer’s mineral-like flavor. Maybe it was a fluke, but the negative characteristics stole my attention. The hop flavor was aggressive and resinous, potentially a product of the lupulin powder dry hop or again the thinness of the body. I would love to try this again and see if my opinion would change, but likely won’t get the chance.
- Hangry Angler
Hangry Angler was either oxidized/old or just too malt forward of a recipe. This beer reminded me of a west coast IPA with slightly too much crystal malt and three months old. Not much could help the case of the beer, for me. Hop Flavor was primarily aggressive grapefruit bitterness followed by some generic or grapefruit flavors.