So here’s a lesson on the perils of impulse shopping whilst in a beer store – ok, I grant, it’s not a lesson I’ve learned nor am I likely to learn anytime soon, but in theory, there is a lesson to be learned here.
A few weeks ago I went to return the empty shells of my copious research. At the The Beer Store (I know – for those of you not from Ontario or its environs, you’re asking yourself is that really a proper noun … did someone truly have the great clarity of insight to come up with this name for the complicated retail establishment that purveys, yes, you guessed it, “beer” … the answer is “yes,” though I digress), I decided to pick up a few Ontario brews to swing the pendulum of my reviews back from the large number of Quebec entries I’ve been tasting and thoroughly enjoying this past winter. Thus it was that I picked up the previously reviewed Mad Tom IPA and, in the process, I also spied Muskoka’s newest entry, their Twice as Mad Tom IPA. And thinking I loved the original so much, I couldn’t wait to buy their newest as well … and so I did.
That was before I re-tasted the original and thought: oh, hum.
With fingers crossed, I the flipped the cap and knew immediately that this was going to taste different.
First off – there was none of the west-coast hoppy aroma that so defined it’s little brother. Interesting. I was expecting more, not less, from this double dry-hopped creation.
So a quick word on what it means to be “dry-hopped” (as in the case of Mad Tom) and “double dry-hopped” (as in the case of Twice as Mad which is why it is a “double IPA”). This means that in the brewing process, dried hops are added. If you think of how tea leaves are used to brew tea, you’ll get the idea. This is distinct from using fresh (whole) hops which are more often used in the hopping process. When brewing an IPA, they are added in and left in for about a week, then removed while the rest of the fermentation continues. This infuses the brew with the tell-tale taste of hops … and the bitterness we associate with an IPA. To “double dry-hop” means that this process is repeated a second time with the notion that it will create more complex layers of flavor in the beer. I would equate this to “structure.” There are a lot of variations of this depending on which hops are used and how long the brewmaster chooses to keep the hops in the beer, but now we both understand a bit more about the dry-hopping process.
Pouring it revealed the same low-mid level carbonation as Mad Tom – but the colour, while similarly crystal clear, was slightly more golden (perhaps brown even) than the amber of it’s little brother. Again – interesting. I was definitely expecting darker, especially for a beer pushing 8.4% too.
In the glass, the hops did have a bit more aroma, but still nothing like it’s brother, but it was good – very much west-coast citrus.
The taste? – ah, this is where the “double” comes into the twice as mad. The hopped-up bitterness was immediate. This is unlike the typical IPA where the bitterness is back-ended; here there was also a front end that is a narrow band of bitterness. While the front end is deeply flavourful, yes, it is a very narrow front end where the carbonation too quickly takes over the mouth before an all-out assault of bitters come chasing through everything else. The front end really is the best part of this beer, in my opinion. There is definitely some caramel and residual sweetness from the malts up front … but, then, charge, comes the bitters. Don’t get me wrong – they’re anything but overpowering, but they are omnipresent, from beginning to end.
The ending? – it is a the similar grapefruit pithiness of Mad Tom that leaves a papery and earthy ending. And while I appreciate the bitterness of this beer, I think it misses the freshness of it’s little brother. And other than bitterness, I have to say, the only thing this beer has going for it is the excellent diacetyls that provide a very ample creaminess to this beer and toffee in the malts.
And again, my palette loves and even craves good bitter tastes, but a good bitter, like the bitter of 100% dark chocolate, should still have balance and structure. It’s this that creates complexity and I conclude that this beer is not complex but rather one-dimensional. It’s a reasonably good dimension, yes, but still just one. All in all – disappointing in terms of what could have been.
Stats: Double IPA. 8.4% ABV, Bracebridge, Ontario.
Mouth Feel: Low-medium carbonation; excellent diacetyls to finish.
Purchased: LCBO/Beer Store
Pairing Notes: Cheddar and potato pierogi with crème fraîche