It is remarkable coming back to beers I know so well – I thought I knew – after starting this blog 6 months ago. In that time, I’ve sampled and really paid attention to nearly 4 dozen beers, of which 30 have been individually reviewed here.
Muskoka’s Mad Tom is an IPA that I delightfully discovered about two years ago. I still remember the first time I had it on tap and thought, hmm, this is very good. And it had a great name. Shortly thereafter, it showed up in bottles at the LCBO and it became, along with Flying Monkey’s products, a staple in my fridge. However, this is the first time in over 6 months that I’ve tasted it … and today is the day it gets its own review.
A waft of the hazy mist that emerges from the neck upon opening immediately elicits that tell-tale aroma that is the west-coast/American IPA. Those floral and citrus laced hops that smell so familiar and inviting abound. Once I started pouring, though, the beer immediately started to change from what I remembered: it poured an immaculately filtered and perfectly clear light amber. Truly, it looks like amber, the ‘stone’ used in jewelry. However, I can’t remember the last time I poured an IPA this light and this clear. Also of note is that the head was weak and took some effort to develop … and, for all that, it faded quite quickly with minimal retention, it’s bubbles being very tiny and the carbonation minimal overall.
Without the fullness of carbonation, upon delivery to the mouth, the first thing I taste is the naked west-coast hops. There is not much else to present. The Chinook and Centennial hops are strong and their crispness and citrus flavours hit you right in the middle of the tongue. This first taste, however, disappears as quickly as the head and transitions into a bit of sweetness, some peachiness, and then a rather watery mid-taste. The ending, however, is all IPA. At first I would have said the IBUs in this beer were rather middle of the road, but wait a few seconds and an intense bitterness takes over. I have to say, as much as I loved this beer before, I didn’t care for the aftertaste this time around. I found it astringent and very paper-pulpy. Bitter? Yes. Bold? Yes – but that is it. There is not much else going on. The best way to describe it would be like eating the peel of a grapefruit, imagining the sweet floral citrus flavour that is in the outer zest which is beautiful … and then imagine you bite through this zest and you’re quickly overwhelmed by the white, bitter pith beneath it. I think this is the first IPA I’ve sampled where I said to myself, “Too bitter.” No, scratch that – because I love bitter – but this is not the good kind of bitter that tongues enjoy.
Overall, and having sampled so many IPAs since, I would say this is a rather one-dimensional example that while it has some beautiful flavours up front, there is not much else going on before you get wholloped by the bitterness of the hops at the end. A beer meant for gulping –not for sipping and tasting. Some will love this beer for its straightforward qualities and because it does do some things well (its colour and aroma for example); however, personally, I think it needs more balance to put it in the same league as some others I’ve tasted. It’s amazing what a little perspective will do to a first impression.
Stats: IPA. 6.4% ABV, Bracebridge, Ontario.
Colour: Medium amber; filtered clear.
Mouth Feel: Low carbonation with a watery mid-tone.
Purchased: LCBO/Beer Store
Pairing Notes: Cheddar and potato pierogi