With an address like that, you’re sort of expecting something out of this world from this beer from Flying Monkeys Brewery.
Near the beginning of this blog, I reviewed one of my favourite IPAs (Smashbomb Atomic) from this brewery that should win the award for most imaginative and fun labels and caps in the world … maybe even in infinity.
So, keeping with my nostalgic bent of late, for the next few beer reviews, I’m going to return to a few of the IPAs where I discovered this fun, refreshing, hoppy creation known at at the “IPA” or India Pale Ale … or, to be more specific, the west-coast IPA aka American Pale Ale. All to say, it is a style of beer that I adore and which I’ve fallen very much in love with … which isn’t to take away from my other loves (I do have a big heart).
So, first up is Smashbomb’s littler brother: Hoptical Illusion. This beer gets points for being honest from the get go. It knows it isn’t an IPA and, unlike so many other epic failures, this one doesn’t pretend. Instead, Flying Monkeys experimented, created something unique, and thought, heck, this is worth bottling and sharing with the world. And it is all that. Indeed, for those of you who like a little hop in your beer but find the true IPAs of the world to be too bold and bitter for you, then have no fear – this is the perfect beer for you.
A slightly mellow amber which pours almost clear, this is another beautiful beer that drinks clean and easy from beginning to end. Like its brother, the carbonation is bang on: present, yes, but it doesn’t distract from or hide anything. Just some refreshing cleanness at the start with a bit of sweetness of the malts to finish with a light bitter aftertaste. Unlike some of the really ‘big’ IPAs out there where the hops are sort of all-or-nothing, this beer has true definition and balance to it. The malts don’t just play second violin here … they’re a leading cello to the hops’ violin. They bring a nice earthiness, almost nuttiness, to the overall brew. The citrus of the hops washes through the middle of the tongue like a sprinkler on a summer day and just leaves you going, “ahhh.” Roll it around in your mouth a bit and the creamy diacetyls pop and bring out the toffee of the malts. Hold it on your tongue and just let it sit, and you get grapefruit peel. For a 5% ABV beer, there is a lot going on. And while it may still be just a 5% beer and lack the the “strong” fullness of the 6% and 7% big brothers out there, this will definitely hold its own because of the great balance and flavour profile. Lots to enjoy.
I go back and forth on which of Flying Monkeys’ beers I prefer: this one or the Smashbomb. They’re both well-contructed beers that drink beautifully. However, it is a bit like asking whether you prefer pumpkin pie over apple pie (I know: thank god life isn’t full of such impossible choices). It comes down to mood and personal taste. Having said all that, and as much as I love the flavour profile of Smashbomb, I think Hoptical Illusion provides more artistry and that it is probably the “pumpkin pie” of the two (and Smashbomb, with the peachiness of its hops is probably more honestly a cobbler).
Therefore, if you want to experience the artistry of a great beer which brings malts and hops into a beautiful unison, this is a beer not be missed.
Stats: American Pale Ale. 5% ABV. Barrie, Ontario.
Colour: Medium amber.
Mouth Feel: Low carbonation, clean refreshing aftertaste with decent diacetyls.
Pairings: Just drink it and enjoy it.