I had a lot of choices in my house as to what would be my last drink at home before heading to the very dry terroir of Saudi Arabia – and, yet, for a few weeks, I’ve instinctively known it was going to be this bottle. This anniversary beer from Black Oak Brewing has celebration written all over it, but it also strikes as being something rare, unique, something worth seeking. In other words, it suggests adventure – and what better to mark the occasion? The fact it is 650ml and 8% didn’t hurt in the decision making process either.
I knew as soon as the cap came off and first wisps emerged that this was going to be good … pour it to produce the fluffiest of heads on top of a beautiful burnt-orange amber body and you have sexy in a glass. Take a sip of an intensely pleasant Swedish massage upon your tongue and you’ll soon be calling for the cheque: the mouthfeel and carbonation of this brew is perfect.
This is the first “imperial IPA” I’ve tasted so I had to do some research only to discover that “Imperial IPA” is synonymous with double-IPA (DIPA) which means it has been hopped twice (typically dry-hopped). In other words, only pick this beer up if you’re committed to being or becoming a “hop head.” This is not for the faint of heart with IBUs typically in the 70-90 range.
What are the flavours of this beer with a pristinely smooth finish? Huge citrus and lots of it. This is west-coast hops to a tee … and then teed up and hit another 350 yards. You name it, the flavours are there: grapefruit, lemon, tangerine are all big and the bitters roll right out of these tastes. But what makes this such a compelling beer are the other flavours, the sweet, fruity, tropical ones like mango and pineapple and some unmistakable apricot that finishes (ok, I know apricots aren’t tropical). While the and citrus and hops are working their magic, these ‘tropical’ flavours announce the malts and the sweetness of the beer and you taste them all the way from the mid-taste to the end, the pineapple and apricot in particular. If you want an example of how well a perfectly structured and complex brew can hide alcohol, this is it. There is no way you’d guess the ABV of this beer until you drank two and then woke up passed out in a urinal (no, that hasn’t happened to anyone I know, but you get the point – drink this beer responsibly). Beyond the incredible array of flavours in this beer, what makes it so infinitely drinkable is the unparalleled diacetyls … in other words, this is a buttery, creamy, very very smooth beer.
If this is the first DIPA you enjoy, it’s going to spoil you forever. And heck, if you drink this and enjoy it or even fall in love with it, you’re destined to become a beer snob. This is the kind of beer you wait for and then sell lesser-known relatives to acquire. Trust me – this is a craft beer that is worth giving up second-cousin Billy-Bob to taste.
Stats: DIPA. 8% ABV. Toronto, Ontario.
Colour: Burnt-orange, dark amber (unfiltered).
Mouth Feel: Light-medium carbonation with incredible foamy head, perfect lacing, and a very creamy crisp finish with a ton of bitters.
Pairings: Enjoy this on it’s own but you might want some bread and cheese to keep you upright.