I first drank this at CRAFT Beer Market in Ottawa in the winter with a friend and loved it immediately from the cask. So when a few days later I found a bottle of the same at the LCBO, I bought a bottle to bring home for Jess and I to sample together. Read on to see if we both agreed with the bottle experience ….
from the Brewer: “Brewed with the hop aficionado in mind, Fat Tug is a Northwest-style India Pale Ale with an intense hop profile featuring notes of grapefruit, mango, melon and passionfruit. Sufficient malt is there to provide support. At 7% alc/vol and 80+ IBUs this beer delivers on the promise to satisfy anyone with a thirst for all things hoppy!”
We really wanted to get a big bold fermentation profile out of this beer to develop a unique balance focused on the yeast-hop interaction and bio-modification. We use a “Brett-like” yeast to get that unique dimension.
How Did We Rate It?
Stats: American Pale Ale ♦ 7% ABV; 80+ IBUs ♦ Victoria, BC.
Colour: Medium-amber/Burnt Orange; Unfiltered
Mouth Feel: medium carbonation; very soft in the mouth.
Location/Price: $6.10 ♦ 650mL bottle
Pairings: Charcuterie; bread; cheese (). ♦ Sip alone or with something strongly flavoured – creamy artichoke dip, sharp cheese, asparagus & Gruyere flatbread ()
To start with, this bottle has a really beautiful label on it – as you can see in the photo, the blue and green label is cut out into the shape of the image – an ocean of giant waves and an undersea hop plant with giant tendrils….as it washes over the bottle, the little tug rides on top of the wild ocean, thrown around and just out of reach of a tendril – but I imagine the fat little tug will stay the course and come out the other side…. Will this brew be refreshing? An exciting, stormy ride?
This beer has a really beautiful hue – like orange marmalade or apricot jam. This unfiltered beer is cloudy but that doesn’t take away from the allure of its appearance which is so warm. There is not an excessive head on his beer when poured – just a gentle bit of foam which dissipates fairly quickly leaving some nice lacing behind and a tiny ring of bubbles throughout the tasting. To me, this is a sign of a beer of which I will probably enjoy the mouthfeel.
The nose of this IPA is so beautiful – I smell the jam and marmalade (including the bitterness of the peel) and a little bit of tropical fruit – I think papaya (this really comes through as the beer warms). When I was a kid, I remember my Dad buying me papaya juice and that is the same aroma coming through a half hour after the beer has been in the glass. There is also some buttered caramel aroma – not overpowering, just light.
First taste is so smooth and light and warming in the mouth with a really balanced bitterness against the malts. The carbonation is on the lighter side with small bubbles, ideal. As I continue to drink I fall in love a little more with every sip – and the bitters start to come through and stay around on the tongue and roof of the mouth for a long while. Those papaya flavours combined with the bitter citrus peel and the malts are so well balanced and satisfying.
This beer gives me all that I love in an IPA – bold hoppy bitters, the right amount of jammy fruit a very full body – curves in all the right places. There is just so much flavor and so much interest in this beer – it is multi-dimensional and I’d never get bored of it. I would opt to just drink this beer on its own and really enjoy its dimensions rather than have it with food.
In short, I really love this beer. I could easily have hogged the whole bottle for myself, while sitting on the deck, dreaming about adventures of a brave lady sailor on the deep seas with her crew of strong, beautiful women, seeking paradise….
First Taste (10) = 9
Appearance (5) = 5
Aftertaste (15) = 14
Aroma (10) = 10
Mouthfeel (10) = 9
Overall: (10): = 9
56/60 = 93%
A lot happens with this beer before you even get it to your lips. The pour is foamy and whether a product of handling or more likely the fact that it is bottled “on lees,” the foam slowly erupted from the neck of the bottle even before the pour. My guess is that it is fermented on the lees, yeast in the bottle, as the last 15% pours a milky sediment into what was otherwise was a pretty clear pour until then. No knocks on this — the yeast only changes the aesthetic of the pour and doesn’t change the flavour negatively — in fact the more racking and filtration performed on beer and wine, there is often a loss of subtle flavours which would otherwise round things out and add depth. The other thing I like about a good secondary fermentation is typically a more rounded flavour and tight carbonation, here well-evidenced by a beautiful shaving cream lace that rings the glass. All in all, the beer reminds me a lot of some of the best Quebec IPAs I’ve had in the past.
I suspect it is also the play of Carapils malt which bolsters foam and retention which is also adding to the feather-down softness of it on the mouth.
The colour and the nose are in harmony as well. If you said “orange” or “apricot” you’d be right on both accounts. The orange is amplified by the malts bringing caramel and one of those tastes I love in a bigger IPA, almost a brandied or Gran Marnier flavour … in this case with just a hint of sourness which if it was an actual orange — more tangerine than navel — you would say was a bit off … where the sugars had concentrated a bit too much and the acid is lost. For this reason, I’ll also call marmalade in a glass. In a beer, it makes for a rich taste somewhat rare in non-winter brews.
Upfront, the sugars and booze are there … no question. This is a beer where the malts are prominent. They’re followed by decent carbonation, a bit of a burn, then the apricot and citrus/orange come out, some sweet breadiness in the back end, and then some nutty big bitters to close.
Make no mistake, at 7% and 80+ IBUs, this is a big, strong IPA that is halfway to DIPA’ness (read: “double” IPA). I just keep coming back to the delicious malts and their incredible symmetry held alongside the hops …. I’m not sure, as I’m not a brewer, but I might guess the Crystal malts are likely bringing a lot of the caramel with them — and they just really really works together with the hops. And they work for me, for a person that likes a big beer, and a bold IPA, but who also loves style and balance. Yes, this workhorse of a tug-beer really works for me.
First Taste (10) = 9
Appearance (5) = 4.5
Aftertaste (15) = 14.75
Aroma (10) = 9.25
Mouthfeel (10) = 9.75
Overall: (10): = 9.25
55.25/60 = 94%
Overall: 93.5 points
This is a beer that we both quickly fell in love with drinking. And while we’re still working out our rhythms around co-reviewing things, this is the most closely matched review we’ve produced so far — both in terms of the experience/descriptions and the actual rating. From our perspective, this has to say more about the beer than us, though clearly we definitely like a good IPA with big bitters. So if you’re a fan of the hoppy, the so-called “west coast IPA,” and like a solid malt profile, then this is going to be a huge winner for any of you. For those of you who don’t like beers that bloat, this is also going to impress and appeal. And for those other beer drinking couples out there that just love great beer, this fat tug is a great hitching post for you both. You’re not going to find many better beers in the class.
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