It’s not secret that we are longtime fans of Sean Larkin and the beers he produces. We had him write the intro to our book, because in our opinion, he’s one of the driving forces behind the RI craft beer scene. And he’s just awesome. He’s the type guy who brings kegs to a first birthday party. For real. From Trinity to Narragansett he’s won 14 awards at the Great International Beer Festival and a bronze at the GABF. This week I got to try the Double Black IPA, one of Revival’s offerings.
Brewmaster Jack, Holyoke, MA
Hop Essence Series
White India Pale Ale
7.5%, 58 IBUs
Ashleigh and I lived our formative years out in Western Massachusetts, attending UMass Amherst. People tell me stories of their college experience, the antics and idealism, and I can’t help but stare with detachment, because none of them have anything on student life in the Happy Valley. It was a bubble – five universities cut off from any main city, surrounded by sprawling farmland and mountains. It was essentially a giant playground for 18 – 24 year olds.
So when we both took a trip to Amherst a couple weeks ago, it felt very strange seeing new generations of students living that same lifestyle. Everyone looks so young and stupid, and I didn’t even get carded at the liquor store where I used to buy my 40 oz’s. I picked up cider donuts from the local farm stand, we hiked the tallest mountain in the valley and ate barbeque from our favorite spot with the sign on the highway telling people they’re only 5 miles away from Bub’s. I also grabbed a bunch of Massachusetts beers that I can’t get back in Rhode Island – one of them from Brewmaster Jack.
About: Hop Essence is a single hop series. “Rather than keeping the same malt bill and just rotating in different hops, each beer in the Hop Essence Series is crafted to complement the specific hop variety used.” HBC 342 is an experimental hop from Select Botanicals and Hop Breeding Company in Washington and rumored to be the parent hop of Mosaic. The HBC 342 White India Pale Ale uses four orange varieties and South African Rooibos, as well as coriander seed.
HBC 132 looked like a wheat beer as I was pouring it, with a huge and fluffy marshmallow-like head that stuck around for a while, like a layer of fluff atop of my beer. Good stuff. The color is a bright yellow/orange. As of yet, nothing is screaming IPA. It pours like a hefeweizen and has the coloring of a pilsner.
The aroma adds even more intrigue to this beer – tons of unique fruits right up front like kiwi and papaya; very interesting and complex.
The taste is the IPA I was waiting for. Huge grassy and herbal notes brush right past the citrus burst that I was expecting, accentuated by hints of pine. That big grassy bitterness is nicely matched by a light citrus/grapefruit character, but none of those exotic fruits that came from the aroma. I’m not getting much of the watermelon that was said to be pouring from the experimental hop, but I do get plenty of bright peppery notes from either the yeast or coriander. Big bready biscuit flavors are the forefront here, even before the citrus; it’s wheaty quality that I’ve never really seen much of in the world of IPAs.
This beer sticks with you for a while, leaving citrus rind and resin all over your tongue – like an 8th grade make-out session with that stoner kid in the drug rug. A light to medium body, though it does feel much bigger due to the carbonation and huge flavors at work – quite effervescent too.
I love the idea of constructing a beer around the hop rather than just making a standard pale or IPA and then throwing the hop in. So many breweries are playing around with IPA’s and making it a standard to have one of each IPA style (double, white, black, etc.) – but this right here is something different. This is Brewmaster Jack’s commitment to brewing good beer and not just appeasing hop heads, and should get the recognition it deserves.