Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Imperial Ales of Different Colors — Red Hook vs. Iron Horse

Red Hook 8-4-1 Expedition
Imperial Brown Ale
(Oak Aged Ale Brewed with Honey)
ABV 9.5%

Sweet, floral with a bit of coffee.
Simple honey sweetness quickly overwhelmed by intense tannic (from the oak aging?), vegetal bitterness.
Hops vs. Malts (Hoppy, Malty or Balanced):
N/A (Tannic)
Tannic bomb.
Overall (Fantastic, Good, Mediocre or Bad):
Mediocre -

Iron Horse
Imperial Loco Red

ABV 7.5%

Aroma: Grapefruit and big, sharp, resinous hops. Also a touch of cannabis.
Flavor: Salad of citrus fruits and marijuana.
Hops vs. Malts (Hoppy, Malty or Balanced): Hoppy.
Finish: Intense, citrus rind bitterness.
Overall (Fantastic, Good, Mediocre or Bad): Mediocre

Winner by unanimous decision
: Iron Horse.
Imperials are the heavyweights of the beer world. When you see "Imperial" on a bottle it's basically a warning: "This beer is intensely flavored and has a higher alcohol content than your average beer." We've had many imperial beers that are absolutely spectacular, so it was with great anticipation that we staged this battle. Unfortunately, both of these heavyweights were a bit sloppy and the fight was a bit of a mess.

The Iron Horse ended up winning, but it wasn't pretty. Both combatants came out slow and nary a punch was thrown in the first round. Instead, they both seemed content to trudge around the ring and pretend to be bad ass. In the end, it came down to which beer was less offensive. The Red was way too bitter and lost its carbonation towards the end, but the Brown was just straight bizarre, with such a clumsy finish (it seemed that it was aged too long in oak, giving it a tannic component that was overbearing) that we just couldn't make it to the finish and poured half a glass down the sink.

Kudos to both breweries (especially Red Hook) for trying out new things and releasing specialty beers, but we suggest you prepare your beer a bit more before you send it out to battle. Discriminating palates demand something with a bit more balance. Bigger isn't always better.

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