Friday, June 3, 2011

New Glarus - Thumbprint IIPA

OK, so I have had this beer for a while now and watched other reviews "scoop" me and talk about this beer. I have really been trying to hold off (and spread out my New Glarus reviews) on reading them so that I can be totally surprised.  Today, I can hold out no longer!  It is FRIDAY, just celebrated their millionth check-in (that should appropriately date this post), and I am ready for some fantastic beer.  Very excited to say... Let's pour!

Picture is my own.  Bottle art image used without permission for educational uses only.
Aroma 10/12
Clean, nonastringent citrus notes are first to the nose and primarily feature grapefruit aromas.  White grapes(?) can also be detected as well as a peppered, piney sidenote.  It seems like this paragraph should be longer with all the goodness happening here, but it is a very simple, yet beautiful aroma. The malt is in there somewhere, but my "beginner's nose" is not yet able to discern it from the greenhouse-full of hops.

Appearance 3/3
A vibrant, "Lux Aurumque" fills my glass.  A slightly aggressive pour yields tons of ivory colored head (see picture) that still covers the surface halfway through the pint and leaves spots of lacing as well.  The head appears soapy through the sides of my pint glass, but looks foamy and cloud-like from the top.  Very appealing!  I was surprised to see how clear this beer was for an Imperial, let alone one that is bottle fermented.  There is a bit of translucence, but it is far from cloudy or opaque and much closer to transparent.

Picture is my own.
Flavor 19/20
The beer only rings in at 85 IBUs for an IIPA, which is lower than some IIPAs & DIPAs but helps New Glarus achieve an amazing balance in this beer.  Initial flavors are the hop grassiness and malt in a keen, but hop-leaning balance.  As the beer is held in the mouth and the backbone flavors grow, the true balance (and talent of New Glarus' brewers) becomes wildly apparent.  The backbone allows the malt to really step up and counter a lot of the hop bitterness, but not the hop flavor.  That means you are drinking an IIPA that is becoming steadily sweeter, yet still maintains the grapefruit/citrus flavors.  The bitter is never absent (and it should not be!), but it definitely lets other flavors do their thing.  The finish gradually becomes more bitter as the hops contact the back of the tongue, but still does not let the sweetness become overwhelmed.  It even hints at a bit of the warmth that has been so well camouflaged until this point.  Aftertaste, in the beginning of the pint is remarkably clean.  Yes, I said a clean finish in an IIPA.  However, once the mouth becomes more saturated with flavors toward the end of the pint, the aftertaste shows the peppery hop notes from the aroma as well as a non-overwhelming hop bitter.  While not truly clean toward the end of the bottle, I am guessing that this is as clean a finish as an IIPA is ever going to get.

Mouthfeel 5/5
How is a beer this lightly colored this full-bodied?  This is not a bad thing, in fact it is remarkably appropriate for the imperial style.  The carbonation tends to peter out a bit toward the end of the pint, but with the spiciness on the tongue any more carbonation may have easily been mistaken as prickly.  The warmth in this beer is all but undetectable and wondrously hidden.

Overall Impression 9/10
This beer has it all: stylistically accurate, technically sound, complex flavor, insane balance, and a robust "exbeerience." (TM)  What else is there to say?  You know it is impressive when even someone who is hesitant about hops (*ahem*) sings its praises.

Total 46/50
I'm not going to say that this beer is going to convert any "hop haters" out there or drinkers unaccustomed to the bitter "grassy" taste of a hop abundant brew, but I will say that those who are on the fence (or getting there) NEED to try this brew.  The balance is remarkable and the flavor features things IN ADDITION to hops.  Unfortunately, this is still a novel idea to many brewers that could be making ridiculous brews if they so chose.  Very clean, very crisp, very refreshing.  There is no way I would have guessed that this beer as a 9% ABV.  This is truly a treat to anyone that has the opportunity to try it and is the reason I keep drinking New Glarus beer.  Kudos to Dan & Deb!  You two are heroes.

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