Thursday, August 4, 2011

Hop Juice vs Hop Juice Black

Happy IPA Day everybody!  To appropriately celebrate this noble holiday you would expect me to review an IPA, right?  Well, to really do things right, I'll be reviewing two IPAs today whilst comparing and contrasting.  Making matters even better is the fact that the Hop Juice Black is a pretty exclusive bottle.  It was only available during Two Brothers Hop Juice Festival, which they held at the brewery earlier this year.  It has been a while since I've sampled these two side-by-side and I'm excited to see how they compare.  Let's pour!

Picture is my own.  Bottle art image used without permission for educational uses only.
First:  Hop Juice:

How amazing does that look?
Aroma 11/12
When first poured, citrus is easily the most dominating of the hops' aromas, but also features notes of grass, pine, and wood. After sitting for a moment the piney resin takes its rightful place at center stage, but still allowing other players to show themselves.  It's a trifecta of hoppy goodness: pine, citrus, grass.  In that order.  It all blends together superbly, and even lets a little roasted grain peek out its head.

Appearance 3/3
A glass full of copper glints and a hue of glowing dark-pumpin-orange make this beer insanely attractive.  Even the head appears to be some sort of pumpin pastel color!  The head seemed to come out of nowhere.  I was about to be disappointed with its quantity, when it rapidly appeared and rushed to the top of my tulip glass.  The head is large, fluffy, lasting, and leaves sticky lace all over my glass.  For an DIPA, this is as good as it gets.  You may quote me.

Picture is my own.
Flavor 19/20
There is so much going on here, I feel like I could write pages.  Initial flavors are sweet with citrus and raw sugar.  They are just a flash though before fading into the backbone of a strong caramel tone, deliciously roasted malt, and... surprisingly few hop flavors.  They are present (especially the pine), as is their bitter calling card, but they are definitely not a focus point.  Some hop sweetness is even shown as is pear-like or like a muted apple flavor.  The finish is (of course) a strong bitter, but it is very well balanced with the caramel, rum,  and what seems to be a near butterscotch quality.  Aftertaste is peppery bitterness.

Mouthfeel 4/5
Medium-full body with very little carbonation even halfway through the bomber bottle.  Any alcohol warmth in this 9.9% ABV brew is camouflaged extremely well by the abrasive hop characters.

Overall Impression 9/10
This bottle was purchased at the brewery in mid-June, but I fear some of the hops' aggressive nature may have quieted in that period (less than two months).  The malts were far and away the feature flavors of the beer's backbone even if the hops made their mark felt everywhere else.  Lots of good bitter to satisfy the hop heads and plenty of other things going on to keep them on their toes.  The aroma changes constantly as the beer warms!  If you buy a bottle be sure to keep checking back with it.

Total 45/50
A great way to celebrate IPA Day!  The aroma is to die for in any of its many variations, the color and head are beyond expectation, and the flavor is surprisingly sweet for a beer of this namesake.  What else can I say?    If you love hops, you'll love this beer.  Go buy it!

and now for.... HOP JUICE BLACK!

Picture is my own.  Bottle art image used without permission for educational uses only.
Aroma 7/12
Much lower ranking than its brother.  It is very faint in comparison, heck, it is very faint overall.  What aroma is there is pine and charred malt.  It is a beer that has a aggressive character, yet seems to be speaking in a whisper.  I hope I did not let this sit too long and deteriorate the hop character.  The warmth becomes dramatically more noticeable as the beer warms, as does the pine/citrus blend.

Appearance 3/3
The beer is all but completely opaque as it does allow a few ruby facets to shine through its dark complexion. The head is a light khaki that, not to be outdone by his brother, also leaves tremendous lacing.  Though it is not as cloudy, Hop Juice Black's head is much more dense and wet looking.  Even in presentation, these two beers are neck and neck.  Hop Juice Black pulled the exact same "Appearing Head" trick that Hop Juice did.  It is a very neat effect.

Flavor 17/20
This is quite mellow overall and a lot more mellow than I recall from the festival.  It starts with molasses plus the darkest of caramel, and soon turns into the burnt malt from the aroma and hints of its high ABV.  The hop notes, with the exception of the pine and pepper, are extremely light, confirming my fears of letting it sit too long.  The hop notes included are pepper, pine resin, and the faintest of citrus sweetness (not sour).  The finish is bitter like coffee with lots of alcohol heat felt on the sides of the tongue as it makes its exit.  Plenty of bitter in this bad boy.  Not only do the hops do an excellent job of providing a nice, sharp bitter, but the burnt malt too adds something to the bitter profile.  The aftertaste is simply bitter.  No malt, no hop subtleties.  Just bitter, leaving the mouth salivating.

Mouthfeel 5/5
A nice, big body to support these bold flavors, even in their muted form.  The warmth adds a  prickle to the mouth that could be misconstrued as carbonation, though the carbonation is not prickly, even if it is abundant toward the end of the bomber.  A light creaminess goes hand in hand with the bold flavors to make this beer a true sipper.

Overall Impression 7/10
"Caramel, burnt coffee, and a touch of pine" sums up this beer rather nicely.  The alcohol warmth is not distracting to the flavor, but is prickly hot on the sides of the tongue during the finish.  This sampling is not as biting as I recall during the festival and I feel I may have done this beer a disservice by holding onto it and trying to hold on to it for a special occasion.

Total 39/50
This score still places it in the 'Excellent' category, but perhaps by no fault of its own.  This beer was much more aggressive the first time I tasted it from the tap at the brewery  (basically, as fresh as it gets).  In fact, on that hot, hot summer day I strongly questioned the wisdom of having several glasses of Hop Juice Black; not only for its high ABV (official numbers are hotly debated), but because of its bitter, sticky, piney, full bodied nature.


                                             Hop Juice                                               Hop Juice Black
Aroma                                      11/12                                                                7/12
Appearance                               3/3                                                                  3/3
Flavor                                      18/20                                                              17/20
Mouthfeel                                 4/5                                                                  5/5
Overall Impression                  9/10                                                               7/10

Total                                      45/50                                                               39/50

I hereby declare Hop Juice the winner by a country mile.  The less dark profile really allows the hops to strut their stuff in a variety of ways.  It also allows for a lot more nuance and complexity, especially when that complexity involves the sweetnesses that are in Hop Juice.  I love dark beers as much as the next guy, but flavor is still king.

Great look for this brew!

The best I could capture the screen printing on this bottle.

No comments:

Post a Comment