Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Mercury - Ipswich IPA

If you haven't heard of Ipswich, fear not.  You just don't live on the east coast or, in my case, ANY coast.  These were sent from a friend in Massachusetts and I was very excited to receive them.  They're a beer that is only available locally and, therefore, new to me.  The only time it gets better is when a beer with geographic limitations has a reputation.  Then, not only do I get to try something new to me, but I get to enter into a shared experience with the craft beer community.  It's another conversation I can have with a fellow beer geek over a pint or two.  Now, that doesn't mean I seek out beers exclusively with hype or publicity or else I'd be drinking nothing but Bud Light Platinum right now (as it was released 2 months ago as of this post).

In any case, as soon as I mentioned the word "Ipswich" in front of some of my friends who formerly lived in Boston, they both said, "Ipswich?!  Ohhhhh...."  I take that as a good sign I need to down these before they raid my house like a SWAT team of howler monkeys.  Let's pour!

Aroma 10/12
Lots of good stuff going on here and none of it is overplayed.  It starts with a very nice citrus and grass blend ad still manages to show a malt behind it that is at first crackery and then slowly shows a delicate caramel sweetness.  Once the head dies down a bit it begins to smell a bit more like a traditional IPA.  It has a nuance of pine to add with the already present citrus, but also shows a more earthy, herbal note.  My first impression of it was of dry leaves in the fall.  All in all a very nice, subtle showcase of hops that eventually settles into a nice carmel-pine-citrus trifecta.

Appearance 3/3
Fantastic.  A perfectly-sized head with nice soapy bubbles on the side and a creamy top that is dotted with the escape routes of carbonation bubbles.  The color is rusty and dark for an IPA, but when held to the light reveals a myriad of copper and orange shades.  It's quite striking, offers limited opacity, and leaves thick, chunky lacing.

Flavor 17/20
This beer begins with a Citrus flash across the tip of the tongue, an equally brief caramel interlude, and then makes a beeline for the backbone.  It begins with bitter hop flavors, but gradually fades to its bright citrus hops after it has been held in the mouth, which in turn fades into a less bright grapefruit tone.  Unfortunately, the beer someone peters out at this point.  The flavors have been fantastic up until now, but the beer loses nearly all of its flavor when it is held in the mouth long enough.  A light swish can bring back the grapefruit and a slurp provides a caramel covered version of the citrus from earlier, but I'm not accustomed to beers just stopping and not giving me any long-lingering flavor before beginning the finish.  When one DOES swallow the finish is a very interesting change!  The beer is awash with pepper, earth, and hop bitter a la grapefruit.  The aftertaste is remnants of the bitter finish and leaves the mouth surprisingly dry for a beer that isn't one of the monster varieties of the style (DIPA, IIPA, etc).

Mouthfeel 5/5
The carbonation is perfect: consistent to the bottom of the bottle, keeps the beer very refreshing, and is a nice compliment to all the citrus hops at work.  The body seems heavier than medium, but this is definitely aided by the generous foaming action in the mouth.  This foaming also makes the beer seem ridiculously smooth despite the fact that it has a carbonation lively enough that can still compliment its citrus.  This beer's mouthfeel is the best of both worlds.  Very nice!

I dig the scrimshaw look to this.
It's just like the beer: well-done, simple, and classic.
Overall Impression 8/10
Sometimes, it's hard to be overwhelmed by a beer that exercises such restraint.  The flavors are discernable, but each is reigned in so as not to upset the balance.  There are many flavors, earning this beer the adjective "complex," but each one is no roundhouse kick to the face.  Allow me to digress, it was not nearly so restrained in its near-prefect appearance nor its phenomenal mouthfeel.  Seriously, every IPA should try to emulate this mouthfeel.  The only time I was less than impressed with this beer was when the flavor quit between the backbone and the finish.  I can't say I ever experienced that before, even when holding other beers for a veeeery long time.  I was not accustomed to it and it was unwelcome.  In all fairness, it is a slight blemish for a beer that stays very true to the style in a time when it seems we can drink anything but a straight IPA.  It is also much more balanced than most IPAs.  Granted, it still has the hoppy nature true of an IPA, but it does not near the "IPA experiments" that most breweries seem enthusiastic to offer.  Basic and well done.

Total 43/50
Some might see this score and feel it's too high.  Those folks are probably used to drinking the mutagen enhanced, Barry Bonds-esque versions of IPAs.  This is a  solid IPA that hails much closer to the original style.  Its malt balance dulls a lot of the sharp hops involved, but still lets many different flavors come through for the drinker.  It's complex, subtle, nuanced, but still has enough bitter to let you know you're drinking a good IPA.  Cheers to Mercury Brewing Co!  This beer is nothing fancy, but that's exactly what I like about it.  Straightforward.  Good.  Beer.

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