Thursday, May 17, 2012

Terrapin - Big Hoppy Monster

Yes!  Through a beer trade I have procured another bottle from Terrapin.  As that I now have two fine trading partners in the Southeast, I wish I could say I remember which one sent this, but it doesn't matter since Ruy and Keith are both awesome.  Write that down.  Long story short, I've been in love with Terrapin ever since cracking open their "W-N-B" (the new censored name of Wake-N-Bake), a coffee oatmeal imperial stout.  If it's an imperial from Terrapin, I'm excited.  Plus, this time of year begs for beers that are a bit lighter as we all start getting used to the long, beautiful days and craft beer filled gatherings and reds usually fit that bill marvelously.  Let's pour!

Aroma 11/12
My nose thanks me for opening this beer.  Tons of red malt and toffee right off the bat and blended nicely with a "dark orange" citrus bouquet of hops: apricots and caramelized orange.  In fact, the fruits are so dark, one could just as easily find some raisins as well!  Slow to develop are a slight mustiness and a boozy note that lets you know you're dealing with a monster.  There are no Belgian yeast characteristics, but I associate this aroma with a Quad - a saturating, rich aroma with hints of booze.  This should be fun.

Appearance 3/3
It's difficult to see in the picture, but the hue of this brew is actually closer to the "39" on the EBC scale shown. Its a dusky, hazy, brown/mahogany with a head the shade is rust were it a pastel color.  The bottle actually gushed on me, but the head turned out relatively small compared to its vigorous "how-de-do."  It stayed for an acceptable period before finally coating the surface.

Flavor 19/20
If you'd have told me this was a red, I'd have called you a liar.  Whoa!  I've never had a red like this!  The beginning is very creamy with lots of body-enhancing malts and slides easily into that sweet malty goodness - full of toffee and the aforementioned raisins.  Holding the beer in the mouth continues the malts, but adds a hint of brown sugar and bright, yet far off, citrus on the sides of the mouth.  There is very little to none of the orange-like notes from the aroma.  The finish is remarkably clean for such a monster of a beer!  You swallow and the majority of the flavor goes right along with it.  All that remains is a slight alcohol tingle and an earthy red malt that clings stickily to the back of the throat.

Mouthfeel 4/5
I dock a point right away for gushing, but the carbonation in the rest of the beer is not unpleasant.  Please note that "unpleasant" does not equal "perfect."  I know this is a big beer and sometimes big beers can be a little harder to carbonate.  However, if that is the "rule," then how do Belgian strong ales (dark or golden) achieve such a high level of carbonation in their big beers?  Big should not be mutually exclusive to "well-carbonated" and this beer could have used a little more zest.  The body is big and holds all that malt flavor wondrously.  Well-hidden is the 8.3% ABV and it only comes out when it seems most beneficial for the flavor profile.  Very well done.

Overall Impression 9/10
This is a big beer in body, flavor, and a deceptively high ABV.  It smashes the mold of "red ale" and charges forward to define the style on its own.  It is like no other red ale you'll have with it's unique aroma, raisin notes, huge flavor.  If more reds were like this, I'd be inclined to sample the style more often.

Total 46/50
Given the great, rich taste of this beer and its "take no prisoners" attitude, it seems to me that a 46 is a bit low.  However, there are a few things holding this beer back; namely the carbonation which affected its score by both gushing out upon opening and leaving the beer feeling flat a bit too early on in the bottle.  Do I recommend this beer?  Wholeheartedly.  Will red ale drinkers like it?  Who knows!?  I feel that this departs from the style in such a way that the answer truly is a toss up.  Should the average craft beer drinker pick this up whenever they see it?  Yes.  Buy it.  If you're looking for the biggest, baddest-assed red you can find, then look no further.  I didn't find all the hops that the name would imply, but according to the label this is a 2011 vintage.  I can't wait to try one fresh!

Also I wish to give this bottle extra, brownie, craft beer, unicorn, glitter points for its great bottle art.  Lots of great colors that jump out at you, a hot rod, and a cartoon turtle smoking a cigar.  It's aesthetically pleasing and kicks some ass.   Good work, Terrapin.  I never doubted you for a second!

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