You gotta have a lot of respect for a beverage style that survived the Middle Ages. OK, so technically there is evidence for it stretching back to 7000 BC. However, having been so popular with the vikings (and at every Rennaisance Festival ever), I tend to associate it with the Middle Ages. It was an era of plagues, serfdom, Crusades, famines, Joan of Arc, a very angry church, knights, castles, endless jabs by Monty Python, and the aforementioned vikings, and none of them could send this style of brewing in to the forgotten annals of history. Oddly, despite its longevity this style of fermented goodness is remarkably hard to find commercially today. This brand of mead is no exception. B. Nektar is only available in a select number of states (FL, IL, ME, MD, DC, MA, MI, NJ, NC, OH, WI, & SC) and I have @kellyrose82, and her seemingly frequent trips to Michigan, for this bottle.
In case you couldn't tell by the label, this style is going to be a little bit of an experiment for them. B. Nektar Meadery has been pretty good about experimenting with different things that taste good: meads, ciders, cysers, cherries, vanilla, cinnamon, agave, lime, etc. This brew is truly a blending of styles. Hops... in a MEAD? I've never heard of it before and have been curious about this brew ever since I first read about it. B. Nektar uses Chinhook, Cluster, & Cascade hops to make its Evil Genius and that sounds fine to me! Let's pour!
This brew presents two very different aroma profiles depending on whether you see the forest or the trees. The forest is an interesting "hop funk" that is not without its light sweetness. If you begin to dissect that aroma to see the trees, you will find a lot of the quintessential characteristics that make a good IPA. There is a nice spiciness, noticeable resin, and some lesser pine notes. Granted, these are much more subdued than you would find them in an American IPA that craft beer folks are used to drinking, but they are undeniably present. Blending with that is the delicate sweetness of the mead. It smells of honey (duh) and fresh green apples. As the mead warms the "evil" in the "Evil Genius" becomes steadily more menacing and the hop traits become more aggressive. The spice and resin of the hops take a big step forward, leaving the pine scent in the lurch, but still allow that crisp apple sweetness to shine. A fascinating blend, even if it lacks a robust quality.
Meads are only lightly carbonated, so I won't be able to judge the head on this. However, for a mead it looks spot on. It pours and sits in the glass like a white wine, even though some of the carbonation initially fizzed to the top after pouring. It has extremely high clarity and its color is off of the SRM/Lovibond scale, making it lighter in hue than even some of the palest lagers.
Trying to put such a unique experience into words or down on paper seems a daunting task after just the first sip, but you shall all have my best effort. The first sensation is the wash of honey that slides all too well over the tongue. It turns sugary sweet and then begins allowing in other flavors, such as the dry fruits of a champagne, vanilla, and an interesting bitter. The bitter is surrounded by such sweetness that it's reminiscent of when you bite too far into an apple and get part of the bitter core. The sweetness fades slowly after the swallow into the champagne dryness, which in turn fades into a bitter aftertaste. Not long after swallowing this very sweet mead, the mouth has the "apple core" bitter spread all over it and it leaves the mouth very dry. Not an experience I was expecting from something this sweet, but definitely something I would expect from a hoppy IPA. Overall, this is a very sweet drink that borrows very little from the IPA style. I hope my inexpertise with meads doesn't effect this review too negatively. I found it to be sweet for my taste, but maybe for a mead this is perfect. I simply don't have the background to know.
There is so much that B. Nektar has done correctly I scarcely know where to begin. Might as well start with the first impression? This beer is criminally smooth. It's "Eddie Haskell" smooth. It knows exactly what it's doing and it's way too good at it. If this level of smoothness came over to pick up my teenage daughter, I'd be sure to be cleaning a shotgun in a conspicuous area of the house. It coats the tongue with its sweetness and then gives a surprise ending, by ending bitter and dry like an IPA. It was a great twist considering there were no hops detectable in the flavor itself. It's carbonation is infintesimal at best and not inappropriate for a mead.
|Did I mention the kick-ass bottle art?|
Overall Impression 9/10
This is pleasing and I love the creativity involved in its creation. It features distinct traits of both the IPA and the mead. IPA drinkers will be disappointed if they are expecting a large hop flavor, but mead drinkers should see this as a neat innovation that adds something different to a tasty beverage. The IPA style was detectable mostly in the aroma and in the aftertaste and left the mead to its own devices the rest of the time. My only negative about this beer is that the strong sweetness and the smooth body do not make this something that I could drink all night. However, that's not much of a negative as there are many beers that I enjoy that I would not wish to drink head to tail all night long.
I dig it and as long as you're not expecting an American IPA because it says "IPA-Style" on the bottle than you should too. This is first and foremost a mead. It's going to be sweet. It's going to be smooth. It's carbonation is barely detectable at all. However, the aroma and aftertaste really do capture of elements of the IPA that I never would have guessed that I would see in a mead. Not only is this a unique experience because it's a mead, it's a unique mead on top of that! If you love craft beer and trying new flavors and new breweries and new ingredients I don't know how that could not appeal to you. Overall, it's sweetness was higher than my personal taste would've wished, but I'm such a n00b h4x0r in the world of mead that maybe this is exactly how it is supposed to be. Looks like I'll just have to keep drinking them until they're more familiar to me. At least, that's what I'll tell my wife.