I don't really know what to say about this beer as I haven't yet heard much about it. Though I have been impressed with other Shmaltz offerings, such as their Coney Island Lager and their collaboration with Terrapin, the Reunion Ale. In any case, I approach this beer with nothing but an open mind as I really don't have any other choice. Well, the label says that it's dry-hopped with the Big 3C of hops (Centennial, Cascade, & Citra), so I suppose I should expect a really nice aroma, right? One way to find out. Let's pour!
When the beer is colder than the desired serving temperature, almost all the major players in the aroma come from the malts. It starts with straw and some neutral, body-giving malts, but also finds caramel and rich dark bread. As it warms the hops begin to do their thing. A pine is first, but it is made fresher and more crisp by a light citrus backdrop. Grass is also easily detectable in this really nice blend of cohesive scents courtesy of a dry-hopping with Centennial, Cascade, and Citra hops. Despite being dry-hopped, this aroma eventually settles into a pine-forward balance. Well done.
This beer falls into the glass in a handful or orange and siennas with some citrine accents on the bottom. Sorry, normally I try to abstain from obscure color references, let alone multiple ones, but those are the colors that come first to mind. It's capped off by a nice cream-colored head that shows adequate size and retention.
I may have misspoke about the sweetness in the aroma. Granted, a large portion of it is going to come from the dry-hopping, but now I'm questioning how large a contribution the malts made because they make virtually no contribution to the flavor's sweetness. Normally, in an IPA one expects a sweet initial wash of flavor to counter the pending hops. Not in this brew. It begins with hop bitters and the neutral 2-row malts detected in the aroma. When sitting in the mouth, I find the beer does just that - sit. There's not a lot of flavor transition here. The malts add some biscuity goodness, which adds a nice crispness to a style than can quickly become far too sweet, and there are some grassy hops with a citrus tinge, but that's about it. This is closer to a pale ale/APA than an IPA in my book. The finish is essentially a continuation of the backbone - dry, bisuity malts and a citrus backsplash - but for the first time we are shown a bit of the resin and it is a welcome arrival.
The 2-row malts give a nice body, as expected, and the carbonation stays largely out of the way, keeping this beer smooth, appropriately-bodied, and very drinkable. The 6.8% ABV is never a factor.
Overall Impression 8/10
For an IPA, especially one entitled "Hop Manna," this brew comes across as a little light as far as hops are concerned. Certainly, not a bad beer, but could easily make a name for itself in the craft beer world with a bit more "oomph." It has a great, ever-changing aroma and a solid mouthfeel, but the flavor didn't knock me out for a 22 oz. bomber bragging about its hops.
Now, I may have been a little negative about this beer and its lack of hops, however, it is far from a bad beer. In fact, as a pale ale or even a APA this beer would rival anything on the market, ranking right up beside such powerhouses as Three Floyds' Alpha King. As it stands, the hops were not nearly aggressive enough (faded?) and the beer didn't offer that IPA malty sweetness. I'll remember this brew as a remarkable pale ale and recommend it to people as such. It might not have been what Shmaltz was aiming for, but they hit a target nonetheless. L'Chaim!