Leinenkugel’s may be well-known for its popular Sunset Wheat (which some liken to Fruity Pebbles in ale form) and Berry Weiss beers, but its Big Eddy line is bringing extreme beers to serious craft lovers. The Big Eddy Imperial IPA is the third and newest release in the series, following a Russian Imperial Stout and Scotch Wee Heavy. Sitting at a whopping 9% abv, this imperial IPA strives to look the part of an authentic representation of the style and incorporates five types of hops to further distinguish itself.
Like most “bigger” beers on the market, I would recommend pouring this into a wide-bodied glass with a flared rim to both soak in the appearance and allow the hop aromas to fully develop. Immediately the visual is striking as the IPA pours a burnished copper color with a clear body. A white head slowly starts to billow before finally coming to a rest, but it doesn’t last long and when it’s gone it barely even leaves even a wisp of foam as a cap, which kind of gives this the look of a whiskey. This image is compounded further by the fact that there isn’t a whole lot of lacing either.
Leave it to the hops to steer this back on course faithfully. The nose is potent and immediately delivers a bushel of fruit, from citrus to tropical, with a focus on pineapple, mango, orange, and a bit of grapefruit. There’s a kiss of sweetness near the end, but it is mild and doesn’t draw away from the hops.
Thankfully, the taste continues where the hops left off — with a ton of fruity hoppiness. Despite the brief appearances by the malts that give a subtle brown sugar and toffee flavor, the hops are rightfully at the forefront. I want to clarify that while the hops are the predominant flavor, this isn’t a West Coast hop bomb where the bitterness rips the enamel straight from your teeth, but rather it is a showcase in hop mastery. The Citra and Cascade hops give their distinctive citrus and tropical flavors, while the Simcoe adds to this plus a touch of pine. Finally, the Amarillo adds a dash of spice and earthiness to the finish. A nice combination of sweet and bitter dance on the palate from start to finish and a sticky hop influence burdens the tongue in a pleasant way.
Big Eddy Imperial IPA debuted this June in limited quantities and should hopefully make its way to most markets that Leinenkugel’s currently services. I was pleasantly surprised with this beer and it exceeded my expectations for it. Be on the lookout for this and the next upcoming release in the Big Eddy series, a Baltic Porter, later this year.
A- / $11 per 4-pack