Tucked away in a small town in northern Michigan lies Short’s Brewery, a former hardware store turned brewhouse. The Liberator became a 30th birthday present for Joseph Short, the creative mind behind Short’s Brewing Company, which offers here its interesting take on a double IPA.
The Liberator’s most surprising feature are the citrus tones that carry throughout, from the nose to the finish. Definitely citrusy and floral in the nose, with an enjoyable aroma of hops followed by orange and lemon zest added after fermentation. The pour is a bit cloudy orange with a nice full head.
The taste of this double IPA starts with a nice amount of hoppy bitter flavor, followed by caramelized malt and citrus, which dial the level of bitterness back a bit after that initial rush. There’s definitely an abundance of hops and malt used in this brew, and with the citrus zest at the end really shines and rounds out this beer. The flavor of the Liberator really aligns itself with the nose; bittery and hoppy goodness right up front finally mellow out by the citrus and caramel malt.
B+ / $17 per six-pack / shortsbrewing.com
With Dogfish’s fan loyalty, this Imperial IPA from Dogfish Head can be a challenging bottle to find. The brewing process for this expression in the Dogfish lineup is quite intense, and so goes the flavor and the alcohol content.
120 Minute IPA goes through a unique brewing process that incorporates a massive amount of hops. The boil is continuously hopped for two hours, hence the name, with high-alpha American hops used. It is then dry-hopped daily for a month and finally aged another month with whole-leaf hops.
The nose on 120 Minute is quite strong, with the hoppy aroma slightly masked by the caramel, malt, and hints of vanilla. This Imperial IPA pours a relatively cloudy gold to amber color with a light head. As you first sip it you get a prominent amount of alcohol, and the strength of the brew becomes obvious immediately. The malt and citrus help tone the alcohol down, which accounts for the surprisingly sweet follow-through. The higher the alcohol content in a beer, the more residual sugar is left behind, making the beer sweeter.
The complex brewing process behind 120 Minute ultimately produces a quite delicious yet very strong Imperial IPA. Try holding out and letting this bottle age for a year or two, it will help bring out the complexities in flavor.
Between 15% – 20% abv
A- / $9 per 12 oz. bottle / dogfish.com
Each year Bell’s Brewery releases its version of a double IPA, and luckily for everyone the Michigan-based brewery makes an aggressive effort to get its beers out to as many people as possible. Even some of Bell’s limited beers are not terribly difficult to track down.
This year’s Hopslam unleashes beautiful aromas of pine, citrus, honey, and lastly hops. The first thing you’ll notice about Hopslam is its nose; with six different hop varieties used, they add a surprisingly earthy aroma to the overall flavor profile. The nose of this year’s batch starts with the beautiful aroma of pine needles, next is the wonderful accompaniment of grapefruit and citrus, and lastly you get the hops and honey.
The pour is a nice beautiful color of gold to orange/amber and the flavor is all there, right up front, very bitter and hoppy to start. A very front-loaded beer, you get a ton of grapefruit/citrus notes to start it off then a lot of hops. Like the name suggests this is not for those that do not enjoy a titular slam of hops and floral tones.
Even with its abv of 10%; it goes down exceptionally smooth, with a nice clean finish. During fermentation honey is added to the batch. This wonderful addition increases the alcohol, yet creates a nice, smooth follow-through.
A- / $3 per 12 oz. bottle / bellsbeer.com
It takes confidence to step up to the bar and order a delicious Big Red Coq, a surprisingly hoppy red ale. That’s right, a hoppy red ale. Brewery Vivant’s Brewer’s Reserve Limited Release series is always something to pick up if you see it. A hoppy Belgo-American red ale, Big Red Coq is one of the most delicious red ales ever to grace these lips. Go ahead and laugh, the jokes are endless — as is this beer’s flavor.
After pouring into a nice tulip glass, the color is an opaque red to copper, with a hint of gold and a nice inch-high head to top it off. What is most surprising is the nose and flavor, more of a borderline IPA than a red ale. Again, it’s very floral, very hoppy, and slightly bitter with a good amount of citrus fruit that shines through and creates a great aromatic red ale.
The initial taste is very malty, a total juxtaposition to the nose of this beer. At 6.25% abv, the follow-through is a bit citrusy and only slightly hoppy. Truly the only downfall to this beer is the lack of hops in the body, especially for something with such a great aroma. With every sip, remembering that this is not an IPA is difficult. This deceptively floral nose leaves you wanting more, with a flavor profile more malty, slightly bitter and a bit more citrusy than you would expect. I do suggest tasting this Big Red Coq, if you can get your hands on one. It’s quite delicious and aptly labeled as a “Hoppy Belgo-American Red Ale.”
B / $3.50 per 16 oz. can / breweryvivant.com