With the unbridled success of the Night of a Thousand Stouts, our crew decided to repeat the epic event with a focus on the hoppier side of life. On the first Saturday in March, we gathered together, armed with big, beautiful bottles of IPAs and Imperial IPAs to toast the coming of Spring. Wifey McHops, Spencer, John E., G-Love and K-Bomb, Eric the Red and Miss J, plus some other folks joined in the fun. It was a killer line-up featuring some of the more well-regarded American hop-bombs and our tongues accepted their punishments and begged for more.
My Night of a Thousand Stouts Tasting Notes sort of petered out after a week or two, so I decided to remedy that this time around by just doing quick-hit ratings for every beer we sampled. These notes need to be taken with a grain of salt, however, since the unending succession of hop-forward brews skewed my ability to accurately judge these beers. I’ve added Wifey’s visceral reactions after my own descriptions. Feel free to weep in jealousy at our glorious bounty…
- Thomas Creek Up the Creek – The first beer we cracked open, Thomas Creek’s “Extreme IPA” is strong and sweet, with well-incorporated alcohol and a slightly subdued hop profile. A solid brew. 3 Hops. Wifey Says: Bleh!
- Cigar City Jai Alai – Quite possibly my favorite American IPA, the Jai Alai is a well-balanced, grapefruit-centric, easy-sipping session brew. Now that it’s available in ‘Bama, it’s become a fixture in my fridge. Herr Hordeum gave it 3.5 Hops, but what the fuck does he know? 4 Hops. Wifey Says: Mmm!
- Moylan’s Hopsickle – My very first Tasting Note on Aleheads. Not much has changed. It’s still a scorcher, and it’s still delicious. Frequent reader Spencer brought a growler of it. 3.5 Hops. Wifey Says: Meh.
- Bell’s HopSlam – Huge thanks to John E. for providing these beauties. One of the best Imperials there is, was, or ever will be. A nose to die for and a flavor and full mouthfeel to match. Just as good as I remember. 4 Hops. Wifey Says: Thppppppft!
- Green Flash West Coast IPA – Another easy-drinking, session IPA. Killer balance, big tropical fruits in the taste, and a nice, creamy mouthfeel. 3.5 Hops. Wifey Says: I didn’t try this one.
- Good People IPA – Golf clap for the folks at Good People. A full-bore session IPA perfect for any occasion. Now that Good People is canning their beers, their IPA and the Cigar City Jai Alai will quickly become the “house” IPAs at the McHops Monastery. 3.5 Hops. Wifey Says: Hooray local beer!
- Alesmith IPA – Doc already nailed this one. Bigger and bolder than most “single” IPAs, the AleSmith is a tasty treat from an ale factory that is easily one of the best in the business. 3.5 Hops. Wifey Says: My favorite of the day!
- Cigar City Jai Alai Cedar-Aged (Humidor Series) – Slouch Sixpack took on this beauty. I actually prefer the standard Jai Alai with its brighter hop profile, but I’m still not complaining about this one. Slouch’s 3.5 Hops seem spot-on to me. Wifey Says: I like the regular one better.
- Bell’s Two-Hearted – I gave it 3.5 Hops in my poetic ode to the brew so many months ago, so I’ll just stick with that. It’s an exceptional beer and the house brew of the Commander, so I’ll just stand by my initial judgment. Wifey Says: I like it!
- Yazoo Hop Project – I can’t even remember which Hop Project number this was. I think Yazoo is on Hop Project #45 or something right now. Regardless, they’re usually fun and tasty IPAs that showcase whatever hop varietals they’re using without punishing your tongue. I enjoyed this version quite a bit. Really digging the Hop Project series. 3 Hops. Wifey Says: Skipped this one too.
- Sprecher IPA2 – Sprecher gets kind of a bad rap on a lot of beer rating sites, but I generally enjoy their beers. They seem to shoot for drinkability rather than anything over-the-top. The IPA2 probably isn’t their best, but I wouldn’t kick it out of bed for eating peanuts. A touch astringent on the finish and a little weak on the nose, but it’s still a decent brew. 2.5 Hops. Wifey Says: Yuck.
- Ninkasi Oatis – You know it’s a hop-forward tasting session when an oatmeal stout functions as your intermission. We were all in need of a well-roasted, sweet, dark brew at this point so we cracked a bottle of Oatis courtesy of Beerford. A very tasty stout with bittersweet chocolate, some espresso beans, and a great, dark-roasted malt flavor. Its only major flaw was a distinctly thin body which is a bit disappointing for an oatmeal (they’re usually a lot creamier). 3 Hops. Wifey Says: Utterly indifferent.
- Port Shark Attack – To ease us back into the hop-bombs after the Oatis, we hit up Port’s classic Imperial Red Ale. I’m probably a little biased towards the style, but I find the Shark Attack to be a well-balanced, easy-drinking cross between a bold Imperial IPA and a sweet, sessiony amber ale. 3.5 Hops Wifey Says: Decent.
- Port Wipeout – A hop-bomb on par with the Hopsickle for punishing bitterness. Like the Hopsickle, it makes up for the pain by being outstandingly tasty. Actually, I’d have a pretty hard time selecting between the two so I’ll award the Wipeout 3.5 Hops as well. Wifey Says: Poop!
- Port Hop 15 – I loved this beer. 15 hop varietals working in perfect harmony. It’s not as brash in terms of bitterness as the Wipeout. Think of adding a drop of water to your Scotch to let the complexity of the smoke and peat get drawn out. The bigger malt backbone on the Hop 15 (as compared to the Wipeout) truly lets the hops sing. A masterpiece. 4 Hops. Wifey Says: OK, I guess.
- Terrapin Hoptaneous Combustion – A very interesting brew that is part of Terrapin’s Georgia Theatre series (proceeds go towards the support of the landmark Georgia Theatre in Athens which has hosted such noted local bands as the B-52s, Widespread Panic, and R.E.M.). It’s a fairly pungent, hoppy Imperial IPA with a beautiful background note of smoke. I’ve never had a smoked beer with such a strong hop profile before and I was surprised by how well it worked. More of a novelty than anything else, but I thoroughly enjoyed every sip of it. 3 Hops. Wifey Says: Grudging respect.
- Dogzilla Black IPA – Meh. I probably bought this one just because of the cool label (a massive black lab trouncing a city like Godzilla…it’s what I imagine the McHops Mutts dream of when their little legs are flailing in the air). I liked Laughing Dog’s Dogfather so I decided to give this one a try. Felt like a thin, dark ale mixed with an astringent IPA. Weirdly unbalanced with some funky flavors. Probably my least favorite of the session. 2 Hops. Wifey Says: Go away, stupid beer.
- Hoppin Frog Mean Manalashi – From my least favorite of the day to my favorite, the Mean Manalashi has everything I love in a hop-bomb. A gorgeous, juicy, citrus hop profile barely kept in check by sweet, sticky caramel. It’s 100% hop-forward, but there’s no mouth-puckering astringency. Perfectly conceived and executed, this brew rocketed to the top of my favorite Imperial IPAs list. 4 Hops. Wifey Says: Yum!
- Terrapin Hopzilla – Two ‘zilla beers in one day! This is part of Terrapin’s Side Project Series which I almost always love. A fairly aggressive beer with great flavor and an excellent nose. Two minor drawbacks in a slightly syrupy body and an over-astringent finish. A cool beer, but not one of Terrapins finest. 3 Hops, nonetheless. Wifey Says: Pretty good!
- Southern Tier Oak Aged Unearthly – The counterpoint to Jai Alai. While I prefer the unadulterated Jai Alai to the Humidor version, I actually prefer the Oak Aged Unearthly to the standard offering. Really nice balance, but unlike the subdued Humidor Jai Alai, the hops still sing beautifully. There’s a hint of toasted oak in the finish and not even a smidgen of the big 11% ABV. Really nice. 3.5 Hops. Wifey Says: I’m neutral on this one.
- Ballast Point Big Eye – Super citrusy and refreshing, the Big Eye has a hugely floral nose balanced by an easy-drinking, tasty flavor. Tastes a lot like the Founders Centennial IPA which is Doc’s all-time favorite. I’ll give it 3.5 Hops as it was kind of on par with the Two-Hearted for me. It’s not a best-in-class like the Ballast Point Sculpin, but if I lived in the brewery’s distribution area, this would be in my fridge all the time. Wifey Says: Baby McHops woke up when you were drinking this one, so I didn’t even see it.
- Sweetwater Border Hopper – Don’t know if the Dank Tank mellowed this one out too much, but we all agreed there just wasn’t much of a hop profile with this brew. I’ve liked most of the Dank Tank series so I was a little disappointed by this one. Might be my fault for hanging on to it a bit too long. Hoppy brews don’t cellar well and I’ve had this one for about 5 months now. 2 Hops. Wifey Says: Nah.
- Beer Here Dark Hops – Like the DogZilla, I bought this one for the label (two Men In Black-style dudes on the front with hop-cones for heads). A much better Black IPA than the Laughing Dog option. This one meshes well-roasted, dark malt with a nice, zingy IPA hop profile. I still have a little cognitive dissonance when drinking a black ale with such big hop notes, but that’s my fault, not the beer. I liked this one. 3 Hops. Wifey Says: Not my style at all.
- French Broad Rye Hopper – I’m a sucker for rye beers, particularly ones that pair the inherent spiciness of rye with the pungent bitterness of hops. The Rye Hopper does this well and still maintains the fluffy, “full”mouthfeel that you often find in ryes. Tastes a lot like Terrapin’s Rye Squared which I always enjoy, though the Rye Hopper is probably a little easier-drinking than the Terp offering. 3 Hops. Wifey Says: Whatever.
- Three Floyds Dreadnaught – What else would you expect from Three Floyds legendary Imperial IPA other than a perfectly executed hopstravaganza? Not a hop-bomb per se, but still clearly an Imperial IPA. It’s smooth, incredibly full-bodied, delicious, and hop-forward without being particularly bitter or astringent at all. I liked the Mean Manalashi a little better because it was grooved right into my personal hop wheelhouse but the Dreadnaught was a VERY close second. An easy 4 Hops. Wifey Says: I can see why you like it, but I do not.
- Avery Maharaja – A classic American Imperial IPA, the Maharaja is a BIG beer. A bit too much booze and hop-burn in the finish knock it down a peg, but otherwise, the Maharaja is a true celebration of the humble hop flower. I love the nose on this beer and there’s plenty of sweet, pale malt to balance off the highly aggressive hop profile. 3.5 Hops. Wifey Says: Absolutely not.
- Stone Ruination – I’ve mocked this beer for its name and reputation as a tongue-scorcher since I find it to be quite easy-drinking and tasty. Sure, it’s very hop-forward, but it has nice balance, very little astringency, and a fairly tame finish. So basically, I have a tendency to make fun of this beer for being better than its reputation. I’m an idiot. 3.5 Hops. Wifey Says: Actually, pretty good. Why do you always pick on Stone?
- Coronado Idiot IPA – Speaking of Idiots, our final brew of the day was the Coronado Idiot IPA! A great beer to finish on, the Idiot is a tame, but tasty Imperial IPA with excellent sweetness in the malt to counter-act the beautiful tropical fruit flavors from the hops. My first brew from Coronado, but it was quite good. 3 Hops. Wifey Says: When did they name a beer after you?
Truly, it was a magically delicious day. I plan on petitioning the US Government to make IPA Day an official holiday. Maybe it can replace Arbor Day? Or Flag Day? What’s the point of those stupid holidays anyway? It’s not like you can drink a tree or a flag.