As we watch the last embers of spring fade and the blazing heat of the summer solstice approach, three beer-related themes come to my mind. The season of hops approaches with our local NM IPA Challenge, but it is still a month away and there are some opportunities to sample some of what might grace our palates at that particular hop battle over the next few weeks.
Secondly, this is the season of what I have liked to call “yard work beer,” or hoppy but light pilsners, lagers, session IPAs of around 5-percent ABV or so, and simple light farmhouse saison ales.
Thirdly, it is the time of year that I bottle my annual batch of mead sourced from a local beekeeper, and ponder what I might do with this year’s batch. I heartily recommend an ice cold mead at the end of a day spent working in the yard with a few “yard work beers” to boot. I will be detailing more on the subject of mead in a later writ, as at present my focus is on the season of hops and a brew that has blasted my palate into nigh the oblivion next door.
We are blessed in New Mexico to have multiple “challenge caliber” IPA seasons, owing to the occurrences of the National IPA Challenge in the spring, the New Mexico IPA Challenge in the summer, and of course the Great American Beer Festival in the fall. As we in the 505 are known to be of some merit in the alchemy of hops, owing to the seemingly ever-growing list of awards and accolades from festivals for our local brewed IPAs, the competition at the local level is quite heated and we, the connoisseurs of hops, are glad beneficiaries.
It has been some time since I found a brew of singular merit and uniqueness possessing of the “wha-tang!” factor as far as hop presence, and felt like I needed to share my enjoyment of it with you, dear reader. I present Dragline IPA from Canteen Brewing.
This is not the first brewing of an IPA under this moniker as we had a version which appeared in May of last year, and my Untappd feed reminded me how much I enjoyed that particular iteration. The present vintage has ascended, in my opinion, to something greater still and I will henceforth describe for you what wonders I daresay it holds.
The initial aroma is of orange candy grapefruit, with a sweet pine finish almost minty and soft in character. We have the traditional dank hop character one would expect from a New Mexico IPA, but melded with layers of different and distinct, sometimes subtle citrus, mango, and peach. The mouthfeel is wonderfully full, yet balanced and with somewhat of a chewy character owing to a strong liquid gold-colored malt backbone pushing 8-percent ABV. The head is perfectly white, which contrasts well with the deep golden amber ocean enveloping a plethora of hops within.
Were I to classify this as a newer or older style of IPA, I would say that is is certainly both, taken to 11, and then given the best mixing and mastering job that any metal record has had. Wait, were we talking metal or beer? But, I digress. With stronger IPAs as well as with any barrel aged beer of merit, I will always delineate between the initial flavors which appear and those which rise to prominence as the beer warms over time. The best brews will stand up to this test and open up with some increased temperature, while any imperfections or imbalances will show their true colors in the same vein.
For the initial flavor impressions I get a blast of tart grapefruit, then pine, then a lemon-orange candy mid-palate, with a strong and crisp pine finish likely owing to the presence of African Queen hops as one of four in the brew. As it warms, I get a tad more sweet pine on the forefront, with a blood orange and grapefruit finish.
In short, I adore this brew, from fore hop to back hop to blue line hop to, er … let’s go Penguins! A splendid season it was for hockey, and thank the gods for hop bombs as we are in the dry season for sporting and other entertainment indoors, away from the delightful dry heat of summer in ‘Burque.
This beer makes me want to see Goatwhore again and mosh till the end of days, down another pint, and do it all over once more. I would also recommend an early morning or late evening hike in the mountains, or by the Rio Grande, or perhaps a jaunt into El Malpais, aka “Mordor” itself, appended by a quaffing of this delectable hop leviathan. But ,don’t take my word for it, go out and try a pint on its own or side-by-side with Exodus IPA or Flashback IPA, and see what you think.
Or, better yet, continue your hop-devastated palate destruction by trying the numerous other extreme hopped offerings around our fair abode, for there are many worth a draught or 11. Of note, I would recommend (in no particular order) Dragline and Exodus from Canteen, the Mother Road/Tractor Brewing collaboration DIPA, Challenge IPA 2.0 from Bosque, Uppercut IPA from Boxing Bear Brewing (this latest batch is Simcoe-tastic!), Flora Colossus DIPA from Flix Brewhouse, Project Dank (as always and NIPAC 2017 champion) from La Cumbre, and I’ve heard splendid things about this Mosaic IPA from Marble, but need to make my way over there stat!
So, go forth and enjoy the bounty of the summer of hops, and crack open a yard work brew or two while you’re at it. Until we meet again, keep the metal loud, the hops extreme, and the sun blazing. See you all at the 2017 IPA Challenge!
— Franz Solo
This writ is dedicated in part to our recently fallen dear friend Justin Shearer who was a marvelous human being and fellow lover of metal and all things hopped to the extreme. Eternal Hails!