Smuttynose Big A IPA - Superb

November 29 2010 - 2:12 PM

I've had a lot of IPAs in my day.  There are so many out there and quite a few styles of them.  Some are real heavy and bold, somre are lighter, some ar really malty, some are annoying hoppy and imbalanced.  Plenty are just okay.  There are a small percentage real standouts.   I'm trying to use some caution because I've overrated some beers in the past, but Smuttynose Big A IPA, their double IPA, appears to be one of the standouts. 

I previously discussed their standard IPA, which I found to be, well, okay.  It's too heavily hopped on the finish and needs more balance. For a standard IPA that's in pure harmony, see Lagunitas IPA or Stone's, probably the two best of their kind. Founders Centennial and Harpoon come to mind too.  But Smuttynose's double, the Big A, is a different story.  The nose is modest.  It pours an expectedly big head with the grapefruit smells and all that.  Nicely done.  What really makes it stand out is its remarkably perfect balance. 

This beer drinks effortlessly.  The brewery has achieved an IPA with a very high IBU, that is the hop content, that masks the bruising bitterness with a clever layer of malt that's perfectly married to it.  With each sip you get the rough and tumble citrus hops, but your palate is also blanketed with a malt coating that keeps the punishment suppressed until you let it go for a few and realize that your tongue has been painted with hops. All the initial flavors hit you center palate while the bitter lies in wait.  This is not easy to achieve. 

I tip my hat to Smuttynose for this accomplishment.  This beer ranks up there with the best double IPA's I've tried, not far behind the elites including Pliny the Elder, Coranado Idiot, and Dogfish 90.  It's sold in four packs and I've seen it on tap at bars that cater to craft beers.  I regret telling you this because I want to keep it to myself.   Wait.  I didn't mean that.  Really. 

— Mark Sheppard