Deschutes Brewery Hop Henge Experimental IPA

June 20 2011 - 10:58 AM

I saw a movie recently but will withhold the name as a spolier courtesy.  In the last scene, we witness a man in his boxy glass-enveloped flat as he succumbs to another evening alone, and we begin to feel his depression.  I have found the cure for his downtrodden state and for anyone else feeling even a hint of malaise.  It comes in a bottle from Bend, Oregon and is called Deschutes Hop Henge Experimental IPA.  One sip cures all that pains you. 

What makes this beer so special and, I swear, gives it these special healing powers is it's incredible harmony.  Deschutes plays a clever trick upon you, disguising the hops as clean and subtle malts, only to gradually display them as you drill down further into this.  The slowly emerging hops unveil themselves with a bit of pine, some sweet grapefruit and orange peel flavors, and hints of spice.  A more sinister robustness lurks around the edges, a massive hop attack waiting to be unleashed, but never quite surfaces to disrupt the general serenity of the subtle and sweet malts.

We couldn't decide on the nose of this beer.  Josh detected a marshmallowy smell.  I gathered baked bread.  Strangely enough, neither of us found the signature hops to be prominently displayed in the aroma, a remarkable feature for a beer that probably exceeds 80 IBU's (for comparison, Lagunitas IPA is around 45 bittering units). 

I would compare this to Pliny the Elder and Dreadnaught, in the "silky" class of IPAs.  I'm working on these classifications, but I find IPA's to also come in a "piney" class and a "juicy" class, and perhaps others.  Non-IPA drinkers will appreciate this for its elegant drinkability and its tamed hop profile.  Hop lovers who can appreciate the subtleties in a beer this complex will readily appreciate the sinewy hop foundation.  I need to try more of this before lauding it with masterpiece status, but this is an exceedingly impressive beer and one of the best IPA's I've had in quite some time.  I hope it will be available in Chicago in bomber size bottles.

–Mark Sheppard

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