Hop Holiday IPA Tasting Notes

Original Post: Hop Holiday 2013 Christmas IPA
Style: Belgian IPA
Brew Date: November, 2013
Tasting Date: December 4, 2014
ABV: 7.8%
IBUs: 70

IMG_5231A year old IPA is never a good look, but a year old Belgian IPA at least has something going on beyond the hops. I drank one of these recently and was surprised by how much I still enjoyed it. Let’s see if that holds true today.

The color is orange, bordering on amber and there is a big, pillowy white head. The beer is very clear, though I can’t seem to illustrate that with these pictures.

In the aroma I get hints of lemon, a little bit of ginger and the big highlight is pine sap. Yes, pine sap. It is piney, but in a totally different way than American IPA hop bombs. I don’t know how else to describe it other than sap. It smells like freshly cut pine trees. Or, as you may think of them, Christmas trees.

The sappy goodness comes out even more in the first sip. There is some serious bitterness behind it and the ginger comes through more now. I remember being disappointed by how little ginger came out when the beer was fresh but I guess the hops have faded more than it initially seems because it is more obvious now.

I am surprised how little this beer seems to have changed overall, though. I was sort of torn on this beer initially. My goal was a ginger spiked piney IPA with some Belgian fermentation character. How I ended up with a fresh-cut-Christmas-tree-sap bomb, I’m not sure but it ultimately proved to be pretty appropriate for a Christmas beer.

This is definitely not for everyone, as I said, I wasn’t even sure it was for me at first. It really grew on my, though. It is so immediately identifiably unique, too which is making me feel nostalgic for the holidays last year.

I could definitely see “cleaning product” being the complaint on this one. Pine Sol is not an invalid comparison here. It almost seems like it is artificially flavored because the fresh pine character is just too perfect and distinct.

The alcohol content shows itself a bit in the finish, but the sap sticks around and keeps it from being a problem. At 7.8% ABV, this is definitely pushing the limits of a single IPA, but it is so strongly flavored that I think another couple percent could be tacked on without changing the character too much. Not that I think that would be a good idea.

IMG_5233I really like this as a once a year specialty beer. I could see myself getting excited to get my pint of it every December if it was an annual offering at a local brew pub. I kind of want to revisit it for this reason, but at the same time… I’m not sure if that translates to wanting two cases of it at the house.

This beer is unique and interesting but it is definitely not endlessly drinkable. And as a hoppy beer, it shouldn’t be a good candidate for extended aging, which makes it maybe not the best choice for a homebrewer like myself. Most of my homebrew fits into one of those two categories. I either want an easy drinking, low alcohol beer that I can mow through quickly, or a big complex beer that I can age for a couple years and just drink one of every now and then (often preceded or followed by several beers from earlier category).

I’m still not completely sure what to think of this beer. I may need to brew up another batch next year just to figure it out.

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