Beer Review 0007: Left Hand 400 Pound Monkey

Yeah, you gotta hear the story about the name for this one.

400 Pound Monkey, a product of Left Hand Brewing, based in Longmont, Colorado, is an India Pale Ale striving to be different from the eighty-kabillion other IPA’s released in the last decade. Under the guise that beer lover palates have been destroyed by ultra-bitter, top-hop-heavy brews, this IPA is brewed English style and the goal is balance instead of a high score on the International Bitterness Unit (IBU) scale.

According to Left Hand, not all hops are of gigantic citrus character. So the “400 Pound Monkey” moniker? I’ll leave it to Joe Schiraldi, Vice President of Brewing Operations, to explain:

“Just when you thought that the world needs another IPA like it needs another virus, we’ve started to brew a year-round IPA. But this one ain’t like them others. It’s an English-style IPA that separates itself from the ubiquitous bunch. Any monkey can throw 400 pounds of hops in a kettle.”

If I were one to read between the lines, which I am… I would say that Left Hand is calling brewers who use massive amounts of hops as a marketing tool wasteful monkeys!

On January 16, I prepared my tongue for a 12 oz monkey assault.

The pour produced a small but long lasting head that was rocky in texture. The beer was a goldish-orange color and contained no sediment with a somewhat cloudy but mostly clear body. Lacing throughout the drink was above average; the glass I used will need a thorough sponging to get it clean.

The aromatics are where 400 Pound Monkey starts to fall apart. At first nose, there is a slight hint of orange and pepper, which transitions into a deep toasted biscuit and bready aroma. Some caramel is present, but there is also some wet dog. A lot of wet dog. It’s off-putting and quite honestly almost reeks; thankfully as the beverage warms some, that seems to fade. I also got an aroma of pizza, which I cannot explain and found it to be neither negative or positive. I do think the pizza scent added a ton of acidity to the aroma (the acid was not present in taste).

On the palate, the toasted bread flavor is prominent mixed with a dash of alcohol, which produces a warming effect on the tongue. This beer is quite herbal, which isn’t present in aroma, and has a minty tinge to it before finishing classically IPA, bitter. The finish is of average length and the flavors are quite pleasant although on the extreme edge of tolerability — if this got anymore toasty it would cross that line into burnt.

I noticed a strange extreme bitterness on my lips as I drink this beer, similar to that of licking an envelope. While it didn’t change the flavor of the beer, it was something I haven’t experienced with other, more traditional IPAs.

400 Pound Monkey is definitely a different kind of IPA, but in my opinion, that doesn’t make it rate any higher. I awarded 14 points for its appearance, which is almost a perfect score. The beer’s color is very inviting to the eye and the lacing was award-worthy. The aromatics suffered, only mustering up 9 points, and I gave 31 points for palate. Left Hand maxed everything out with this concoction, pushing the flavors to their limit.

Overall drinkability gets 30 points: 400 Pound Monkey has a pleasant and even satisfying taste but a not so pleasing aroma. This beer walks a fine line with flavors that are almost too much and a smell that is nearly over the bounds of acceptability.

Left Hand 400 Pound Monkey, 84 points. Price: $3.49 US for one bottle.

Did you know Left Hand brews with clean energy? As stated on the bottle, it’s provided by SimpleSolar — and speaking of the bottle, this is one cool bottle if you like monkeys.


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