Beer Review 0277: Terrapin Oaked Big Hoppy Monster Red Ale

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I’m a little anxious about reviewing this beer after my last experience with an “oaked” anything by Athens, Georgia’s Terrapin Beer Company. Earlier this year, I had their Phlux Capacitor, an oak aged American Strong Ale, and rated it a disappointing 78 points. That beer was truly like oak in a bottle, and I’m talking punishing, raw planks of wood with very little balance or body.

This beer, Oaked Big Hoppy Monster, is a Red Ale that is supposed to feature a ton of hops with an oak backbone. Part of Terrapin’s Monster Beer Series, this is a limited release available only in the fall. Coming in at 9.1% ABV (alcohol by volume) and 75 IBUs (International Bitterness Units), this beer is hopped with Bravo, Centennial, Cascade, Amarillo, and Simcoe.

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On the pour, this beer produced very little head, as kind of expected for a high alcohol “monster” beer… the color of the liquid was a deep amber, verging on red, with a cloudy body but a lack of particles or sediment. Despite the skimpy head, Hoppy Monster left some good lacing, and looked quite decent and inviting in the glass.

Here’s where things start to get weird: I couldn’t decide whether I liked the aroma of this beer, or whether I immensely despised it. First off: remember pink liquid amoxicillin? Yes, the bubblegum-esque antibiotic you took for cough due to cold as a child… that scent is definitely present in this beer. But it’s coupled with a mild hoppiness that is actually really nice, giving off notes of citrus (lemon) and a bevy of tropical fruit. And there’s big-time sweetness here; a sweet bread blast that really sets the stage for a huge whiff of woodsy oak. Honestly, I always liked the smell of pink amoxicillin when I was a child. But, hey, I like the scent of gasoline, too… perhaps I’m weird. I settled on 11 out of 15 points here. And as this brew warmed, the hop note became more Hawaiian Punch than anything else, and it coupled with the amoxicillin to make a really strange but yet still inviting combination.

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Tasting, you realize this is a super hoppy beer that has the alpha acids constrained by the “oaked” portion of the brew. Tons of tropical fruit and citrus burst out when the liquid hits the tongue, only to be bum-rushed by ample woodsy oak, which brings on a super-sweet malty and bready middle. This finishes on caramel and roasted grain, which is oddly balanced by the sweetness of the hops (not the bitter!) and a big plank of oak. There was a slight alcohol warmth on the finish, and the parting shot is the oak hardwood floor you may or may not have in your bedroom.

Wow. This is one of the strangest beers I’ve had — I can’t say I dislike it, and I feel good about trying it. But would I come back to this territory? Probably not — hey, Terrapin, I’d really love to try Big Hoppy Monster without the oak treatment, because I think it might be an exceptional beer. Instead, this is just average to somewhat very good.

Terrapin Oaked Big Hoppy Monster Red Ale, 84 points. Price: $3.49 US for one twelve ounce bottle.

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