Suregork Loves Beer

Beer Reviews, Homebrew, Rambling

Homebrew: Tasting a 15-month old Imperial IPA


In June 2012 I brewed up an Imperial IPA that was loaded with 500 grams of hops in a 20 liter batch. I never made a ‘proper’ review or tasting notes of the beer, but published some short ones right after the beer was kegged and bottled. Overall I was quite happy with the beer, as it featured a strong bitterness, loads of hop aroma (especially when fresh), some nice resiny hop flavors, and a slightly sweet maltiness to balance it all up. The beer was a little grassy and ‘raw’ though, and when we are brewing an IIPA next week (recipe will follow soon), we will replace some of the hops with hop extract to hopefully reduce the amount of grassiness in the end product. Anyways, I found a couple of bottles of this homebrewed IIPA (at least I think it is, as the bottles have no labels or text, just a golden bottle cap) stored away in a closet (we are currently moving, and have been cleaning and packing up everything). I though it would be interesting to try how this one has held up. The general consensus is that IPAs should be drank fresh, and I mostly concur with this statement, however some of the sweeter IIPAs can get really nice with some age in my opinion. This doesn’t mean that I purposely age (I)IPAs, but if I find a bottle that has been forgotten in the fridge/closet for several months I still tend to enjoy them. Hop aroma, flavor and bitterness tend to fade with age, while malty sweetness tends to strengthen. This beer has been stored in quite poor conditions, as the temperature of our old apartment has been quite high (especially during the summers), so my expectations are not that high. Anyways, lets see how it tastes! Oh, and sorry about the picture below. Since we’ve just moved, I’m trying to find a new setting for taking beer pictures. The table and wall combination here results in pictures slightly red-tinted and almost with a desaturated look. Will have to experiment a little.

  • Brewery: Sly Cat Brewery
  • Country: Finland
  • Style: Imperial India Pale Ale
  • ABV: 7.7 %
  • Size: 500 ml
  • Bought from: –
  • Not on Beer Advocate
  • Not on RateBeer
Sly Cat CatnIPA - Imperial IPA
The beer pours with a really murky orange-amber color, and a slight oily off-white head is formed that collapses rather quickly. The beer was crystal clear when I looked through the bottle when I found it in the closet, but 24 hours in the fridge resulted in lots of chill haze that didn't have time to settle. Very heavily dry-hopped beers tend to have some dry-hop haze, so I guess it suits the style. It could look prettier though, but I've never cared that much about appearance. The appearance is similar to what I remember it fresh.
The aroma is fairly sweet, with quite a large malt presence (caramel). There are hop tones left though, despite the 15-month age, and they are mostly floral and perfumey, with some citrus and resin in the background. Quite a nice aroma actually, but it steers more towards the American Barleywine category than the Imperial IPA category. A lot of hop aroma has been lost, but was is left is still a nice combination of sweet caramel and floral hop tones. Reminds me of many IIPAs I've consumed 'old' (e.g. Port Brewings 3rd Anniversary Ale and Alesmith's Yulesmith Summer).
The flavour is similar to the aroma, with an initial impact of caramelly sweetness, quickly followed by a mellow resiny hoppiness. These combine quite well, and also give off a Barleywine vibe. The finish is semi-sweet, moderately bitter, and features some warming alcohol, which strengthen this impression. Overall the flavors are not bad, but quite different to when the beer was fresh. The beer has changed alot during 15 months, but change in this case isn't bad, as the beer has turned into a nice Barleywine. The dank, earthy and fruity hop flavors have definitely mellowed, and left are only the resiny and floral tones (myrcene- and linalool-derived perhaps?). What really makes me happy is that there are no signs of infection or other off-flavors, suggesting that my sanitary practices are good. I really like this, but if I tasted this blind I wouldn't guess it was an IIPA, rather a Barleywine or American Strong Ale.
The beer has a medium-full body and a medium-low carbonation level. Not a thrist-quencher for the heat, but really fits nicely as a slow-sipper a rainy autumn day like today.
Overall, this beer has aged poorly as a IIPA, but quite nicely as an American Barleywine. The huge hoppiness that was present in the fresh beer has faded, but left is a nice caramelly maltiness together with a mellow floral and resiny hoppiness. We will be brewing a new IIPA next week, and this time I will tweak the recipe for a slightly drier finish. This time around I will try to drink them all while they are still fresh.

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