Monday, September 9, 2013

Hill Farmstead - Abner Imperial IPA Review

Hill Farmstead Abner Imperial IPA

Brewery: Hill Farmstead (VT)
Style: Imperial IPA
ABV: 8.2%
Grade: A
Age at Consumption: 5 Day Old Growler

Few brewers get to maintain a lineup of beer as diverse and ever-changing as those brewed by Shaun Hill, but of course, few brewers get to open a farm brewery as unique and idyllic as Hill's either.  Only a handful of Hill Farmstead's beers make regular appearances, and only Edward, their pale ale, is available for most of the year. Amidst the one-off experiments and semi-regular rotating series, a couple beers are brewed often enough to embody what Shaun Hill is all about. Everett, an incredibly solid porter, is offered in bottles throughout the year, and Abner, an imperial IPA, is a draft staple for a few months — about the closest Hill gets to "core" beers. 

Featuring Centennial, Chinook, Columbus, Simcoe, and Warrior hops, it makes sense that Hill's most commonly-brewed imperial IPA is the closest to the "classic" west coast IPA character — piney, citrus, and juicy hops, with most of the focus on the juicy. Flavor-wise, Abner is explosively rich with hops, and so balanced that it's a bit frightening. I've argued this many times before, but a huge part of Hill's success with IPAs is due to his mastery of water profiles, and tweaking that profile to deliver hop flavors paired with bitterness in the exactly most pleasing ratios. Which is to say, like all of Hill's IPAs, Abner is very soft on the palate, with a hop richness that coats the tongue before dancing away and leaving only a tingling of bitterness. The effect is a flavor that is huge, but effervescent; deep, but light.

Abner is ripe, tropical, and less dank than you'd expect, with a focus on some really slick mango-fruit and orange peel flavors, with a fading peach note as it warms. To my palate, Centennial steals the show, with Columbus and Simcoe bringing only hints of their weird berry/pine forest dankacity to the flavor. But all good IPAs are a bit of a Rorschach test, and Abner is likely no different, artfully laying those classic hop flavors on the table with inscrutable rearrangements of character. Don't worry too much about how it compares to Heady Topper, Double Sunshine or Pliney the Elder. Just enjoy the fact that the master brewers of today are able to build a recipe of largely the same ingredients, and hand you something utterly unique and transcendently flavorful.

Availability: Rotating. Growler fills only.

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