Monday, January 6, 2014

Brooklyn - Blast! Imperial IPA Review

Brooklyn Blast Imperial IPA

Brewery: Brooklyn (NY)
Style: Imperial IPA
ABV: 8.4%
Grade: B+

Age at Consumption: 1 week

Is it a general rule that larger breweries tend to be more conservative? While I can think of a number of counter-examples, from a business perspective, it generally makes sense for the big guys to play it safe. Brooklyn Brewery is fairly big, and they're in New York (itself a conservative state as far as beer goes), and yes, so far, Brooklyn has been pretty conservative in their history. Which is why I wasn't sure what to expect with Blast!, the brewery's first wide-release imperial IPA in bottle form. (The beer has been kicking around as a special, keg-only release since 2005, but the average person has probably never encountered it until now.)

That an imperial IPA released in 2014 feels like an major shift for one of the country's most established breweries is a curious thing, certainly, but Brooklyn is still sticking to their core vision with this one. Blast! exceeds my expectations while at the same time being... kind of conservative. Still: when a beer sets its own rules and wins at them, that I can respect.

Conservative how? Well, if there's a running theme to Brooklyn's lineup, it's that they stick to their foundational East Coast-style beers. Hops are not the focus of many of their beers, and when they are, they tend to be English-inspired, or just outside the realm of typical American flavors. With a selection of both American and English hops for Blast!, Brooklyn seems to be going for a bit of both. The nose is not the nose you'll find on most American IPAs, but not totally dissimilar either. This bottle is so fresh that it can't help but be vivid, though it's the kind of IPA that, I'm guessing, will taste like a barleywine in two months. It's grassy and herbal, sweetly floral, a tiny bit spicy, with only some mild suggestions of citrus. Enjoyable in its uniqueness, and hinting at pleasant balance.

Flavor-wise it's more of the same, but a bit spicier, a bit more earthy, and even more like some sparkling tea than a fruit-blasted IPA. There is some fruit character, but more like dried zesty rinds than the sweet and juicy flesh of a fruit. The English-inspiration is clear, but fortunately the malt base is not overly aggressive, and the result is dry and vibrant. Without a ton of bitterness, Blast! is floating in a nice spot: evocatively hoppy and drinkable, yet a fun switch-up from the usual hop flavors.

As the first beer to roll off Brooklyn's new bottling line at their actual Brooklyn location, Blast! is an encouraging move — and hopefully a sign of more adventurous things to come.

Availability: 12 ounce bottles; four-packs. Looks like this is a year-round release, so be careful with freshness. 

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