I wouldn’t have thought to grab the Flat Earth bottle (honestly, I didn’t know this particular beer existed) until Ian at The Four Firkins pointed it out to me in the fridge and suggested it as The Hoppiest Grand Finale. How was I supposed to say no to that? The man knows what’s what.
What you may notice color-wise is that this week we’re tasting from dark to light, and least to most bitter. Por que? Because depending on what sort of tasting situation you find yourself in, it may make more sense to taste beers in order of ascending IBU.
For those members of the group who may not be familiar with the term IBU, it stands for International Bitterness Unit. What does the IBU tell us? How bitter a beer is. Bitterness in beer is obtained through hops. The hoppier the beer, the higher the IBU. And that’s what it’s all about.
Mankato teaches us that Stickum is a Sticke-Altbier. It is described as being bitter, featuring malt and caramel flavors as well as “earthy-spicy hop” flavor and a “winey character.”
Kat: This has a beautiful deep red coloring, bordering on maroon. I’m tasting effervescence more than flavor. To the point where the aftertaste is just all fizz to me, too. The malt/hop balance here is just not doing it for me.
Marcus: I feel like there’s a sausage in here – it’s spicy. I can feel hops at the head but they don’t really seem to express themselves anywhere else. There’s a brief glimpse of malt here, but that’s it. The aftertaste leans a bit to the bitter side. Maybe that’s the definition of balance – a little bit of everything?
Mike: My nose doesn’t know what to make of this. It tastes spicy, but in the sense that it’s all you can taste. It finishes a little caramel. A little malty. Very acidic. There are no secrets here.
Fulton Sweet Child of Vine
Fulton explains that this beer is hopped during the boil and late-in-the-game during fermentation. Balanced by malt, it “will keep you coming back for more.”
Kat: I have always thought that this beer has a really pretty, light caramel color. The hop nose is very gentle. For some reason, it almost reminds me of Lemon Lift tea. What I really like is that the hop flavor slow-burns and continues to build as you continue to sip. It finishes easily.
Marcus: I’d call this a burnt orange. The smell of the hops is not as strong as the hop taste. But, once you get that first hit of hops, the flavor lingers pleasantly. I really love hoppy beers, so this is palatable. I could drink a few of them without getting tired of the flavor.
Mike: Orange. That’s what this is. The smell is not overpowering, which is good because while it has a dry hoppy flavor, it’s a fairly plain IPA. I enjoy it as much as the next person, but I don’t taste anything that distinguishes it from any other IPA I’ve had.
Flat Earth Northwest Passage
Flat Earth sings its own praises (and rightfully so) as having the hoppiest IPA in the Midwest with a whopping 115 IBU.
Kat: Color-wise, this is the lightest of the three with a reddish undertone. Give it a sniff and, Hello, hops! This beer has such a strong hop flavor, initially, and it just carries on – it rolls you over. There are definitely some bubbles that hit on the front of tongue. The flavor only intensifies with the aftertaste. Come prepared to commit to this one.
Marcus: Looks-wise, this is dark golden. For lack of a better description, it just smells like a hop pellet. I don’t want to say it starts subtle, because it’s already hoppy, but the hop flavor intensifies as you continue to wade your way through this one.
Mike: This one smells much stronger than Sweet Child of Vine. It has a very even flavor – it doesn’t start stronger than it finishes. I feel like that’s somewhat rare in beers these days. There is a solid hop flavor throughout or to quote a meme (is that okay?), “Ermahgerd, is this beer strong or does my tolerance suck?” I really taste one note and one note only: HOPS.
Bizarrely enough, after a month of tasting, we finally all managed to agree. But just this once, so don’t get used to it. What are we bringing to your party?
1. Sweet Child of Vine
2. Northwest Passage