BREWTAL TRUTH: Drink This Now!

Given the opportunity to write about craft beer every month in Decibel has been eye-opening. The idea that our “Brewtal Truth” column would have lasted more than four years (and counting) and even spawn a book—The Brewtal Truth Guide to Extreme Beers, out in November—is pretty amazing. Now it’s time to bring a little “Brewtal Truth” to the Deciblog. Each week we’ll be featuring a different craft beer that you should drink now. These aren’t so much reviews as recommendations. We won’t post anything here that we haven’t happily poured down our own gullet. There’ll be a new one every week at noon Eastern time, a little something to get you thinking about your imbibing options for the weekend.
Some purists view Samuel Adams as the craft beer equivalent to Metallica—an essential part of the movement early on, but now a massive behemoth only concerned about the bottom line. That comparison may be a little inaccurate (because that Lou Reed thing definitely wasn’t about album sales), but there are Sam Adams haters who believe the brewery is no longer tr00. The fact of the matter is that Samuel Adams, as big and publicly traded as its parent company (Boston Beer Co.) is, still produces interesting brews and is supportive of the craft beer community. This brew is a good example. The smiling mug pictured above is a homebrewer, Zack Adams (no relation), who’s effing stoked to have his beer nationally distributed as part of the LongShot American Homebrew Contest Variety Six-Pack. Yep, Zack is one of three homebrewing winners to appear in this annual release, but since we’re partial to hops, and his is brewed with seven varieties, we decided to focus on it.

Imperial IPA
Samuel Adams

Boston, MA
7.8% ABV

A nationally distributed beer such as this is a good place to start this weekly Deciblog feature. We’ll spotlight some local brews in the future, as well, but the idea is that whatever we write about should be accessible to a significant number of readers.

We wish we could reveal the seven American hop varieties Zack used in his recipe (there’s no info given about that), but let’s just say they hit all the notes—resiny, piney, citrusy, fruity—that hopheads go batshit crazy for. It is not, however, one of those ostentatiously floral imperial IPAs. You won’t mistake this for, say, an amber ale, but it’s also not going to clobber your nose and palate with an onslaught of pungent dank hop notes and bitterness, respectively. Which is to say, it’s well-balanced.

Based on the way this drinks and its ABV (7.8%), Magnificent Seven seems to sit in the netherworld between quaffable, everyday IPA and a bigger, bolder double/imperial. It definitely has some heft to it, but not in that boozy sort of way. The specialty malts responsible for its rich amber color provide solid sweet caramel base notes that offer a good counterpoint to the fruit-forward (and slightly earthy) hop notes. It’s not exactly going to refresh after mowing the lawn on a hot summer day, but you also don’t need to pour it into a fancy tulip glass to sip it either. It’s an interesting take on the style.

And there are a lot of double/imperial IPAs out there now. What was once an intimidating and uncommon style has become an every-day drinker for a lot of people. There are some great ones being brewed, but also some meh ones as well. It’s a lot like thrash metal circa ’88 or ’89. Metallica, Anthrax, Slayer and Megadeth had arguably made some of their best records (and some of the best in metal, period), but the inevitable slew of young second-wave imitators eager to get a major label deal did nothing to move things forward. There were a few notable exceptions, but the late ’80s was not a particularly innovative period for metal.

So it’s great to find a double IPA today like this that does stand out. They’re definitely out there, but not everything boasting near double-digit ABV and high double-digit IBUs is going to have true character and a flavor profile that makes you want to keep going back to it. Magnificent Seven isn’t going to give you, say, a Rigor Mortis drinking experience—it’s a little too laid-back—but it’s akin to finding an unusually strong album amidst a sea of so-so stuff.