Double IPAs are usually meant to please hopheads -- the beer drinkers who love intensely bitter, resinous flavors that come from an oversized dose of hops -- and hopheads alone. Because they can be so harshly bitter, they're far from ideal as a crowd-pleaser. Which is exactly why we were so pleasantly surprised with Brooklyn Brewery's release of Blast!, a double IPA that they've been serving on tap for a while but only recently started bottling.
When we poured it here at the office, even the people who aren't normally fans of bitter pale ales jumped on board, saying that it doesn't taste anything like what they expected from a double IPA. It's surprisingly accessible, so both obsessive beer nerds and Bud-sipping neophytes can enjoy it, with plenty of fresh, hoppy flavors without all of the bash-you-over-the-head bitterness. It's a bit pricey at about $12 for a four-pack -- here in New York, anyway -- and faces some seriously stiff competition in a style that's full of cult favorites (Surly's Abrasive Ale is one of 'em). And since hop flavors can decay quickly, especially when they're overloaded like in a DIPA, a lot of the best hoppy beers are kept to a very limited region. But seeing as how Blast! is both tasty and distributed nationally, this is a terrific hoppy option that you can find regardless of where you are.
Appearance: Bright and slightly hazy with an orange amber color and a bright white head.
Smell: You'd expect a double IPA to smell a lot like floral hops, right? This one doesn't -- instead, it's got a sweet, slightly bitter orange aroma to it.
Taste: There's not much of the dank, pine-heavy bitterness you might expect in a super-hopped beer. Instead, it's got a pale citrusy note, like mango and orange pith that's got a bitter tinge, which is nicely drinkable but doesn't hit you with waves of juicy hop flavor like in some standout DIPAs. Cracker-y malts give the hops a great balance where the light and slightly toasty notes match up nicely with the citrusy hops. It's got a clean finish with no lingering, resin-y flavor and you'd be hard pressed to guess that the alcohol content is almost 9%. So be careful: it's dangerously easy to drink two of these and end up way more drunk than you had intended.
Mouthfeel: Low-ish carbonation and viscosity.
Overall: It may not have the layered, exploding-with-citrus flavors you can find in some standout DIPAs, but the clean finish and sweet touch of orange and mango make it absurdly easy to drink. There's still a noticeable touch of floral hoppiness in there as well that will please IPA obsessives without alienating everyone else, making this a surprising candidate for a crowd pleaser if your non-beer-geek friends don't mind a little bit of bitterness.