AFTER VARIOUS OTHERS among Southern Tier’s upsized beers were toppled for lack of balance, it’s both a pleasure and a relief to discover their Oak-Aged Unearthly IPA. The base beer is a year-round imperial-grade IPA of around 10%, hopped prolifically cross the spectrum (with the usual American ‘C’-uspects) and boldly effervescent. It mayn’t be quite unearthly in its quality, but at least one atmospheric layer or two above most Southern Tier offerings.
Gladly, a few months in oak barrels sees it considerably further along in its journey to the stars. Here at last is a Southern Tier that can be both strident and seductive, succulent at the edges while still sturdy at its core. Darkened nearly to an English bitter by the tannins and barrel char, the Oak-Aged Unearthly still maintains a considerable tight head and visible carbonation. Traditional IPA aromas of florals, pine, and bitter citrus join smoothly on the palate with tangerine, oak, medium dark caramel, and a little vanilla later on. The body is still medium, albeit more creamy than resinous, and its finish accentuates the floral notes over the bitterness found in its un-aged counterpart. The 9.6% ABV never spikes, per se, but rather sneaks in for a cleansing rinse before the finish, enhancing the red wheat’s refreshing pepperiness on the roof of the mouth. And though malts are not particularly spotlighted, their steady presence is sustained throughout to substantiate a host of more compelling flavors.
That said, a more complex base than 2-row and Carapils would have helped the Oak-Aged Unearthly springboard even further into space; but given how straight Southern Tier seem to prefer their malt bills it can hardly be expected of them to change now. One step at a time; better for now to focus on encouraging Southern Tier’s other offerings to be so considerate of the bigger picture as this.
Served: 22 oz