BASED ON He’Brew’s Lenny’s R.I.P.A., St. Lenny’s was brewed in collaboration with St. Louis’ Cathedral Square. Unsurprisingly, the latter tends to focus on abbey-style beers, and so this imperial IPA(-ish) was made with Belgian yeast. It took some hubris to add yet another layer of complexity Lenny’s already fulsome recipe, and perhaps genius, too, since somehow it manages to work out.
St. Lenny’s pours a dark orange/amber with an unexpectedly generous head for a 10% ABV beer. The aroma is dense and aggressive, sprinkling signature Belgian yeast sweetness and lighter fruit notes (e.g. pear) atop caramelized grains, some dry rye, spice, and an almost overwhelming hop bouquet: piney, perfumey, herbal, citric, floral, resinous…aside from ‘dank’ or ‘catty’, just about every adjective associated with West Coast hops can be found here. And small wonder, as Lenny’s R.I.P.A. added fully seven different cultivars to the boil and used three for dry-hopping. The malt bill is equally packed, spanning conventional pale malts, two kinds of rye, wheat, and several caramel varieties. The rye’s midpalate kick helps balance the beer’s sweeter Belgian notes against the hop bitterness; no doubt it’s even more a presence in the base beer. The percentage of other darker malts is high enough to almost push St. Lenny’s into amber territory, as it has a fair amount of caramelization and toasted notes at the edges. Its color is also dark enough to defy standard DIPA expectations.
Too, despite its bales of hop flavor St. Lenny’s is actually not too profoundly bitter. Perhaps the barrage of malts mitigates the alpha acids somewhat, but the body is still only off-medium, tapering from midsection through the finish. Carbonation is relatively quiet, allowing the hop flavors plenty of space to develop without provoking their acidity. Relatively little space is left for rye spice on the back end, which is predominantly leafy and a little warm from the (otherwise hidden) 10% ABV.
The absurd excess of St. Lenny’s recipe is a direct contradiction to one of abbey-style ale’s most fundamental tenets: effective simplicity, drawing a wealth of flavors from a select handful of ingredients. But it remains a compelling expression of hops, and a fittingly immoderate homage (they call it “obscene”) to an equally contrarian spirit. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Lenny Bruce.
Served: 750 ml bottle