Breckenridge Brewery – Barrel-Aged Small Batch 471 IPA

Breckenridge BA 471CLEARLY A ROBUST and powerful pale ale, this double IPA fills its snifter with lambent grace, throwing a large frothy white head of tiny bubbles and positively radiating amber transparency. This is the virgin French (from Limousin) oak-aged version, and thus has no bourbon, port, sherry, or rum notes to color the beer or its still-verdant hop character. Instead the barreling helps support and neatly couch the beer’s already generous malt body—dense and sticky without overemphasizing any single aspect, and altogether a thick but neutral template. The aroma contains some peach or nectarine, likely based in Cascade with tweaks from Simcoe and the barrel-aging. The further combination of caramel sweetness, pine, and some Chinook intensity results in an earthy, slightly prickly sensation that invokes ginger more readily than most common hop characteristics. Perhaps the Fuggle’s latent touch? This latter element layers neatly into the finish and imparts a faint holiday characteristic, but again no single element comes to dominate the experience.

Some vanilla comes through late along with a touch of woody grains near the finish, but for the most part this is still a fresh, citric, slightly spicy, and hoppy beer. Only 70 IBUs, though, it’s among the less bitter imperial-strength IPAs on the market, relying on Chinook’s assertiveness in the finish and Cascade and Simcoe’s floral/piny/citric triple-threat to enliven its bouquet and keep the midpalate from being too thick. Alcohol is nearly 10%, but doesn’t show in either the aroma (no matter the temperature) nor the flavor; its presence fills out the body, though, and leaves the mouthfeel decidedly robust. Effervescence is virtually transparent yet still highly efficient, ensuring an even dispensation of flavors and keeping the malt density in check without ever becoming a conspicuous part of the flavor profile. Overall it is one of the more balanced American double IPAs on the market, equally at home on fireside evenings with a bourbon nightcap as at the bar served alongside a deep dish pizza with mushrooms and oregano. A rare instance of the style that reasonably appeals to malt and hop fans alike.

Served: On tap (World of Beer, Naperville)

Rating: 88

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