When I started to think about doing a week full of reviews, it hadn’t occurred to me that it was really going to be a week talking about hoppy beers. Turns out I accidentally saved the hoppiest beer for last, much to my surprise. The Great Lakes 25th Anniversary Imperial Black IPA has been tempting me for over a week, but it takes a certain kind of night to crack open a 9.5% ABV beer that comes in a 750mL bottle. (Apparently, that kind of night is called Thursday.) This is the third bottle release to hit LCBO shelves as part of the 25th anniversary of Great Lakes, hence the name. (No offense to the beer or brewery, but I’m kind of looking forward to the end of the anniversary year because the full names of these beers are getting annoying to write. Please go back to short, pun filled names ASAP.) As much as I enjoyed the Robust Porter and Saison, the Imperial Black IPA is definitely my favourite of the series so far.
The beer pours pitch black with a gorgeously frothy mocha head. There is a huge, bright hop aroma dominating the nose with resinous pine and a touch of grapefruit. It’s like putting your nose up to a bunch of hop pellets, which is great. Dark chocolate and espresso are the first flavours on the tongue, but that is soon eviscerated by a wave of hops. Actually, it’s not so much a wave but tsunami, earthquake and Hurricane Sandy all rolled into one. (Too soon?) There is still some of the citrus and tropical fruit elements, but it’s really a pine beast full of resin and hop oils. The bitterness seems tame compared to the pine flavour, but it’s strong. This is one palate wrecker of a Black IPA.
The one way this hoppy beer stands out from the previous three is that it doesn’t try to have any semblance of balance. For a Black IPA, the malts are fairly tame. The hops dominate most of the roasted malt character, even as you let the beer warm up. It is just an obliterating hop punch to the face, which I love, and drinks fairly well considering its strength. This is definitely a beer to open up and share with a couple of people – tackling the whole bottle yourself will leave you drunk and tasting pine for a week. Awesome job by the folks at Great Lakes!