Food & Dining
Review: Monday Night Brewing’s Blind Pirate
(Editor’s note: Cory Byrom, local craft beer enthusiast and home brewer from Peachtree City, shares his opinions on craft beer from all over the world.)
A balanced double IPA is a tough thing to nail.
Crafting a double IPA isn't just a case of throwing more and more hops in a beer and beefing up the alcohol, though so often that's exactly what the style tastes like. That's not necessarily all bad; some super-hoppy beers are still delicious even in their one-sidedness. But right there on the side of the bottle, Monday Night Brewing's Blind Pirate claims to be a “surprisingly balanced double IPA.” And I have to hand it to them. This pirate may be blind, but he's no liar.
One smart move was using Maris Otter for the primary malt. This grain is popular for English style ales (by and large more balanced than their American counterparts), and offers a richer, nuttier backbone than traditional crystal malt. One problem I usually have with double IPAs is that trying to keep that malt flavor from getting buried by the massive amounts of hops often leaves the beer too syrupy sweet. By using Maris Otter, Monday Night was able to keep the hops in check with a little more complexity.
The beer pours dark amber and slightly cloudy, quite off the beaten path of your usual IPA. There's a substantial amount of yeast hanging around the bottom of this bottle-conditioned ale, so pour carefully if clarity is something you really care about. A fluffy, light tan head dissipates pretty quickly, but there is a good bit of lacing clinging to the sides of the glass. Citrusy, spicy hops dominate the nose, coming from Simcoe and Willamette, two of my favorite hop varieties. Simcoe is known for it's big aromas of pine and citrus, and is a popular choice for dry-hopping IPAs.
It was pretty much the go-to IPA hop until Citra popped up a couple of years ago and started making a dent in the market. (For comparison's sake, Dogfish Head uses Simcoe in its 60-Minute IPA, while Sierra Nevada uses Citra in its Torpedo.) Willamette is milder, and offers more of an earthy, spicy character than the bright Simcoe. Much like the Maris Otter malt holding this brew up, Willamette is common in English ales, and even pops up in stouts and browns, where dominating hops are usually not desired. There are a couple of other hop varieties in the Blind Pirate as well, and the result is bitterness and aroma that is multifaceted and well-rounded.
The flavor is a wallop of hops for sure. It wouldn't be a double IPA if that weren't the case. But as mentioned, the nutty backbone of the Maris Otter malt is right there with it. This is a beer that gives it all to you at once. The second the beer hits your mouth you're getting the bitter and the sweet, the nutty and the spicy. In other words, it's surprisingly balanced, just like the label says.
At 8.2 percent ABV, this obviously isn't meant as a session beer. But as a sipper, it hits the spot. Rather than a beefed up American IPA, this double is more akin to a stronger version of English IPAs, something that's obvious simply by looking at the recipe list. The darker color and Maris Otter malt are not common for a double IPA, so those looking for something perfectly true to the style may be thrown off, but if like me your main concern is a tasty beer, then you'll welcome this Blind Pirate aboard your ship any time. A-
****Cory Byrom is a stay-at-home dad to three young kids. He likes loud music and strong drinks, and in his spare time he enjoys listening to other people's stories. He hosts a monthly storytelling show in Atlanta called The Iceberg.****