When it came time for a run to the local packie (for those non-Massholes, that’s a beer store to you), I made a bullet for the bomber cooler. To that extent, I have one Josh Christie to blame.
You see, back when Josh reviewed the Heavy Seas Sunken Sampler, I was that beer novice he was talking about. It was that pack that got me started on craft beer. It still holds a special place in my heart (I currently have some of the Below Decks Barleywine aging). It also has burned many holes in my wallet. Good beer is a good way to blow your savings. Also included: driving to Sugarloaf 10+ times in a winter, being a law student, living in Boston, getting married.
Back to beer: I’ve discovered over the course of 6 months that I’m a hop addict. A 12-step recovery program is currently being experimented with. I’m also a huge fan of whiskey. Therefore, marrying those two interests seemed to be right up my alley.
Southern Tier, based out of New York, apparently has the same interest, as they’ve come up with Oak-Aged Unearthly IPA. IPAs are well-known for their hoppy nature, although some interpretations of the style will marry this with a hearty, malty backbone for balance. Traditionally, IPAs were brewed to survive the long trip from England to India (hence the name).
American brewers, in their ingenuity, have decided to put this formula on steroids. Southern Tier is no different, as Unearthly on its own is a hop monster. However, with balance on the mind, and perhaps tradition, they’ve taken Unearthly and aged it in oak barrels. Considering that shipment from England to India was often done in oak barrels, this could be considered a true example of the classic style.
The beer pours a deep bronze into the recommended tulip glass. Going with Katy’s post on glassware, Southern Tier puts a recommendation on the bottle for serving vessel and temperature. A small amount of head is present, and there is a real lack of carbonation out of the bomber. You first get hit over the head with hops: pine and grapefruit come out. On a second whiff, you start to get a touch of vanilla.
The first sip makes you think Southern Tier has copied Dogfish Head’s 90 Minute IPA, but it would behoove you to leave it at that. As the beer warms, the oak flavors truly come alive to marry with the upfront bitterness. It has a little creaminess and sweetness that’s really unexpected in my experience with the style.
This is by far the best beer I’ve had, although a bit of warning to the lightweights of the world: at 11% ABV, and only available in 22oz bombers (at least here in Massachussetts), this thing can throw you for a loop. The bottle states that “to underestimate Oak Aged Unearthly is to trifle with the mysteries of the universe,” and with that I take no exception. As a suggestion, I’ve used Unearthly in a burger recipe all spring, and am happy to report it to be the best burgers I’ve ever had.