Alesmith's Summer Yulesmith and Ballast Point's Dorado Double IPA over the past few weeks. Dorado has not been bottled in more than three years, and the last batches I remembered were cloying and alcoholic. The latest version is neither, despite the 10% abv. Yes, there is a heat streak that runs through the bottle, but it never becomes obtrusive. The hop bitterness is the main characteristic, but there is enough malt to match and mellow the bite. I had forgotten how good this beer is, and this version is excellent. Smooth is not usually an adjective associated with double IPAs, but I was struck by Dorado's smoothness. Dorado is a world-class double IPA, and it would be a shame if Ballast Point makes us wait another three years for the next batch.
I am a beer drinker, not a brewer, so I can still be intrigued by the brewing process and the alchemy that goes into it. I always wonder how some brewers can craft their beers bigger or small than the beers' abvs. It's always weird when you get a boozy 6% abv beer, and scary when a beer has an abv above 10% and the alcohol is disguised.
Summer Yulesmith has an 8.5% abv, lower than Dorado's 10% abv, but Yulesmith drinks as though it's a bigger beer than Dorado. Strange. This year's Yulesmith is not nearly as smooth as Dorado, and it has a distinct earthiness. I didn't hold Yulesmith's rough edges against it, because while smoothness is an added bonus, I don't drink double IPAs because they're smooth or subtle. I expect earthy flavors in a saison or biere de garde, but earthiness in an IPA can be tricky. It can either give the beer complex character, like it does in this year's Summer Yulesmith, or ruin the beer with the taste of overcooked vegetables. You don't come across too many earthy IPAs, probably because of the difficulty in bringing out the rustic flavors while avoiding a beer that tastes like a 1970s' side dish. I liked this year's edition of Summer Yulesmith, even though it took a few couple of tastes for my tongue to become acclimated to it.
I had another earthy IPA over the weekend, Pizza Port San Clemente's Middle Man IPA. It was a decent IPA, but it was a little thin and could have used a little more malt balance. Like Yulesmith, Middle Man's earthiness worked in its favor, and gave it a distinct flavor character.