THE EDITOR’S DESK :: A Quickie – Widmer Nelson Imperial IPA

by Harvey Gold on July 16, 2011

Widmer Nelson Imperial IPA: I tried a short one on draft at Hudson’s, a favorite local haunt of ours. Seems like a trend of theirs to get a “little something” of interest on tap with some regularity. They recently turned us on to Goose Island’s “Dominique,” a limited run, really interesting Belgian Sour, and now here was a IPA we’d never tried.

This time, based on what we ordered, going IPA was perfect. We started with a plate of White BBQ Wings. Described by Chef Kevin Altomare simply as “a southern style white BBQ sauce,” (thanks for the big secret, Kev!), these had a nice tang to them, grilled, not fried, crisp and tender, served with a sweeter than usual bleu cheese dressing. I followed that with a Pulled Pork Sandwich with slaw and thin fried crispy onion rings piled on, making for a great texture, served w. french fries. Our recent travels had led me to fall head over heels for the more vinegar based Carolina style BBQ, but this served to remind me why I had loved the red stuff.

I mention the food for  two reasons. The first is to make note that, yet again, what Hudson’s appears to offer as pretty normal fare, always seems to be just a little more creative and/or well prepared than the other guys… and no, they don’t pay or comp us, people! The second was to frame the savory meal this IPA accompanied.

The beer came first and without any olfactory distractions, the nose… yes, that nose was big, flowery, and beautiful. The first sip really describes the rest of the sips. This is a classic and wonderful IPA with a huge grapefruit front on it. The thing that struck me was that it reminded me a lot at first blush, of another favorite, Stone Levitation Ale, also with a big grapefruit flavor. But this is an Imperial IPA. Where Stone’s bitter is a modest 45 IBU, this is a biting 70, and while Stone’s ABV is a modest 4.4%, making it a most unusual, but effective, session beer (as long as it’s kept cold), the Widmer Nelson comes in at a robust 8.6%.

Yet while all this shouts BIG, and it was, to be sure, big enough to be an integral component of this meal, playing the traditional role of an IPA with spice and big food flavors, it was smooth, with a great crisp mouthfeel. The Nelson Sauvin hops bring a fruity flavor to the beer, always identified as that of of grapes (hence the ‘Sauvin’), but I found it to be not so terribly obvious, simply providing a sweetness that served the purpose that honey does in another favorite big IPA, Bell’s Hopslam, working as a lovely smoothing agent. The mouth travels from the opening explosion of floral citrus provided by the Cascades, into the big bitter provided by their ‘Alchemy’ hops (apparently an ever changing recipe at Widmer),  in this ale, a mix of Warrior and Millenium. Very smooth. Great recipe.

I was thrilled and am thinking this is a new member of our  Top 20… or so… here at YBN.


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