THE EDITOR’S DESK :: When Taste Buds Deceive

by Harvey Gold on September 14, 2011

We’ve had a couple first blush tastes that have led us astray recently. When first sampled, I found there to be some sort of flavor note in 21st Amendment’s Back in Black that made me less than happy, a flavor note I couldn’t identify effecting the balance. Later, when revisited with our Beer Doctor, Carol Westbrook, we both found it to be so nice, the flavor that eluded me the first time clearly a smokiness, I then paired it with a Quarter Cask/Double Cask matured Laphroaiag single malt the Doc and her spouse brought over, making for a delicious shot and a beer, the peaty Islay and smoky ale a great match.

About a week ago, I tried Hop Strike Black IPA from Tommyknocker. Located in Idaho Springs, Colorado for about 15 years now, these folks have a nice looking variety of interesting brews. But here’s the thing. The first time I tried this dark, dark (by way of dark rye malt) mahogany IPA, I found it offering up very little, even after allowing it time to warm towards room temperature for subsequent sips.

I left a bottle sitting next to the computer, deciding for some reason not to write anything just yet. I mean, what had we been eating, drinking… where was my palate and my PH when I tried this beer? I can love it, and am totally willing to hate it, but this beer didn’t seem to be the kind of creation that should elicit… nothing! No notable nose, just a bitterness that didn’t seem to have anything to sit on. Was it me?

So as I sat down to watch the first Sunday of football, I poured a bowl of salty Wheat Thins, and took this room temp. Hop Strike and went for it. First, I got that hoppy floral nose, starting very strong, subsiding quickly, then as the malt nose started to pick up, coming back up along with it to create a really enjoyable scent. Flavorwise, against the salty backdrop this ale provided a nice sweetness with enough bitter (78 IBU) to keep it from being cloying. As I admired a very nice lacing, I picked up the warmth of alcohol, warmer that I would expect from a 6.5% ABV.

This is a tasty beverage after all. I noticed a review posted by our friends at Beer Advocate in which the writer had a similar experience to the one I had the first time. I’m wondering if this beer even wants to be cold. We keep our beer cold but are careful to not over chill them and take our time evaluating them as temperatures change. But in this instance, perhaps Hop Strike Black IPA should never have started out cold. At a nice 68 or 69 degrees it was quite tasty and really satisfying. I’m glad I gave it another chance.

I’d be interested in learning  how fellow reviewers prepare themselves for tastings.

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