Soaking Up the Suds with James Crane


The Big, Bad DirtWolf
Somewhere along the way, IPA’s became kind of a big deal. First brewed in England, these beers were generally well hopped. They were also meant to age for a while. Even before they were drank domestically, they were meant to be cellared for a year or more for the flavor to mature. This made them perfect to ship from England to India, the sea voyage taking around six months. Brewed with pale malt and popular on the Indian continent, they were termed IPAs, also known as Indian Pale Ales. From these humble beginnings, a monster was born.
No longer content to be just another type of Pale Ale, IPA’s have become ever stronger, the concentration of alcohol always rising.  At some point, it became necessary to coin the term Double IPA or Imperial IPA to refer to beers that boasted an ABV of 7.5% or larger. This was paired with an ever increasing amount of bittering hops. It suddenly seemed that the stronger and more bitter a beer was, the higher regard in which it was held.
Don’t get me wrong. I love me some big bold bitter brews. I enjoy a beer that kicks ass and takes names. On the down side, the trend has managed to remove some of the variety of the style. Hops come in many kinds, each contributing different flavors. Where bittering hops are certainly important, there are hops with much more floral and fruity characters. There can be more to IPA’s than just bitter, right?
On occasion, I have managed to come across an IPA that celebrates the other side of the hop. The pale malt flavors are chased with citrus and varying other tastes, including the bitterness most associate with the style. These beers generally rely on combinations of different strains of hops to provide their flavor profile as well as assertive yeasts. This is just what I’ve run into today.
Enter Victory Brewing’s DirtWolf double IPA. From the moment it poured, it seemed I was holding onto something special. It was a beautiful shade of translucent amber with only a little bit of head. The scent was completely unexpected. It smelled grassy and spicy with plenty of citrus floating throughout. There was something reminiscent of a pine tree as well and perhaps clove, though I imagine it was the yeast coming through.
The taste was amazing. In opposition to most IPAs, this one wasn’t heavy in the least. It was a bit like drinking a cup full of flowers mixed with grapefruit. There was a large grassy presence that rose above the malt. This was followed by a slight bitterness that accentuated its nice crisp end. It’s a taste that manages to be big and complex without being overwhelming.
This was not your standard IPA. It has a great depth of flavor. It’s spice and very present yeast flavors are reminiscent of an Belgian style brew, yet it is certainly an IPA at heart. This is one I’d suggest to people who aren’t fans of the style as it really shows a different side of it.  Its got a great hop presence, full of more character than bitterness. I don’t know if Victory is shipping any of these from their Downingtown, Pa. brewery to India, but this one would make the trip.