I was lucky enough to join forces with Lee Norman Williams of Hoptopia for the launch of this new series- He Said/She Said- comparing and contrasting the thoughts and ideas of men and women who love craft beer. Lee is a beer blogger with a straight forward style and a penchant for breaking brews down into their finest components. Because of this fact and the obvious diversity between our reviewing styles, I suggest that you prepare for an interesting journey…
The first brew that we sampled was BrewDog Brewery Paradox Isle of Arran (Batch 016) Whiskey Cask Aged Imperial Stout. Whew, what a mouthful! At 10% ABV, Paradox is actually somewhat tame for a BrewDog stout- their Tactical Nuclear Penguin clocks in at a whopping 32%! BrewDog is known for their extremist styles that create a hit or miss situation where drinkers either love what they’re tasting or loathe it.
Lee’s immediate reaction to the aroma of Paradox was malted milk balls followed by flan (creme caramel) and that it was lighter in weight and more hoppy than he had expected. My gut reaction was that of chocolate covered raspberries or dark chocolate raspberry truffles. I also found the Paradox boozy, albeit smooth, whereas Lee insisted he had previously tasted brews with a lower percentage ABV that had a much boozier taste. The back end of Lee’s sip brought him a bitter espresso bean taste- “like chewing on them,” he said. Although I experienced much bitterness, I did not find espresso beans in my brew, but a straight up hoppiness unexpected for an Imperial Stout.
As our glasses warmed up, Paradox let out more and more of its complex aromas. “Wood forward” is what Lee called it; based on the fact that the woody barrel smell surpassed any other scent. This really brought out the single malt whiskey for him, and he finally admitted to smelling berries – Mulberries. The warmer brew brought about even more of a chocolaty mocha smell to my nose. Unfortunately, with more aroma came less taste from Paradox. Apparently, with Paradox, it’s one or the other.
While Paradox is not my favorite BrewDog creation, I could definitely see myself drinking it again. As an Imperial Stout, the brew did very little for Lee, who stated that Paradox tasted like a stout flavored American Strong Ale with a whiskey shot in it. I agreed about the whiskey- the Paradox was a little too boozy for me, especially since I am not a huge fan of whiskey to begin with. Lee and I both agreed that we like a sweeter stout; however, the hoppiness of the brew created an interesting flavor palate all the same.
Next on our list was the Hoppin’ Frog Brewery Mean Manalishi Double IPA, boasting a “mean” 8.2% ABV and, apparently, an IBU rating of 168. With its hazy copper pour and minimal head, Mean Manalishi already looked to be completely different from the dark, heady Paradox. Upon going in for the nose, the first words out of Lee’s mouth were “Hop damn!”, which summed up the experience pretty dern well. While my more simplistic nostrils picked up the clear pine/basil combo bursting out of the glass, Lee delved further into the nuances of the scent- including items such as sage and onion stuffing, lemongrass and white pepper. Proudly, I sniffed a hint of mashed potatoes or buttery popcorn on the tip of the aroma- my weirdest find yet. In true Hoptopia fashion, Lee threw in stinky feet aroma to boot, but finished off with the thought that Mean Manalishi smelled like a savory roast chicken dinner (Blogger’s Note: Hey, Lee! Does that dinner include mashed potatoes?)
Upon first sip, we both agreed that the brew was sweeter and more smooth than we had expected, almost as if a nitrogen cartridge had been utilized just as with Guinness. Lee, lover of all things IPA (and creater of the Twitter hashtag #IbelieveinIPA,) broke out some strong words by calling it a “big double IPA” and placing it on the heavier end of the scale. Lastly, we agreed upon the fact that citrus pushed through the super hoppy flavor. However, Lee was set on yellow grapefruit whereas I felt more of a hint of lime.
Our review of Mean Manalishi ended with this discussion:
Lee: “This is one of the better Extreme IPA’s I’ve had – too often overly hopped IPA’s can be SO ridiculously bitter that they don’t have anything else going on. This brew has a bunch going on!”
Red: “But isn’t that what the Extreme IPA style is about? Extreme hoppiness? That’s what you’re going to get when you ask for a large IPA.”
Lee: “Agreed. However, Mean Manalishi is a good example of what can be done with an Extreme IPA- what kind of diversity can be achieved.”
In conclusion, I think that this first ever session of He Said/She Said was pretty successful. Ironically enough, I am a Stout lover through and through while Lee’s favorite brews are IPAs; however, we both weren’t huge fans of the Paradox and loved the Manalishi. There were some points we agreed upon and others we had completely different thoughts and opinions about. One thing is for certain- there are so many different types of beer out there just waiting to be discussed, and one type of brew can mean something completely different to one person than it can to another. So, beer peeps, get out there and start dialoguing about your favorite brews- who knows what interesting points someone may bring up that you had never before considered.