Category Archives: India Pale Ale

Tree House Green

rating_verygood79 points

“Green” is a pretty powerful word. It’s synonymous with making money, being young, or being in tune with the environment.

And while all three accurately describe Tree House Brewing, they took a much more literal approach when naming this hop-heavy IPA. According to its website, “green” described what brewers saw after boiling their initial batch — wort heavily laden with green hop particles.

treehousegreenAfter trying a few of Tree House’s beers, our panel was no longer “green” on rating the offerings of this Monson, Massachusetts, phenom. How would Green stack up with its other fine IPAs?

Green pours a vibrant yellow/orange color (no, not green). It is extremely cloudy and somewhat thick, releasing a bright apricot scent with notes of pine and slight pineapple. Hops are, of course, pronounced…but not overtly so.

Our panelists knew right away this beer was not lacking the ingredients for a heavyweight IPA.

Green has a smooth mouthfeel with some sudsiness and a bit of fizziness. Taste was judged well, with our panel noting the beer’s crispness. Flavors of piney hops, apricot and grapefruit are dominant.

The beer is packed with flavor, but considering how heavy the beer looked and smelled, our panel was pleasantly surprised at how crisp it was.

The panel rated aftertaste fairly well, but felt it was a bit more bitter than it needed to be, with a slightly metallic edge. It certainly doesn’t ruin the experience — this is a solid IPA — but a bit less “bite” at the end would have earned it a few more points.

It certainly didn’t detract from strong points for drinkability from our panel. As mentioned, the beer is a looker, smells great, and is jammed with flavor while maintaining a refreshing crispness.

In summation, I suppose we could close this review with a clever line about Green making other IPAs “green” with envy. Or how this beer proves that Tree House surely isn’t “green” when it comes to brewing craft beer. Or we could tell you that plunking down some “green” to purchase it would be worth your while.

But perhaps it’s best to take the same literal approach Tree House did when they named the beer:

Try Green. It’s a pretty powerful IPA.

(Appearance 6.5, Smell 8.75, Taste 23.75, Aftertaste 14.75, Drinkability 25)

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Tree House Julius

rating_excellent80 points

We started our tour of Tree House Brewing’s beers with Alter Ego, which the Monson, Massachusetts, brewer describes as an altered recipe of its “Julius” IPA.

So it stands to reason that we should continue our tour of Tree House offerings with a review of the original, juicy staple.

treehousejuliusTree House describes their flagship IPA as filled with a variety of tropical and citrus flavors. They go so far as to use the word “melange” on the can. Oooh, fancy!

It sounded fancy, juicy and flavorful…and our panel soon discovered that those weren’t idle claims on the side of the can.

Julius immediately asserts its uniqueness on pour. It’s thick, cloudy and deeply honey-colored — akin to apricot juice. It’s carbonation is best described as a subtle fizziness, generating a low, foamy head. It wasn’t particularly impressive looking in the glass, but certainly not off-putting. Definitely intriguing.

The strong points of Julius reveal themselves as soon as your nose approaches the glass. The beer has aromas of caramel malt, sweet with definite notes of citrus and hops.

Mouthfeel is full-bodied, falling somewhere between buttery and sudsy. There’s a fair amount of fizziness as its juicy flavor develops. Taste is citrusy and hoppy, balanced with caramel malt notes.

Complex flavor lingers well into the beer’s aftertaste, as flavors of peach and apricot develop. A slight bitterness develops as the flavor quickly drops off, but our panel wasn’t put off by it. In fact, our panelists unanimously praised the consistency of the brew through the entire experience.

Drinkability is where this beer gets some serious points. It was solid through-and-through, and, as one panelist noted, “I could drink this for a LONG time.” It’s a drinker with a great balance between hoppy and juicy.

When we visited Tree House to purchase this beer, we neglected to inquire about the origin of its Julius name. But whether it’s named for 1970s beverage purveyor Orange Julius — or NBA great Julius “Dr. J” Irving — this beer’s bright, citrusy flavor makes choosing it as your next IPA a slam dunk.

I thought that was the perfect way to end this review, but as I read it back, co-founder Mike Festi reminded me that it could also be named for Julius Caesar. So let’s try this one more time:

If you’re planning to purchase Julius as your next IPA, be careful — because if this delicious beer lives up to its namesake, your friends may stab you in the back just to get their hands on one.

“Et tu, Brew-te?”

(Appearance 6.75, Smell 8, Taste 23.5, Aftertaste 16.5, Drinkability 25)

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Tree House Alter Ego

rating_verygood72 points

We all know some famous alter egos. Superman had “Clark Kent.” David Bowie had “Ziggy Stardust.” Andy Kaufman had “Tony Clifton.” Anthony Weiner had “Carlos Danger.” And Jared From Subway has “Colorado Inmate Number A3875559.”

treehousealteregoAs you can see, not all alter egos necessarily represent your better half. We found this to be the case with Tree House Brewing’s Alter Ego.

Don’t get us wrong. It’s a solid brew that we rated “Very Good.” But compared to other Tree House products we sampled, we preferred Alter Ego’s…alternatives.

As the name suggests, Alter Ego is an altered recipe of Tree House’s similar IPA, Julius. And on pour, you’d be hard-pressed to distinguish its golden honey-apricot color from its citrusy sister. Our panel liked the hazy appearance and lasting foamy head.

Smell is crisp floral hops with a lighter nose and less citrus overtones than other Tree House offerings. Still, our panelists rated it fairly well.

Alter Ego’s sudsy mouthfeel was welcomed by our panelists’ palates, but the taste that accompanied it was a bit less impressive. Taste is hop-heavy and well-balanced, but with much less citrus flavor than its sibling, Julius.

A bitter, somewhat metallic aftertaste didn’t “wow” our panel either. As a result, drinkability was…decent…but none of the panelists lamented on a particular desire to drink more than one.

That lack of “wow” is Alter Ego’s weak spot. While it’s much better than most IPAs out there, Tree House doesn’t brew “most” IPAs. They brew exceptional IPAs, and I guess we just weren’t expecting an exception.

(Appearance 8, Smell 7.5, Taste 21.25, Aftertaste 13.75, Drinkability 21.25)

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Ballast Point Habanero Sculpin

rating_basement44 points

We’ve heard that there are a lot of great things coming out of Ballast Point.

Unfortunately, we here at The Basement Beer Tastings haven’t seen a lot of evidence to support that claim.

To say that we weren’t “wowed” by their Sculpin IPA is putting it politely.  It’s not bad, per se, but after the word-of-mouth build up for that beer, we were left rather underwhelmed by our experience.

Fballastpointhaberneroast-forward several months, when guest panelist Eric couldn’t pass up the opportunity to bring a 12-ounce bottle of Habanero Sculpin to our “Rich Man’s beers” tasting.

At $13.99 a six-pack, you’re probably saying to yourself “Rich man’s beer?  Not so much, dummy.”

Au contraire mon frère, because if you’ve tasted it, you know that paying anything more than getting-a-bottle-for-free is too much.  And even then, you’ll probably be looking for someone to reimburse you for finishing it.

Saying this beer is terrible doesn’t do justice to just how bad it really it is.  As a matter of fact, to truly paint the picture of the awful experience that was tasting Habanero Sculpin, I’m going to let the panel speak for themselves:

Co-Founder Jon said, “Smells like feet. It has a pepper jack aftertaste without the benefit of eating delicious pepper jack cheese.”

Panelist Rick exclaimed, “WHY?! This [insert expletive here] sucks!”

Eric noted, “It has a dirty sock and rotten orange smell.”

Guest Panelist Susan said, “It smells like a dirty sneaker…God-awful.”

And our favorite quote came from Guest Panelist Ken. “Some drunk must have come up with this one.”

Oh, you better believe he’ll be invited back.

As for my two cents? “SMELLS BAD, like vomit feet. The taste is all spiciness with their crappy Sculpin behind it.”

Habanero Sculpin was certainly turning out to be one of our least enjoyable tasting experiences.

Although appearance and aftertaste received relatively positive scores, it just wasn’t enough to keep this beer out of The Basement.

And, while it’s no Shock Top Honey Bourbon Cask(et) Wheat, it’s safe to say no one on this panel is going to be searching out Habanero Sculpin to try again.

For what it’s worth, Ballast Point has got to be doing something right.  I’d imagine Constellation Brands isn’t going to fork over $1 billion for some second-rate operation just on a whim.

But if that is the case, I know of a website they might have some interest in.

This website. It’s this website.

(Appearance 6.71, Smell 3.43, Taste 12.43, Aftertaste 12.14, Drinkability 8.86)

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Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA

rating_verygood76 points

Brew a beer with 60 hop additions over a 60-minute boil and you get Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA — an India pale ale rated at 60 IBU.

In fact, the only thing that isn’t “60” about this beer, we’re happy to report, is the score our panelists awarded it.

dogfish60minute60 Minute IPA pours a slightly-cloudy golden apricot color with lively carbonation and an ample, foamy cream-colored head that laces the glass. Our panel found it pleasing, though not overwhelming.

Our 11-person panel also rated the smell rather well, though noting that it was a bit light for an IPA; missing that “punch” common to well-hopped competitors.

Aromas of apricot and butterscotch were commonly reported, along with overtones of citrus.

As far as taste goes, our panel felt that balance was Dogfish Head’s strong point. Taste received 22 points of a possible 30, with most the panelists commending it on not being intensely hoppy.

In fact, 60 Minute IPA is more malt-forward than hoppy out of the gate. The taste had notes of apricot and citrus with a mild sweetness that faded into a hoppy bite on aftertaste.

Mouthfeel is rich, and a bit sudsy. The finish is slightly bitter, peppery hops, without any metallic or unpleasant notes as it fades.

60 Minute IPA’s balance, lighter taste and lack of anything offensive make it very drinkable. Panelists that don’t particularly like IPAs found it surprisingly pleasant.

However, the IPA aficionados on the panel commented that it lacked the strength and hop-rich character of many of today’s popular IPAs. One panelist referred to it as a “training wheels IPA.”

The bottom line is that fans of big, loud, in-your-face IPAs might find Dogfish Head’s offering a bit light for their hop-numbed taste buds.

But if you’re new to IPAs, or if you’re looking for a good-tasting, balanced brew for your next family function, it might be worth investing your time in a 60 Minute IPA.

(Appearance 7.8, Smell 7.1, Taste 22, Aftertaste 16.1, Drinkability 23.2)

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Evil Genius Evil Eye PA

rating_verygood72 points

Evil Genius Beer Company has been working in collaboration with Thomas Hooker Brewing Company until they find a home of their own.  We at The Basement Beer Tastings are familiar with Hooker as it’s in our home state of Connecticut, but few of the panelist had heard of Evil Genius prior to the tasting.

evilgeniusevileyepaThe panelist who selected Evil Eye PA is a fan of powerful, hoppy beers, so that’s what she was expecting when she selected Evil Eye.

While she ended up slightly disappointed, most of her fellow panelists were pleasantly surprised.

The panel universally rated the appearance an 8, specifically noting its attractive golden color.  The lack of a notable head kept the appearance from earning higher marks.

The smell was dominated by strong pine, which one panelist compared to a “Christmas wreath.”  Our panel also noted buttery hints.  Either way, the smell was found to be pleasant and invited the panelists to taste.

The piney hops carried over into the beer’s flavor, with most of the panel feeling it wasn’t overpowering.  For the non-hopheads, this was a nice contrast to the flavor of Flower Child, which was tasted at the same session.

The aftertaste seemed to fade rather quickly, but not before metallic and ashy flavors were noted.

Generally, panelists felt that Evil Eye was a pretty easy IPA to drink.  Mouthfeel was felt to be a little of a let down by one panelist who otherwise enjoyed the brew.  For those who weren’t high on the beer’s drinkability, the piney, bitter hops seemed to be the biggest detractor.

For a brewery without a proper home of their own, Evil Genius is producing a Very Good IPA.  And while it may not be a fan favorite of strong hop devotees, it’s a solid brew for the rest of us.

(Appearance 8., Smell 8.67, Taste 20.83, Aftertaste 14.17, Drinkability 20.17)

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Maine Lunch

rating_excellent89 points

The story goes, there’s a whale that swims near the Maine coast that locals call “Lunch,” because she has a big bite missing from her fin.

Like most of us from New England, the folks at Maine Beer Company have a soft spot for endearing local folklore, so they named their IPA for her.

mainelunchI could delve into this nautical tale, but instead I’m going to cut to the chase…

To date, Maine Lunch is the highest-rated beer we’ve tasted. It is an Excellent beer that’s less than a point from earning a World Class rating. (Thanks for spoiling the party, Mike.)

If you’re a frequent reader of this site, you know our ratings are as objective as they come.  Beers have to earn their ratings here, and unlike other beer review sites, we don’t hand out “100s” simply because there’s a groundswell of chatter in the beer-drinking community.

That’s why Maine Lunch’s rating of 89 is so impressive. This beer is truly one you should get your hands on — especially if you are a connoisseur of well-balanced India pale ales (IPAs).

“Well-balanced” is the key to what makes this IPA so special. If you’re an IPA buff, it’s got four types of hops, notes of citrus and pine, an ABV of 7% — basically everything you’re going to need to scratch your IPA itch.

But there’s something in this beer that even the occasional IPA drinker — or even someone not fond of IPAs in general — will enjoy.

It’s smooth.

“Smooth” isn’t a word thrown around a lot in the IPA world. Yet all of our panelists noted it at some point in their individual reviews. More on that in a minute.

The panel enjoyed Lunch’s appearance — a hazy golden color and ample head which generously laces the glass as you drink it.

Our panelists were very impressed by the beer’s aroma, giving it a near-perfect score for smell.  They picked up herby, notable-but-light hops, and notes of citrus balanced by floral overtones.

On taste, the hoppiness is immediately apparent, but here’s where the smoothness “wowed” our panelists.  The beer has a buttery mouthfeel that smoothed off the hops-on-hops-on-hops-on-hops, pushing the typical piney character to the background, and allowing the more citrusy flavors to come forward.

As this wonderful taste dissipated into aftertaste, the hops remained, flavorful but not harsh. Needless to say, the buttery-smooth, balanced flavor led to high drinkability ratings, with all of the panelists wanting more.

Maine Beer Company has crafted a IPA that we recommend you head out to find, because much like its marine namesake, it’s unique, enduring and beloved by the locals.

(Appearance 8.83, Smell 9.5, Taste 26.17, Aftertaste 17.33, Drinkability 27.33)

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Cambridge Flower Child

72 points

Though only two of our regular panelists are actual children of the 1960s,  the meaning of the name “Flower Child” wasn’t lost on the rest of our panel.

Imagery of loose-limbed dancing immediately came to mind (in part due to Rick’s unfortunate attempt at a reenactment).

cbcflowerchildWe’re assuming Cambridge’s choice of name is in reference to the six different varieties of hops — flowers of the hop plant — used in brewing this IPA.

You might think that six different hops would end up being, in Jon’s words, a “hop mess,” but the brewers want to reassure you that those hops are balanced out by plenty of malt.  Don’t worry, our  trusty panel was willing to test that claim for you.

To be honest, most of us weren’t too thrilled with the “hippy-dippy baloney,” but we were willing to keep an open mind about Flower Child, for the beer’s sake.

Flower Child began to impress on the pour, with a fine golden appearance complemented by a bubbly white head.  The floral hoppiness was instantly recognizable in the aroma.  Also noted were pine and fruit/citrus.

The IPA fans on the panel could hardly contain their excitement, rating the smell a 9 and 10 respectively.  The rest of us thought the aroma was around an 8, which still means Flower Child smells pretty good.

Moving on to taste. I’m not going to hippy dance around this one — not one of the panelists noted a trace of malt in their notes.  What everyone did find was plenty of hoppy flavor, and depending on the type of beer drinker they are, it had a severe impact on their ratings of taste, aftertaste and drinkability.

The panelists who tend to shy away from hop-forward brews felt Flower Child was a bit of a one-trick pony.  Not being able to find any other flavors led them to feel worn out by the taste.  They also weren’t too keen on the bitter/metallic aftertaste.

As for the panelists who like their IPAs to slap them in the face with hops, their thoughts can be summed up best by this note:

“DE-[expletive deleted]-LICIOUS!”  Thanks, Ellen, for once again keeping things classy.

Specifically, these drinkers noted their fondness for the piney and floral flavors that continued all the way through to the aftertaste. Yes, those hopheads certainly found Flower Child to be quiet pleasant.

Interestingly enough, drinkability ratings weren’t overly high for any of the panelists.  Still, this beer showed it was greatly enjoyable to some while others were ready to move on to the next selection.

To conclude, although we always stand by our ratings, our overall rating of 72 doesn’t quite tell the whole story of this IPA.

If just the mention of six different varieties of hops caused you to salivate, then Flower Child certainly won’t disappoint.  But if those six hops left you thinking “hop mess,” it’s probably for the best that you keep searching for your next great beer and skip the hippy-dippy baloney.

(Appearance 8.17, Smell 8.33, Taste 22.33, Aftertaste 13.67, Drinkability 19.33)

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Founders Centennial IPA

rating_good67 points

The panel was impressed by Founders’ overall portfolio — with each sampled beer seemingly as good if not better than the one before it.

It was obvious to our panelists that Founders has a keen eye for creating complex brews with outstanding attention to quality.

founderscentennialipaThat is why their Centennial IPA seemed a bit of a let-down. The panel still gave it a solid “Good” rating, so the news isn’t bad for Founders. But it’s not their best beer.

The panel was impressed by the beer on first pour, with most remarking that it’s reddish-orange appearance looked like a “sunset in a glass.” In a tapered glass, the slightly cloudy IPA exhibited a two-tone color that “wowed” the panel.

As impressed as the panelists were with the appearance, they were equally confused by the smell. While scents of citrus, orange peel and apricot were noted, so was a funky sourness that reminded some of the panelists of musty dishrags, gym socks and latex paint.

Most found that a turn-off, but one panelist actually found the musty smell appealing. We’re considering revoking her membership.

What wasn’t noted in the aroma? Hops. A notable hop character is the bellwether of most good IPAs, and while hops were detectable, they weren’t impressive.

Taste proved to be better than smell, as a fairly well-balanced blend of orange and grapefruit complemented a gentle hop bitterness.

Aftertaste was judged slightly better than the actual taste, with most panelists saying they enjoyed the earthiness with late floral notes of lavender.

While the appearance and aftertaste are Centennial IPA’s high notes, the smell and taste lowered drinkability scores, with most panelists saying they’d likely tire of it after one or two bottles.

But that’s not bad news for Founders…because luckily, they offer plenty of quality alternatives.

We’re looking at you, Breakfast Stout.

(Appearance 8.17, Smell 5.33, Taste 19.67, Aftertaste 14.83, Drinkability 18.5)

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Maine Another One

rating_excellent85 points

Stop into the flagship L.L.Bean store in Freeport, Maine, and you’ll see a sign with the retailer’s well-known slogan, “Our products are guaranteed to give 100% satisfaction in every way.” A mere mile-and-a-half south on Route 1, another company is quickly developing a similar reputation…Maine Beer Company.

maineanotheroneEverything about Maine Beer is understated — the plain olive-brown bottle; the even-more-plain white label; even the website, which focuses more on the company’s humble beginnings than the beer it offers. Everything is understated…that is, except the beer inside.

But let’s start with the name — “Another One.” It’s a phrase ubiquitous enough to invoke an Abbott and Costello routine every time you ask for one.  Or another one. Or, should I say, “Another One?” Or another “Another One?” You see where this is going.

Upon pouring the beer, though, you’ll quickly forget about the confusing name.

Despite the fact that it’s an IPA, Another One pours very light and cloudy, with a generous head and good carbonation. Our panelists were surprised that such a unique looking beer came out of such a plain bottle.

The surprises didn’t stop there.

Another One grabbed a near-perfect score for smell, with a clean, inviting aroma of lemon, bright hops and a hint of caramel from the malt.

The taste was crisp and refreshing, with panelists noting a distinct citrus flavor that balanced piny hops.

Aftertaste was generally reviewed as smooth, with a mild and dry hop bite. While one panelist described it as a slight “burn,” another commented that it was smooth for a beer with a 7% ABV.

That smoothness, coupled with a balanced citrusy crisp taste, led to a fairly high drinkability rating from the panel.

The local price for the pint-plus-a-splash bottle was $6.99 — a best buy for a beer of this caliber.

Aside from the quality of its brews, Maine Beer’s website touts the company’s dedication to employee satisfaction, charitable giving and environmental responsibility — principles it wraps under it’s slogan, “Do what’s right.”

Who knows? If old Leon Leonwood Bean was around today, perhaps he’d consider Maine Beer a principled company akin to his own. We can’t say for sure.

But we can say that if you have Another One, you’re most likely going to want to have another one.

Or…Another One? Or another Another One? Well, you get the idea.

(Appearance 8.8, Smell 9, Taste 25, Aftertaste 16.8, Drinkability 25.6)

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