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Beer Review: Pyramid Brewery’s Thunderhead India Pale Ale

   June 7, 2008

I don’t review higher alcohol beers very often. I suppose it’s because here in Tennessee, you can’t sell liquor (and high-alcohol beer) in the same store as regular beer, and the selection of higher alcohol beers is usually not a vast one. So I end up buying regular beer up to 6% ABV or so.

This time I really wanted to do a beer review of something pretty hoppy and higher alcohol, so I got Pyramid Brewery’s Thunderhead India Pale Ale. It’s just barely “higher alcohol” at 6.7%, but I haven’t had a Pyramid brew since I started this blog and wanted to check them out. Here is what was on the neckband:

Way back when, IPAs were loaded with hops to stand up to oceans, elephants, finicky colonists and spicy curries. Likewise, our India Pale Ale is a powerful beer for bold tastes.

So on to the tasting….

The Pour
I poured as I walked from the counter to the dining table. When I set it down in front of me, about two feet away, to examine it’s color, clarity, etc., I could already smell the hops in it. This pours to a nice coppery caramel color. It had a decently thick head with slight lacing on the glass, mostly as you drink it. It looked like it might have medium carbonation but was quite clear and looked light bodied.

The Nose
As I said, I smelled it before I even intended to. I usually focus on the visual appeal of a beer first and don’t even try to smell or taste it before I can describe it’s color and predetermine what sort of body it might have. This had a great flowery and spicy hop aroma. But it was also bready and crisp with some caramel notes. It’s a nice buildup to the taste.

The Taste
This hits your palate with smooth caramel flavors and slight maltiness. But just as you notice these flavors they are gone. You get a nice burst of pleasantly bitter hops that rush through your mouth with a crisp, clean feel and flavor. The hops wipe out the caramel and malt notes you initially find, and it almost seems like it’s cleansing your palate for the next sip. The hoppy bitterness hides a subtle sour citrus in the background. The slightly higher alcohol content is barely noticed on the finish.
I thought this was an excellently hoppy beer. The hops cleanse your palate and make you want to experience the brief caramel and malt again and again. It’s supremely drinkable and a great summer choice. If you like hoppy beers, this is a great one for delivering on the hops without overpuckering your mouth.

Recommended: Absolutely! This takes a pretty common type of brew, the IPA, and makes it stand out among its peers.

Price: $1.99 for a 12-oz bottle

ABV: 6.7%

Coming Soon: A review of the brews created by the 2007 Samuel Adams® American Homebrew Contest® National Champions! They are Rodney Kibzey’s Weizenbock and Sam Adams employee Lili Hess’ Grape Pale Ale. Now apparently the grape pale ale has hints of green grape, which when you think about it sounds pretty good. As long as it’s not like drinking grape jelly, I’m ok. Look for these reviews soon

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