Wednesday, March 25, 2009


I've attached a picture of the contenders for this one, along with the pours of each so that color can be compared. (You'll note a lonely bottle of Tallgrass IPA in the background of this... though not officially a part of the tasting, I'll comment on this later).

So obviously, on the far right, we have the two double IPAs... Mojo Risin' and Boulevard Doublewide. We considered it fair and prudent to pitch these against one another AFTER completing the tasting of the other four (5, including Tallgrass). Even though OUR review saved the doubles for last, I'll begin with them, because it's a pretty darn easy one, with unanimous results among the four tasters in the room. The winner? Mojo Risin'. The loser? None. They're both remarkable. But they're HUGE beers. Beers this large and this malty are actually difficult to infuse with enough hop to overcome the malt, and in this respect, Boulder has outclassed Boulevard with ease. A much more pronounced hop character, which makes it easier to drink than the Boulevard (though neither is what I would call an "easy drinker").

That's it for the doubles. We loved them both, but Mojo Risin' takes the crown due to better hops.Now for the not-so-easy to judge.

This was a true blind test. Beers were poured by a non-participant, then photographed as attached. The beer bottles were then moved to another room, and tasting began. A few of the more noteworthy comments from the tasting (and I will attribute the comment numbers to the rightful owner in the review:

1) Smells like grapefruit juice... not a bad thing at all.

2) This is a meaty mess (a bad thing)

3) This tastes like horse dick

And now the results. I hope it's not a cop-out to have a tie for first place. We went through the line-up 3 times, trying to judge a clear winner. It simply didn't happen. There are two beers that were so neck-and-neck... so amazingly and deliciously equal, yet with different characteristics.

Third place was a VERY close third place (one of our testers ranked it #1, actually), and fourth place was condemnable. Dead last and easily pushed to the back of the table with authority by every tester. The final results stunned me.

FIRST (and second) PLACE: O'Dell IPA and Bell's Two Hearted Ale. These beers both pull off an amazing balancing act. They pack a nice 7-ish percent alcohol level, but remain drinkable and, dare I say, refreshing. They are the two happy hop monsters, but they have a different hop profile. O'Dell garnered comment #1 above. If you like a grapefruity/Amarillo hop, this is your beer. If your preference leans toward a more generic or lime-like citrus, Two Hearted Ale is for you. In the end, we decided that the better beer simply depends on your mood. In fact, I know from a recent 2-hour phone call with the hamster that in a similar side-by-side comparison, I declared O'Dell the victor over Bell's. In this blind test, my notes gave the nod to Bell's over O'Dell. You simply can't go wrong this these. There is ONE factor that could make the O'Dell a clear-cut winner for me... price. At the liquor store I went to, the Two Hearted Ale was $10.99 a six-pack. Ouch. Very ouch. O'Dell was a comparable bargain at $8.99.

THIRD PLACE: Sierra Nevada Torpedo. One taster's favorite, hands-down. It's drinkable. It's not too heavy. It oozes hop presence from every CO2 bubble that escapes the surface. For all but one of us, we found the hop character to be a bit more like "hop concentrate" than actual hops. That is, you get a concentrated whallop of hop BITTERNESS, but not necessarily the nose that you might expect. Kind of like a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale on steroids. A universally-liked beer, but with the citrus hop-heads in our taster panel, this one didn't have a chance.

LAST PLACE: This pains me. Boulder Beer's Mojo IPA. I smell a conspiracy. For a couple of years, the hamster and I have wondered if the bean counters at Boulder Beer are handcuffing brewmaster David Zuckerman's hands. Hazed and Infused just hasn't tasted the same as it did when it first came out. After this IPA shootout, I seriously wonder if Mojo has fallen victim to the bean counter. It's no secret that hops are pricey. The temptation to cut back on these vine-ripened cones of perfection has to be powerful for the accounting dept. This beer was the unfortunate recipient of comments 2 & 3. It should be added that the taster who proclaimed comment #3 grew up on a farm, so I suspect he knows what he's talking about. This beer was the third one that each of us tasted. We would taste the first beer, then leave the glass in place. Taste the second beer, and either move it slightly forward or rearward of the first, thereby indicating its relative rank against the previous beer. When every one of us got to the Mojo, it was slid with forceful disgust to the back of the table. Now let me qualify these comments. It's not that Mojo is a bad IPA. It is not. We all agreed that it is not a bad IPA. But this test was supposed to be one of our "best of the best" shootouts. We had a lot higher hopes against the other competitors.

So where did it fail? Hops. Or the lack thereof. The thing tasted of malt, and almost exclusively malt. In the company of the other three beers we were tasting, you would have had a hard time convincing me that the Mojo was actually in IPA. We really tried to give this one a fair shot. We even mixed them up and tried the whole thing again, and with the same result. Mojo was simply out-classed and out-hopped at every blind sip we took. The irony of the taste test is that I've always considered Mojo to be a grapefruity hop king. They pile the Amarillo hops into this thing (supposedly). As I took this blind taste test, I got to the O'Dell IPA and, upon smelling the fragrant grapefruit, already proclaimed it to be Mojo. Which made me really scratch my head at what that awful #3 beer had to be. So when the curtain was lifted and Mojo turned out to be the dog, I was a bit crushed. Further irony came from a drunken e-mail that I sent Hamster one night saying that I would defend Boulder Beer to the death and beyond, since they are like family to me. After this tasting, I can no longer do that. Will someone please tell me that I got a bad 6-pack of Mojo? Will someone repeat a similar tasting and tell me if your panel is as unanimously turned off by the lack of hops in Mojo?

DISHONORABLE MENTION: Tallgrass IPA. This one was thrown in as a joke. As a proud product of Lawrence, Kansas, I've come to learn that the very best thing to ever come from Manhattan, KS is mediocrity. Unfortunately, Tallgrass couldn't even achieve mediocrity with their "IPA". Let's not try to kid anyone though... this is not an IPA. Or at least it's not an India Pale Ale. It could quite certainly be an Interestingly Pungent Amber. Perhaps an Insulting Pale Ale. But if hops supposedly kept IPAs fresh on the long ship voyage to India, I predict this beer would have gone sour about 2 miles from the English shore. This is about as hoppy as a Mai Bock. I don't know how a brewer could ever produce something like this and have the gumption to call it a Pale Ale, much less one fit for a trip to India. Laughably horrendous, this has to go down as one of the worst IPAs I've ever tasted. 

So, there you have it. Our results of a blind, 4-way taste test. Your results may vary, and I'll look forward to what you think. Take care, sirs. 


  1. If you check out my review of 12 IPAs from earlier this month, you will find that I disagreed with your taste test a few times. At first I was dissapointed that we had differing views...but then you boldly proclaimed yourself to be of Lawrence origin. Just kidding...kinda. Double Wide was chosen as the favorite, Torpedo was in the middle, and sorry...Two Hearted was towards the bottom. Everyone loves that beer so much, but it is way to grainy for my taste. It's not bad, but...I liked your blind tasting, and only say anything critical because I share your love for IPA's. I enjoyed reading your opinions...good times.

  2. I think i would have come to the same conclusion. I love the o'dells and the Two hearted is one of my all time favorites. I thoroughly enjoyed this post and welcome any others from your neck of the woods. that goes for Texas and Kansas.
    Please oh please do what you must to get your hands on something from Three Floyds. I'm sick of talking about this beer without getting any feedback. (they only distribute in indiana and illinois unfortunately.)

    i did hear that Dogfish Head just started coming to Missouri, for any who care.

  3. You better not be pulling my leg about Dogfish Head. The last time I was in Chicago, I dropped way too much coin on everything they had from DFH. Their worst beer is better than a lot of brewers best. DFH is the only brewery that I know of that can make me proudly proclaim that I like an Apricot IPA...I'm known for dispising fruit beers, sorry hamster, but the Wheach is vial...but DFH's fruit beers are balances and...simply amazing...that's what Tina was singing about.

  4. Prescription, I enjoyed your review, but obviously disagreed on a few fronts. If you re-read Hamster's response to your post, he mimics my thoughts to the letter. And thus lies the truth behind all of our reviews... sounds like we all love our IPAs, just as some people love cola. But some people like Coke, others Pepsi. Doesn't make a guy right or wrong. I calls 'em like I sees 'em.
    I would slightly disagree w/ your methodology, though. Blind and back-to-back is the only way to go, man. Proof of this is the fact that I had a Mojo last night by itself and LOVED it! Great beer. But next to the awe-inspiring O'Dell and Two Hearted Ale, it's just average.

    Baker, as it turns out, I have a Three Floyds Alpha King sitting in my fridge as I type this. I had to take a short business trip to Indy, and had the pleasure of finding a beer shop called the Hop Shop. Coolest liquor store I've ever been in. They don't organize beers by brewery... they do it by STYLE. So you have the fruit beer section, the IPA section, the double IPA section. And the guy working there is a tried and true hop head who knows his stuff. I'd never heard of the Alpha King, but I simply trusted his judgement and told him to build me 2 6-packs of the finest IPAs out there. The 3 Floyds made his cut.

    Hamster, did I tell you that I had my first Wheach of the year a couple of weeks ago? A holiday in and of itself! (Sorry, Newlan.)

  5. don't talk about the wheach! i love the wheach! it makes me want to mow somebody's yard just so i can get hot and dehydrated and then kick back a cold wheach for penultimate refreshment!

    here's some fun: i will be sipping IPAs with prescription in june, and, if we can all get it together, sir scott and clint in may. good times ahead.

    i have a comparative post pitting mojo and o'dell ipa against one another. this is like the rocky balbao vs. apollo creed fight at the end of ROCKY II - even more intense than their fight in ROCKY, and long awaited enough for me to feel the intensity.

    baker, here's some feedback: i trust your taste in beers. you have yet to lead me astray or say anything so astronomically unhamsterian that i look forward to whatever flavor of floyd i try first. i'll keep you posted on our stl trips. you can introduce me.

    last night i introduced my good friend, marcus aurelius douglass, to widmer hefeweizen. it's pretty okay. i'd take hops or stouts over a hefe anyday. but that's just me.

  6. i will gladly drink any and all of these ipas...i see the usefullness of the consecutive sampling (as opposed to the one day at a time method) i will try it that way next time.

  7. alhpa king is beautiful in my humble opinion.

    the story on dogfish head is that a buddy of mine was told by a friend of his who works at a liquor store in joplin, MO. He said last week that they were going to be carrying it by friday.
    have i seen it in stl. yet? no.
    but, i hope this is true, as i have to make a 30 minute one way trip across the river to get it now.

  8. I am envious of that Alpha King in the fridge. I had my Alpha King last night. It was great, but now I have none.

    Hamster, you're going to be sippin in St. Louis in June?

    ...hops...I will be in & around Springfield Easter weekend. Maybe we can time our visits to the Springfield Brewery.

  9. Looking at the poll results, I'm surprised so many voted to throw an IPA overboard. I thought we were hop heads.

  10. church key - i will be in dallas. prescription should be there, too. but i'm sure the wife will need to see some of her black people by the summer's end. if so, i'd like to call together a beer club and drink a couple of cold budweisers.

    that last bit was a joke. we can throw back some rolling rocks.

    damn. i kill me.

  11. The guy in Indy talked about Three Floyds like it was a staple among hop-lovers in the area. I can't believe that I'd never heard of it.

    On the topic of must-have IPAs that you've likely never heard of, if you're ever out West, hunt down something from Moylans, Elysian Brewing, Oggi's, or Pizza Port (sometimes just called "Port"). Each year at GABF, I end up spending more time than not at these booths. Elysian takes the cake for the most unique IPA - a Jasmine IPA that they brew with actual Jasmine flowers. The most floral IPA you'll ever taste. It actually reminds you a bit of that first taste of Spree candy, then the hops kick in. Maybe that will turn some people off, but it was TASTY!!

    As for the all of the traveling and sampling that y'all get to do, I'm simply jealous. It would be fun to meet up in O'Fallon sometime and tour their place. They seem like good folks. They personally drove down three 1/2-bbl kegs of Wheach for us last summer, the cool element there being that Wheach is not PRODUCED in 1/2-bbl kegs. The power of phone calls and e-mails, I guess.

    I enjoy this blog. Have you guys ever thought about doing a beer of the week/month, where everyone tastes it alone, then posts their reviews of it? It would have to be interesting to see the different takes on identical beers.

    As for the poll below, I'm a bit confused by Church Key's comments. As of right now, it looks like Long Hammer is in the lead, yet he mentions an IPA???
    (Shazaaam!!! Hamster's not the only one with mad jokes...)

  12. We'll have to coordinate when Hamster will be in STL for a meeting and tour of something. We'll have our 1st Annual Conference with speakers, break-out sessions, a box lunch, and SWAG.

  13. zoe'sjourney: do you live in St. Louis? If you do, you should meet up with us at our next beer club. everyone else might know the answer to this, and you can all mock me if you do, but...just curious. oh, yeah: Baker and Church Key: I have 3 more 3 Floyd's...and 4 more Mueller Pale Ales...what? you're waiting for an invite to come and share, I was just bragging, that's all.

  14. prescription/hops: Unfortunately, my lame Lawrence wings only gave me enough lift to fly to the Kansas City area, and it is here that I will reside for a long while. I appreciate the invite, sir! It seems that we share passion for good beer, but differ enough in our tastes to make a night of beers really entertaining and enlightening. I usually get to St. Louis one or two times a year. I'll give a heads-up on my next trek!