Want to know a secret of the craft beer reviewing game? It’s this: There’s no beer more difficult to review than one with massive hype and universal praise.
Aside from the fact that you get to drink a beer that will probably taste great, one might consider it a no-win situation. After all, if you praise the beer that everyone else says is great, you can be accused of simply piling on the hype and going along with the hipster bandwagon. Conversely, if you dare to say that the hyped beer is overrated, you’ll be called a contrarian simply seeking clicks and views fueled by angry craft beer fanboyism—the beer reviewing equivalent of Armond White, if you will.
This is not even taking into account the power that hype has to influence our perception, something that has become plenty clear to us as we’ve conducted our blind tastings of styles like American IPA. Many beers thought to be “great” by beer geeks have been vindicated in those tastings—as in, we loved them too—but there has also been the occasional highly rated brew that seems quite pedestrian when you can’t see the label.
All of this preamble is to say that I was at least a little suspicious of how much I immediately enjoyed Maine Beer Co.’s Dinner. It’s one of the highest-rated DIPAs in the country, from the brewery that placed #2 and #5 in our 116-IPA blind tasting—a brewery that we also named one of our best of the year. It’s not easy to guarantee that your perception has been completely divorced from that pedigree.
Thing is, though … Maine Beer Co. actually makes it much easier when the beer is legitimately this phenomenal. And Dinner is truly a phenomenal DIPA.
It was, to my delight, one of those IPAs that announces its presence the second you pry the cap off, as a whoosh of hop aromatics come barreling out like grinning spirits pouring from the opened Ark of the Covenant. Only, you know, with less face-melting. Taste bud melting, on the other hand…
The nose is heavenly, with massive tropical fruit character and citrus, married to incredibly dank, resinous, green notes. Every time I stuck my nose in, I was getting something different. Banana? I got that at least once. Pineapple chunks in heavy syrup? Sure. It’s perfumey, boozy and massively tropical. You might detect a hint of caramel or toffee-like crystal malt, but good luck singling that out amidst an onslaught of hop aromatics.
On the palate, Dinner is equally beautiful. Here, the tropical fruits reminded me of mango, melon, pineapple, grapefruit—although maybe not in that order, because it’s such a melange that it’s difficult to really tell. You do actually get a little bit of malt, perhaps surprisingly, with some bready flavors and light caramel, and the booze is hidden well. Describing it as “dry” is tricky—I don’t think there’s a ton of residual sugar or enough crystal malt to really make it sweet, but the sticky pine and fruit-forward hop flavors are so juicy, ripe and decadent that it almost seems dessert-like in spite of this. It’s so ripe that you wonder if the flavor is about to turn to the off note of mushy, overripe fruit, but then it reins itself in just before it gets there. Bitterness, likewise, isn’t that assertive, given the apocalyptic levels of hop flavor. It’s clear that a ridiculous proportion of the hop load was all late additions and dry-hopping.
In the end, I simply had to acquiesce to the fact that this is an extremely hyped, sought-after beer that deserves to be hyped and sought-after. The funny thing is, I know full well that my own review will only make it more difficult for me to ever conceivably buy a bottle of Dinner in the wild, but hey, them’s the breaks.
Brewery: Maine Beer Co.
Style: American double IPA
IBU: Who can say?
Availability: 16.9 oz bottles. Good luck finding one.