It’s a mistake to think of imperial or double IPAs as simply bigger, burlier versions of the country’s most popular style of craft beer. They have a tendency to be fundamentally different in their approach, and much of that has to do with the higher percentage of alcohol. Once these ales go over the 8% mark, it becomes increasingly more difficult for them to be truly one-dimensional hop showcases, as some regular IPAs strive to be. Instead, the inevitable encroach of malt character and boozy sweetness actually tends to make them more “balanced” in a sense. Note: That doesn’t mean “more drinkable,” as they tend to be simultaneously over the top in both respects.
“Wreckagemaster” is a new DIPA from Solemn Oath, a suburban Chicago brewery focused largely on Belgian-inspired and barrel-aged beers. This one, oddly enough, is neither. Instead, it’s a hugely flavorful hop and malt bomb that blurs the lines between DIPA and barleywine.
This cloudy orange brew displays massive aromas of citrus and mixed berries, along with mango and kiwi. It’s hugely assertive and complex, a seeming mix of just about every fruit imaginable. If Carmen Miranda would wear it in a hat, it’s probably represented in there somewhere. There’s also a strong charge of caramel malt behind it all, and a suggestion of darker dried fruits. It’s quite barleywine-like.
The flavor is boozy, even though the brew is only 8.5%, which is on the lighter side of the DIPA spectrum. Hops and sweetness come through like a wave of orange marmalade, with biscuity malt and lots of green, grassy flavors. Bitterness is huge, but there’s so much sweetness that it’s actually fairly well balanced. What you’re left with is a complex, mixed canvas of flavors. It’s very tough to pick them out individually, but together they make for a pretty heady drinking experience.
Brewery: Solemn Oath Brewery
City: Naperville, IL
Style: American double India pale ale
Availability: April-June, 22 oz. bottle