As the weather has warmed up, I have begun to crave some more hops. I love barleywines, especially during the winter, but I’ve been suffering withdrawal from a lack of fresh hops. To remedy this, I grabbed a bottle of Rogue Ales’ XS Imperial India Pale Ale. This beer is part of their XS series, all of which are at least 8 percent ABV and are each sold in a beautifully painted ceramic bottle. They are generally suitable for aging given their high ABV and hop contents. This particular beer is the brewery’s double IPA. It takes advantage of a mix of Saaz, Northwest Golding, Perle and Cascade hops to clock in at 75 IBUs, which is fairly high on the bitterness scale.
Rogue Ales opened its first brewpub in Ashland, Ore., in 1988 with a 10-barrel brewhouse, followed by a second location in Newport, Ore., a year later. This second location is located on the Historic Bay Front and now serves as the headquarters for the company’s fleet of over a dozen brewpubs in Oregon and California. Even though it has grown substantially, now distributing to all 50 states, the company’s mission statement is unchanged, dedicated to building relationships in the community while presenting its products with educational, entertaining mischief.
The beer poured a very hazy yellow gold that looked like it would be appropriate for a hefeweizen. This isn’t just a chill haze, either; it’s like it was dry hopped and not filtered afterward. The head formed as three fingers of fine foam, a nice medium tan in color with the rippling, piled-up texture of a good hefeweizen or Belgian beer. The head retention was quite good, and the lacing was even better; I still had a skim of head covering the beer and lacing the whole way up the glass when I finished. The aroma was moderately intense, actually a bit subdued compared to what I expected from an imperial IPA. The nose was also surprisingly balanced, with quite a bit of sweetness to offset the nice, piney bitter hop aroma.
The mouthfeel was very different than I expected, with a moderate body and low carbonation. The real surprise, though, was the creaminess. This beer actually had the texture of a stout on nitrogen, which is pretty much the opposite of most IPAs. The flavor was dominated by the piney hops, although there were some citrus notes and a nice, balancing malt sweetness. The malt profile was actually far sweeter than I expected, without any toasted or biscuit notes. The sweetness hit up front, with the bitterness soon overtaking it and lasting long into the finish. One of the interesting aspects of this beer was how drinkable it was, despite its bitterness, as I had no issue drinking several glasses of it.
I tried this beer with some homemade pizza, which was a compatible combination. I went heavy on the tomato sauce and marjoram, and the acidity of the tomato and the citrus and pine of the marjoram went well with the hop character of this beer. I think it would go well with strong cheeses, but anything too delicate will be overwhelmed. I would like to try this again with Thai food, as I think it would pair well with a green curry. This beer should definitely be served in a snifter or a tulip glass if possible, as these glasses will concentrate the hop aroma for your enjoyment.
I actually enjoyed this beer a lot, and I think it would be even better if I got it fresh; some of the hop character had started to age out. I think this aging process is partly why I got so much piney bitterness out of the beer as opposed to the citrus that I expected, as I tend to notice a drop in the delicate citrus notes first with aging. That being said, the price of this bottle is rather high, even for such a large bottle of beer. If you like IPAs, it’s worth a try when you feel like splurging, especially if you collect bottles. However, if you are just beginning to explore the style, there are a lot of cheaper IPAs that are just as good.
ABV: 9.5 percent
Size: 750 mL