Mike and I have been talking about Victory Brewing Company‘s latest creation for a few weeks now. The anticipation was palpable as this beer with all the Philly Beer Week buzz was rumored to be coming soon.
This meant that when Hop Ranch Imperial IPA finally hit stores Mike and I rushed to the nearest purveyor to try the market successor to the wildly successful DirtWolf. These were my thoughts about the beer.
I bought myself a growler of Hop Ranch from a local bottle shop to really experience the beer over several pints. I got my growler filled and brought it home eager for that first pour. I managed to capture that pour on film which is the crux of the craft brew review video embedded below with a few details about the beer and a final rating. But I wanted to capture in words what a video cannot; the visceral experience of the beer.
What struck me most initially was the fragrance of the beer. As soon as I popped the growler top out wafted an intensely citric smell. To me it smelled strongly of pineapple with a hint of tangerine. While this is not what I consider to be thee smell a beer should have it certainly is a wondrous aroma and exceptionally distinctive.
As you can see from the video the color is quite light and clear. This was surprising as I was expecting something heavier and darker coming from a double IPA. Yet it looked bright, light, and a golden-yellow. It was certainly not a pale ale but it wasn’t in danger of easing into the brown segment of the color spectrum.
The taste was quite shocking to me. After having spent a year indulging in the highly hopped, often overwhelmingly hopped double IPAs that the American craft beer industry seems to be churning out on a nearly daily basis I was expecting something similar to the hoppy bitterness of the DirtWolf; something that hit hard with bitter yet was balanced with a bit of east coast malty sweetness. What actually came through in the Hop Ranch was a fruity sweetness. Not the caramel sweetness of malts but again that pineapple flavor seemed to shine. While there was of course a hoppy bitterness there, it is an IPA after all, it wasn’t the primary flavor signature. If anything it was there to offset an extremely citric flavor that accompanied the aroma.
Hop Ranch is by no means a fruit beer. I don’t want to suggest that the citric flavor is akin to a pineapple fruit beer, but in a contemporary market that is inundated with a plethora of the extremely hoppy, Victory has appeared to find a hop mixture that adds a strong, light crisp sweetness to compliment strongly bittered hops.
All in all I found it to be a solid beer for an IPA fan, something that stood out amongst the brutally hoppy, malty beers. While my final verdict is that it is perhaps a bit too sweet for me to drink obsessively, especially in the winter months, I believe that it is the perfect complement to the heavy, thick, malty and bitter DirtWolf.
If you haven’t checked out Hop Ranch Imperial IPA from Victory yet you should. Hop Ranch and DirtWolf have reinvigorated a love for Victory that had waned a bit after the release of Swing and Winter Cheers; both good but uninspiring beers in my opinion. So get your hands on some Hop Ranch, you won’t be disappointed.