Thursday, September 8, 2011

Double IPA showdown

A double IPA showdown: ODell's Myrcenary vs Great Lakes Brewing's Lake Erie Monster.

Both beers have labels on the bottles

I don't do grouped tastings like this very often, but I ought to. It's great fun and one of the most efficient ways to get drunk. On the table were two recent entries in the Double IPA category, at least as far as their availability in this region. In addition to being new, both were also a month or two old. Not wanting to be too in vogue, I do have to try to appear somewhat disinterested. Along those lines, these beers were sitting in the fridge (along with an Oskar Blues Gubna which was about a year old*) because I don't drink a lot of double IPAs. Among beer styles, it has to be one of the most homogeneous. Much like Spinal Tap's proud claim to be one of England's loudest bands, this is probably America's loudest beer style. Of course, there is more to life and beer than just... "more".

Anyways, enough of my bullshit:

The Tasting

I find it's helpful to taste each beer in several different glass-styles to get a complete picture

Both beers contain a similar alcohol level (9.1% for Lake Erie Monster and 9.3% for Myrcenary) and had best before dates within a month of each other and so should be on similar footing for a tasting. Upon opening, both are very intense. Everything is is like a thick orangey-sweet blanket soaked in pine and citrus aroma. They're also bitter. First off is the aroma, which hits you before you even get the glass close to your face. It's a melange of smooth citrus fruits and a hint of piney/grassy aromas.

Lake Erie Monster skews more to the piney grassy side, but is still dominated by citrus: grapefruit tangerine and honey flavors and aromas are all intense. This is also a very sweet beer, which sometimes mutes some of the bitterness, but in this case it's almost too much. The sweet honeyish quality masks any malt flavors that might be hiding within.

On the other side, Myrcenary is also incredibly strong with its citrus aroma but it skews more to the orange and pineapple side of things. It also comes off much drier with a hint of malt and biscuit right at the end. There is also a very noticeable chalky flavor that pairs with the fruitiness to the effect of something a lot like Rolaids. I have to wonder if a hefty dose of gypsum was added to the brew water, because it is quite distinguishable although it does not necessarily detract.

I was quite surprised at the difference visually. Myrcenary on the left

I have to say I am highly partial to Great Lakes Brewing, but the unanimous winner in this case was Myrcenary. The milder sweetness and slight malt undertone made it much more drinkable and palatable than Lake Erie Monster, even in tiny tasting glasses. If I were to feel an urge for a double IPA, I think Myrcenary might be one of the best I've had.

Somehow, Stone Double Bastard didn't make it into this tasting. Maybe next time.

*People will try to tell you that IPAs have to be drunk fresh. As a rule, I try not to listen to people who tell me how things need to be done. Past experience and drinking a year old Gubna next to two relatively fresh versions makes it clear to me that while some hop aroma does fade, when you approach maximum saturation like these beers do, they're not any less walloping after a year.


  1. I dig a good showdown! Nice work. I haven't had either of these, but I'll be looking for them now.

  2. I personally give Myrcenary best beer of 2011. I could not have enough of it when I could find it. Too bad I didn't squirrel any away. A year-old one (or older?) may be interesting to taste.

  3. Chip: I haven't seen any recently but according to the Odell website, it seems like it might be a year-round beer.

    I'd love to do an actual vertical tasting with year old Myrcenary and fresh.