Terrapin Brewing Company ‘Big Hoppy Monster’

September 22, 2010

My editor is in Atlanta to see The Pixies, lucky guy, and while he’s there he should run up the road a bit and visit Terrapin Brewery. Heck, he could also hit the Sweetwater and Redbrick breweries. Terrapin just re-released the Big Hoppy Monster, their Imperial Red Ale.

Big Hoppy Monster is the August release from the Monster Beer Tour, their ultra-special seasonal selection. Why do they have two separate seasonal offerings? Probably because they can. Between the two, there’re eight seasonals and only four seasons in the year. Their love of beer is such that they can’t be constrained by the number of days in the year.

Featuring their turtle mascot burning rubber in an open-top bucket hot rod reminiscent of Rat Fink, BHM is not your average ale. First of all, it’s dry-hopped. That means that extra hops were dumped into the finished product to spike in extra hop zing and bitterness. Secondly, it’s a red ale which, if I’m correct in my research, is wood barrel aged to impart color and tartness to the malts. Imperial, not to be confused with Noble (those are four German hop varieties), denotes a beer that has had its malt brought to the highest possible sugar levels to create a drink higher in alcohol. They’re also richer in texture and usually exhibit flavors of burnt sugar and dried fruits. The alcohol and flavor combination make for an excellent beverage for the colder months.

Pouring up a dark, rather muddy brown with nice deep red highlights it looks like pure pomegranate juice. A nice beige head of micro-bubbles floats over the top leaving wide rings of lacing around the glass. Toasty aromas of coffee, baked goods and dried apricots almost mask any real hop floral or citrus notes… until it begins to warm up and the hops actually do-see-do back and forth around the giant malt presence. Huge malt-sweet flavors take charge, too, with nice notes of chocolate, dried dark fruits and orange peel. The resinous hop oils jump out at you from behind a corner and mug the tongue with citrus and flowers. It definitely has a chewier mouthfeel than most ales, but it’s not where you have to grab the scissors to cut it out of the glass. As it says on the bottle, “Careful, this monster bites!” Now I’m looking forward to Hopzilla, one of their 2010 Side Project beers clocking in at 110 IBU’s.