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Belts’ Beer Garden: Hop Bombs

A pair of IPAs: Destihl Vertex & Flying Monkeys Smashbomb Atomic


This wee I have a couple hop bombs for you...including one from Canada that just started distributing to the US recently.

Like with most sports, I’ll start with the away team: Flying Monkeys Smashbomb Atomic IPA.

As I just mentioned, Flying Monkeys is one of the many Canadian breweries that are slowly gaining momentum in America. They call Barrie, Ontario home and have been “brewing fearlessly” since 2004. You can find them across Canada and now in a few states – Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

They have six year-round beers and a few other specialty brews...but, as they are still new to the Chicagoland area, I only found their staple IPA: Smashbomb Atomic IPA.

This IPA is a hop-forward beer brewed with heaps of Citra hops which are backed up with more hops (Cascade and Centennial) and four types of malt. It packs a 6% ABV and 72 IBU and a six-pack comes with a $10.99 price tag.

Smashbomb pours a dark amber color with some slow building off-white head. The bubbles rose upwards of two fingers high and have some nice staying power. For a few minutes the dense head remained impenetrable before finally dissipating, leaving thick lacing around my glass.

On the nose, this IPA seemed pretty balanced. The main scent was a combination of caramel and bready malt as well as some hoppy pine while just the tiniest hint of citrus hid underneath it all.

My first sip confirmed what my nose had suspected – a very balanced beer. But there were some nice surprises. First, it begins with some sweet caramel malt; then it’s the hop’s turn to take over…and, while there was some pine, a lot more of the citrus came out.

Grapefruit and lemon and mango washed over my tongue cutting into the heavy caramel malt backing. After the citrus had come and gone it was the pine that ended the sip (along with another burst of caramel sweetness) nicely.

There is a slight lingering bitterness that stays with you after the sip but, overall, this is a really balanced, really tasty IPA. And, even though it’s not super strong, as an added bonus the 6% ABV is all but hidden beneath the flavors.

After drinking down the beer, the foam continues to lace the edge fully on its way down – leaving huge clouds around three-quarters of my glass.

This was my first encounter with Flying Monkeys…and I could not be more pleased. Smashbomb Atomic IPA had it all: a great balance, nice flavors, an easy finish, and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to get. I’m glad I have five more left in my fridge! 8.5/10


Next up, from central Illinois, Destihl Brewing and their Vertex IPA.

Destihl brews out of Bloomington, Illinois which is mere minutes away from Illinois State University, almost smack-dab in the middle of the state. They officially opened to the public back in 2009 and are pretty well known for their Wild Sour Series – which now has 12 different beers to try.

In June of 2016 they began expansion, building a new 47,000 foot area that includes a beer hall, beer garden and a two-story oak barrel & foudre room for aging beers. You can find Destihl in a lot of places: throughout Illinois and in parts of Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin.

They only offer four year round brews of which I went for their IPA – Vertex. A six pack will cost you just $7.99 (nice!) and comes filled with a 6.3% ABV and 76 IBU.

Vertex pours a copper color with huge head that billows upwards and just keeps going. Over three fingers of dense slightly off-white bubbles topped the beer…and they did not want to leave. After nearly five minutes there was still a solid finger or so worth left and another large amount was clinging to the side of my glass.

On the nose there was a dank hoppy citrus aroma to it. Loads of grapefruit and pineapple and mango were emitted from the liquid. As a backup to all the hops and fruit, there were bready malt notes that let me know the hops wouldn’t get too out of hand.

The time finally came, and the head had finally dissipated enough for me to get to the beer below, so I took my first sip.

A rush of citrus flavors flowed across my palate (mostly the grapefruit and mango) as did a solid amount of carbonation. The grapefruit and mango didn’t last too long before the bready malt wiped them away. It was all pretty light and went down really smooth…until the end.

As the sip finished there was a dry, hoppy bitterness that obliterated the malty qualities and stung my tongue; the 76 IBU showing themselves. Vertex then ends on the drier side of things and, for its pretty easy-drinking taste, has a pretty big body to it.

The mass of foam the built up initially had fizzled down to just a dusting by the time I had gotten to the last third of the beer. But those that wanted to stick around on the sides sure made a mark…literally. Solid lines of bubbles decorated the surface of my glass, in addition to huge cloudy streaks that stretched across one whole side.

Overall, this is a pretty good IPA. Light and flavorful up front with a bold bitterness on the backend. For me it’s a little too carbonated but I can’t find too many other big faults with it. Destihl might be known for their Wild Sour Series (which has some pretty good choices) but their year-round brews aren’t too shabby either. 8/10

8 beers