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Belt’s Beer Garden: Wicked Tart

Epic’s Tart and Juicy Sour IPA and Big Wood’s Wicked Ex

This week I’ve got something as sweet as your girlfriend was followed by something as bitter as your ex is.

As we should all start off sweet, first up is Epic’s Tart and Juicy Sour IPA.

Epic Brewing began in Salt Lake City once the state allowed for craft breweries to open up (in 2008). They have exploded since then, even opening another brew house in Denver back in 2013. You can find them mostly in the western half of the country but they are available in the MAClands of Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan as well as a handful of eastern states as well.

This IPA has gone through some kettle souring with loads of citrusy hops to give it a much more tart flavor according to the can I’m about to pop open. I love IPAs, I really like sours…so naturally I should like the combination…but we’ll just have to see about that. A six-pack of the 12-ounce cans will run you just about $10.99, so maybe a dollar or two more than average.

The beer pours a hazy light copper color with pretty minimal head. Just under a finger of foam built up before rapidly fizzing out into a slim dusting of white bubbles along the edge of my glass.

As the name Tart & Juicy Sour IPA might imply…the aroma is that of citrus (mostly grapefruit and tangerine) and lemon peel with some sour notes riding behind the fruit. It doesn’t smell THAT sour or tart, more like an overly fruited IPA. Either way, I was ready to dive in.

Once again, the name pretty much says it all. There is surprisingly moderate amount of carbonation to this beer (some bite, but not as much as I would have thought), as just a slight tingle hit my taste buds. From there the sweet citrus flavors and some tart fruit juice spread across my palate. And just like it began, the sour/tart taste faded away…leaving nothing on the backend.

It was not overly tart or overly sour. There are nice hits of the acidic juices in the beginning before some pale malt cut in to calm it down. The malts leave basically no aftertaste to this IPA…there is no lingering hoppiness, no bitterness, no puckering effect…in fact, there’s not much of anything outside of that initial shock that fades relatively fast.

The beer hardly laced my glass at all…with the exception of a lone string of foam that would slowly slide back towards the remaining contents of my glass. At 4.5% ABV, this IPA is on the lighter, more sessionable side of beers…and for those that hate hops, the 60 IBU are hidden extremely well.

Tart & Juicy Sour IPA was pretty good. There was nothing that really stood out that made this beer a great IPA, just as there wasn’t enough to make this beer a great sour. It was caught between worlds…the sour qualities didn’t enhance the IPA side of the beer, nor did the hoppy qualities advance the sour side much. It was kind of caught in limbo. Good but not great. Is it worth a try, yes; but a beer to seek out again…not so much. Instead, try their Sour Apple Saison or Spiral Jetty. 8/10

8 beers

Next things get bitter with Big Wood’s Wicked Ex.

Big Wood is from White Bear Lake, Minnesota which is just northeast of Minneapolis. They were founded in May of 2009 and current distributes to a few states in the Great Plains: Minnesota, Iowa, the Dakotas, Nebraska, and Wisconsin.

They only offer three year round brews and then a few other random beers. I was lucky enough to find one of those “other beers”; their Wicked Ex.

Wicked Ex is an IPA is brewed with Ahtanum, Cluster, and Northern Brewer hops and clocks in at 7.6% ABV with 80 IBU. So I’m expecting a bitter hop punch here. The four-pack of 16 ounce bottles cost a reasonable $9.99, so price-wise it’s pretty solid already.

It poured a cloudy dark copper color with about two fingers of fluffy tan head topping the beer. The foam has some pretty good staying power and slowly faded down, but not before leaving some nice lacing already.

On the nose there was a strong aroma to it. Sweet caramel, ripened apples, some light pine and a dash of pineapple flooded my nostrils. My first thought was this will be like my exes…super bitter and will leave a bad taste in my mouth. But there’s only one way to find out.

My first taste was not nearly as pungent as I thought it would be. The sip began with a mild carbonation fizz before the creamy, medium-bodied beer began to hit my taste buds. First there was some nice sweetness (as the can said there would be) with pineapple and caramel notes striking up front. However, quickly those flavors fade and the piney bitterness comes to the forefront.

To end the taste, there is an earthy bitterness paired with an over-ripened apples (almost like a cider) flavor. The hop sting lingers on well after the beer has been swallowed but, for the 80 IBU that they have packed in here, it’s not too bad.

However, as the liquid disappeared from my glass, the harder it became to drink. The abundance of bitterness and the cider-like quality were not my favorite flavor profile. The high ABV also made an appearance, not so much in taste but by warming my chest after each sip as I continued to drink.

Wicked Ex seemed like more of an English-style IPA rather than the West Coast style they had it marked as. And I really wanted to love this beer because I love the brewery’s other names and the description they put on this can. It’s hysterical.

All that being said though, Wicked Ex is good but not great. I’m a hop-head and even I found the bitterness to get to me after the first 10 ounces or so…but I guess I can get mad at them since the can specifically says it “starts sweet, gets bitter, and just won’t quit” like all exes. 7.5/10