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Belt’s Beer Garden: Dropping a (hop) bomb

Starting 2017 off with a bang!

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This week I wanted to bring BBG into 2017 with a bang from two huge West Coast hop bombs to really get the year started.

I’ll start in the Nevada, with Joseph James’ Hop Box.

Joseph James is just southeast of Sin City in Henderson, Nevada. Founded back in 2008, they were/are the only production brewery in southern Nevada. They offer seven beers year round and four sessional brews that are available in just a few states (the Seattle area, LA, Phoenix, Denver, and, of course, Las Vegas).

As I have an affinity for hops, I didn’t opt for their rye pale ale…no, I went straight for the gold with their imperial IPA; Hop Box. This big bruiser of an IPA packed 85 IBU and an 8.2% ABV into a small can that only cost me $2.99 (the six-pack was $10.99)

This imperial IPA poured a golden amber color with a mountain of off-white head building upward. Nearly three fingers of foam topped this beer and didn’t want to leave…at least not for a few minutes anyway.

On the nose Hop Box is filled with a semi-dank, citrus/tropical fruit aroma. The bready, sweet malt is there but mostly hidden behind the hops; which feature smells from pineapple, mango, grapefruit, and oranges. There is also a sharp pine note that lingers behind the fruit.

My first sip begins with just the tiniest hint of carbonation and leads into a medium body (with an almost a chewy characteristic) and some hoppy bitterness.

Then the citrus fruit hit my palate. Leading the way was that grapefruit and mango while the orange followed right behind. As with the smell, there was a pretty strong dankness emanated from the hops as well. But, for as hoppy as this beer is, it was quite a tasty and easy to drink imperial IPA.

I was also surprised, however, because the malty sweetness from the aroma really cut into the hops on the backend. The lightly toasted bready malt merged into the hops really nicely. Hop Box does end with the slightly dry, hoppy finish.

Yes, with that finish there was a long lasting bitter twinge at the end of the sip that lingers between samples – the 85 IBU making sure you know they’re there. But it wasn’t bad at all!

Honestly, this was one of the better DIPAs I’ve had. There were great flavors and a surprisingly nice balance between the malt and hops. Plus the 8.2% ABV was hidden well, and yet, you knew it was there by the end of the can (a nice added bonus).

If you’re in their distribution area and love you some hops…don’t miss this imperial brew. It’s well worth the price! 8.5/10

8.5

My tongue didn’t quite go numb from all those hops, so I thought I’d try another souped up beer: Alpha Dog from Laughing Dog.

Laughing Dog calls Ponderay, Idaho (right in the middle of the panhandle by Sandpoint) home and has been brewing since 2005. Over the past decade they have created more than 15 distinct beers, seven of which you can find year round.

I have been looking for this brewery’s stuff for quite some time now and, finally, the time has come. I found three of their brews which I can’t wait to try…but as I was in the mood for a super-hopped up beer I cracked open their Alpha Dog imperial IPA first.

Alpha Dog is a total hop-bomb made with Columbus and Mt. Hood hops and packs a whopping 126.8 IBU and is 8% alcohol. At just $4.99 for the 22 ounce bomber, the price was certainly right.

This imperial IPA poured a dark, honey-colored amber with loads of dense off-white that build quickly. At its peak, the foam rises three full fingers above the liquid below. It slowly fades away but a lot of the bubbles are hesitant to leave, as they cling to the side of the glass - holding on for dear life.

Alpha Dog is big on a hoppy aromas with a small malt backing. It leads with some dank earthy pine notes with just a touch of citrus backing it all up. Bready malts accompany the hops but totally take a backseat to the hops in this strong IPA.

The solid head protects the beer below and, even after multiple minutes, remained a finger high. I decided to just push past this impenetrable barrier and start drinking.

My first taste starts with a creamy, medium body with a flash of carbonation that slowly gives way to the hoppy flavors. And, like the aroma indicated, this was a very earthly forward beer with the pine and floral notes taking the lead. The citrus remained hidden underneath; there were random hits from grapefruit and mango that spiked my tongue with some sugary sweetness.

Surges of caramel and bready malts also attempted to cut into the hoppy bitterness of the brew but, by and large, they were unsuccessful. The sip ends on a long, dry bitter sting that accentuates the 126.8 IBU. Non-hopheads beware…this brew is not for the faint of heart.

The mass of bubbles seemed to stop grabbing for the sides of my glass as the beer (somehow) disappeared. Instead, I was left with the thick lacing from the initial pour and then a few light cloud formations the rest of the way down.

All in all, Alpha Dog was a very good imperial IPA though. The pine, light citrus, and sweeter malts give it a nice mix of flavors with the only downfall being the long, dry, bitter, aftertaste that seems to last for a LONG time after each imbibe.

If you’re a fan of super-hopped up beers, check this one out. 8/10

8 beers