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Belt’s Beer Garden: Double the fun

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Two West Coast double IPAs this week; one from Barley Forge and one from Kern River

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By now we all know I love West Coast beers and hops. So it shouldn’t be a surprise this week when I share with you a pair of double IPAs from California.

First up, Kern River brewed up a special type of DIPA...and I couldn’t wait to try it.

Kern River calls Kernville, California home and has been selling beer for more than a decade, opening up back in 2006. They don’t have a huge distribution yet, only being available in parts of Cali for now…but quality is way more important than distribution.

They offer a variety of different beers and my brother-in-law was nice enough to find me one of their specialty brews from their eighth anniversary – Shuttle Bunny, a double IPA with an ABV of 8.5%. A 22-ounce bomber will set you back a mere $7, so it’s pretty well priced.

However, Shuttle Bunny isn’t your typical double IPA…no, this is a double white IPA brewed with Amarillo and Eureka hops and 40% wheat to give it that lighter and smoother flavor.

Shuttle Bunny poured a golden straw color with quite a bit of sediment floating around in the beer. More than two fingers of fluffy white head billowed upwards while pouring. The bubbles stayed around for a solid amount of time before fading down; coating the top of the brew. I could already tell this beer would lace the glass well as I already had large cloud formations clinging to my glass…and I haven’t even had a sip yet (but that’s about to change).

The aroma was, surprisingly, slightly spicy with some pine notes in the background but the main aroma came from a big burst of citrus – mostly pineapple and grapefruit. It had quite a palatable aroma and seemed more like a regular IPA than a double.

My first taste began with a smooth and creamy mouthfeel with very little carbonation and almost felt more like a nitro beer. The flavors washed over my tongue quickly with the fruit flavors once again being most prominent.

The wheat and malt create a slightly sweet start to the beer before the hops and citrus appear. Like the aroma hinted at, there are strong notes of grapefruit and pineapple but there is also orange peel and some lemon tartness as well. The light spice from the aroma is there as well, providing some saison-like qualities to it.

On the backend of the sip, Shuttle Bunny reminds you that it is indeed a DIPA with a light dose of hoppy bitterness. But the nice thing about this beer is that, since it is made with so much wheat, there really isn’t any lingering bite to it.

As I expected earlier, once I began to excavate the beer from my glass the bubbles stuck to the edges quite well leaving quite a few cloud formations hanging. And, as for the 8.5% ABV, you could barely taste it. Towards the end you could feel it but it was well hidden in the flavors.

Overall this is a very easy to drink, very sessionable double IPA. It has some really great characteristics (like the pop of citrus fruits and light spice from the wheat). There isn’t a whole lot bad to say about this one. It’s a really great double IPA. Check it out if you can find it.

Next up, from a bit further south, Barley Forge and their year-round DIPA.

Barley Forge is located in Costa Mesa, California, a southern suburb of Los Angelis close to Irvine. Their website’s “about page” wasn’t working so I can’t tell you a whole lot about them other than they joined Twitter in 2012 and have some really cool labels on their bottles…in fact, that’s how I decided I needed to find this beer of theirs.

Future Tripping is a double IPA made with Simcoe and Amarillo hops, three types of malt, and, late in the brewing process, Dextrose is added. It packs a huge punch with a 9.25% ABV and 100+ IBUs. The four-pack of bottles costs a tad more than usual at $12.

This imperial IPA poured a cloudy orangey golden straw color with just about a finger or two of fluffy white head building up. The bubbles don’t last too long and, with in a few minutes, there was only a thin ring around the edge of my glass and a single buildup of foam in one area.

On the nose, this brew smelled much lighter than a double IPA with a massive ABV. Instead, it was filled with a bouquet of tropical fruits – like pineapple, cantaloupe, mango, and orange. Behind the fruit was a hoppy bitter-sweet aroma that was much more inline with the imperial nature of this beer but, to balance everything out, there was also some nice caramel and bready malt notes.

My first sip started with a rush of carbonation that slowly fades away throughout the entire sip. After a brief moment fizzing on my tongue the flavors began to emerge. Like the aroma, this was a hoppy tropical fruit bomb. Pineapple and mango led the way with the orange and sweet cantaloupe bringing up the rear. There was a little bit of hop spice to it (probably from Simcoe hops) but that dextrose really cut into all the bitterness – making it much sweeter and less bitter than most DIPAs.

As the flavors began to fade away, I was really surprised at how little bitterness there was. I was expecting a beer with 100+ (possibly as high as 130) IBU to have a real harsh bite. But this did not.

Instead, it ends on a sweeter note that sees a few of the fruit flavors lingering for a few moments after each sip.

Nearly 10% of this beer is alcohol but, just like the IBU, you’d never figure there was that much inside this tiny bottle. The booze was hidden incredibly well behind the flavors, only coming out towards the end of the bottle when you begin to feel the warming of your extremities and cheeks.

I will say towards the end of the bottle and as the beer warms up, the bitterness seems to become more unkind with every sip and the aftertaste lingers longer and longer.

Overall though, Future Tripping is a fantastic DIPA. The tropical flavors take control and make this beer taste way lighter than it is. It’s a super sessionable double that drinks way more like a regular old IPA.

Can’t wait to try more of Barley Forge’s beers!

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