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Belt’s Beer Garden: Justified drinking

Blue Blood’s Justifiable Hopicide & Lagunitas’ Super Cluster

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Let’s just dive right in to this week’s reviews, starting with a Nebraska brewery that’s slowly making their way into larger markets.

Blue Blood Brewing Co. was founded in Lincoln, Nebraska back in 2011 by a trio of former police officers. A few years back they moved in to a huge new 12,000 square foot facility that really boosted their distribution. Today you can find them throughout Nebraska as well as in northern Missouri, southern Illinois, and the big Midwestern cities (Kansas City, St. Louis, and Chicago).

Today I have a brew from their Robber’s Cave series – Justifiable Hopicide.

This New England-style IPA is made with Amarillo, Citra, Mosaic, and Simcoe hops as well as with oats and malted barley. Each can of Justifiable Hopicide has a solid ABV and IBU rating – at 6.7% and 52 – with four 16-ounce cans costing the typical $10.

When I poured it, Justifiable was a super murky orangey-brown color with almost no head what-so-ever…it certainly looked like expired orange juice…but holy crap did it smell amazing.

Super juicy notes of pineapple, mango, grapefruit, and other citrus fruits wafted through the air. There was almost no bitterness or hints of hops in the scent, however, you could tell that it was made with oats as there was a slight cereal-like quality to it hiding behind the fruity aroma.

My first taste started with a surprising amount of carbonation for a beer with so little head, as there was a massive rush of prickly effervescence before the juice flavors started to sweep in.

It began with grapefruit, orange, and mango washing over my taste buds with just a hint of that hoppy bitterness stinging the back of my tongue. That juicy flavor continued well on throughout the sip – with the addition of lemon zest and pineapple sneaking in as the sip progresses.

Up front, the bitterness was quelled nicely with this beer being incredibly easy to drink and super juicy. It reminded me of Nashville’s Bearded Iris or Chicagoland’s Mikerphone, both of which specialize in these amazing NE-style IPAs that make you think you’re not even drinking beer.

However, as everything began to end, the brew changed gears some.

The malts/oats were nowhere to be found early on in the sip but, as the tropical fruit flavors started to fade away, they took the opportunity to shine. And towards the very end they added a sweetness and grainy flavor that attempted to balance the hops while not intruding on the flavors too much which, for the most part, they were successful at.

However, the bitter bite was just too much for the malts and really seemed most noticeable at this point…leaving a low-lying bitter hum sitting there while everything else fades away. This was the only aspect of the beer left after each sip. There was no aftertaste, no dryness, just a bitter twinge.

This was a great effort for a New England brew. I loved the way it smelled and how super juicy and tasty it was (at points). However, for me, there was just too much carbonation and bitterness to fall in love with it completely. But if you see this around and like NE IPAs…definitely give it a shot.

Up next, a craft beer staple - Lagunitas.

You’ve all probably heard about Lagunitas…it’s kind of a big deal. But the Petaluma, California brewery is actually owned by a Northern Illinois alum and is from the Chicago area…which is why they opened a HUGE brewery here in the Windy City.

They’re pretty much available everywhere and have just released a new(er) beer – Super Cluster.

Super Cluster is a DIPA made with Citra hops and not much else (just some water, malt, and yeast). This big, bold beer has an 8% ABV and 60 IBU and is sold in 12-packs that cost about $17, which isn’t terrible if you break it down.

This double IPA poured a slightly translucent straw color with no more than a finger of white head billowing upwards. Soon after it was all in the glass, the head was no more than a razor thin line around the edge of the glass with a splotch or two in the center. Super Cluster did have a massive amount of sediment though and was filled to the brim with pulp…more than any orange juice I’ve ever seen.

The aroma was that of dank citrus, including lemon, orange, and grapefruit with some pine notes hanging back some. You could almost smell the alcohol in this beer…and, at 8%, there was quite a bit of it.

My first sip began with just the lightest bit of carbonation before the hoppy flavors really pushed forward.

The Citra hops burst with somewhat juicy hints of grapefruit and orange, with some tangerine blossoming across my palate early on. But with that push of hops also comes a bitter flavor that takes hold of the taste buds at the back of my tongue and refuses to let go for the duration of the sip (and then some).

There is also a soft floral note to Super Cluster that really blends well with the citrus fruits. The two flavors balance each other really nicely and create a somewhat soft, sweet, and juicy flavor that keeps me going back for more. Bitterness be damned!

A lemon zest shows up to this brew towards the end, adding the tiniest hint of tartness and some more tropical fruit flavors which, somehow, cut into the lingering early bitterness Super Cluster had.

As everything fades out there is a tiny ping of dank hops that sticks with me along with a somewhat boozy flavor that slowly (very slowly) diminishes over the next few moments.

Super Cluster was a solid DIPA. There were a lot of good flavors to this brew but, the higher levels of bitterness and surprising alcohol burn/flavoring set it back some. The 8% ABV was not as hidden as I was hoping for…but hey, at least I know the booze is in there, right?

If you’re a hop-head or just love Citra hops, check it out. Don’t let the high price tag deter you (or try to find it in the “create your own 6-pack” section like I did).