Appalachian Mountain Brewery already makes two of my favorite hoppy beers, the intense Long Leaf IPA and the deliciously creamy Spoaty Oaty Pale Ale, which happen to land on opposite ends of the hoppy beer spectrum. Long Leaf is all about that lingering hop resin and bitterness, while Spoaty Oaty is smooth and balanced. Neither beer is flashy, but they’re each a solid example of their individual style, which just goes to show that Appalachian Mountain knows what the hell they’re doing. I’ve said over and over that this brewery, based out of Boone North Carolina, is one of my favorite in that beer-rich state. And that reputation is almost entirely based on the previously mentioned two beers. I haven’t had the chance to drink much else from them in recent years. So, I was pretty damn psyched when they sent me two other hoppy beers to check out: Not an IPA (P.S. It’s an IPA) and Not a Double DIPA (P.S. It’s a Double IPA).
App Mountain has done incredibly well on the competitive beer circuit and they’ve decided to release some of their heavy-medal winners in cans. Not a Double IPA won gold at the US Open Beer Championship and Not an IPA won silver at last year’s Great American Beer Festival in the IPA category, which had over 300 entries. So, let’s get drinking.
App Mountain puts this beer in the New England style IPA niche, but also does a good bit of bragging about how unbalanced the beer is in their marketing copy. They say there’s nothing malty about it and put all of the emphasis on the hops, focusing on flavor over bitterness. I’d say all of that marketing copy is spot on. Not an IPA looks like a New England IPA, pouring a pale, cloudy orange and smelling like tangerines and papaya. The nose, coming from the massive white head, is incredibly enticing.
The mouthfeel is surprisingly soft (almost like their Spoaty Oaty) but thin at the same time. They weren’t kidding when they say this beer is unbalanced. There’s a serious lack of a malt backbone in here, which I think helps contribute to that thin body. So, when I say this beer is really fruity, I don’t mean it’s sweet in any way. It is fruity, but strictly in a citrus “all zest and bite” kind of way. It’s full of tangerines and maybe a little grapefruit, but there’s no fruit with any malt depth. No pineapple, no mango, no papaya…none of those mellow, sweet fruits you might expect in this particular style of IPA. So the beer comes off as thin, zesty to the point of being peppery on the backend, but not sweet.
Do I miss that balance? Do I want more depth in this beer? I have to admit that I do. It’s a good beer, but would I choose it over their standard Long Leaf IPA? I would not. I’d take Long Leaf any day of the week.
Anytime a brewery releases an IPA and a double at the same time with “twinsies” style packaging, I expect the double to be a more robust version of the single. Like the older brother of the single, the one with a mustache and a cool Trans-Am and probably a mildly troubling communicable disease. You know, the double has more experience, but it’s basically the same as the single. That is not the case here. Not a Double has very little in common with Not an IPA. It is its own beer, and that’s a good thing.
Not a Double looks essentially the same as the single—maybe a little darker and cloudier and with less of a head, but basically a pale, cloudy orange. But it smells sweeter than the single—all papaya and mango without the zesty tangerine. And that difference in the nose clues you into how the beer differs on the taste. It’s maltier than the single, with much more going on during the front end of the sip. It has a more robust body, and the fruit is a little more disguised, but at the same time, it’s actually sweeter. This beer has that sweet fruit New England style IPA drinkers love. It’s full of mango and papaya without the biting citrus I found in the single version. It’s still a little zesty and bitter on the back end, but there’s no lingering pepper.
This is the rare situation where the double IPA is actually more balanced than the regular version. And I gotta say, that balance ultimately makes Not a Double a better beer.