In reviewing session beer, the degree of flavor one can pack into a limited ABV range is always going to be a preeminent factor in that product’s overall rating. That’s the challenge of low-alcohol products, to make your garden variety beer geek enjoy the experience without missing those extra ABV points.
Reviewing the likes of imperial stouts, barleywines and imperial IPAs is a very different proposition. Here, it’s not about “volume” of flavor. Almost every one of these beers is intense, heady, over the top. It’s not enough that a beer simply be flavorful. The ones we praise are those with inspired flavor profiles or beautifully harmonious balance.
Clown Shoes is typically not a brewery one thinks of when “balance” is the byword. By and large, they make intense, excessive, proudly American ales, and do particularly well in the extended realm of IPA. In fact, I’ll pick up just about any hop-forward beer I see from Clown Shoes—like an East Coast variant upon the Stone Brewing formula, they just know how to handle hops. The new Space Cake DIPA is no exception, a massively flavorful brew redolent in fruity aromas from the latest generation of American hops.
This bronze ale is very fruit-forward on the nose, with lots of strawberry, lemon citrus and lingering pine sitting on top of toffee-like malt and a definite whiff of alcohol that asserts itself. The strawberry note is well-defined and unique, which is a fairly rare aroma to pinpoint. You know you’re drinking a DIPA, there’s no doubt about that.
Bitterness is big, but backed by moderate sweetness, with the bitter impression coming out just ahead of the two. Malt presence is assertive, which certainly imparts a barleywine-like quality. The hops deliver big on citrus and tropical fruit flavors, and in synch with the caramel malt it makes for a sort of boozy fruitcake combination. This is complex beer, with lots going on under the surface and plenty of change as it warms in your hand. At one point, I could swear there was a definite banana or plantain note, but soon it was lost behind all the other assertive flavors.
Space Cake is a definite snifter brew from Clown Shoes, a big, bold DIPA that pretty much throws caution to the wind while drawing out another side to the Mosaic hop variety that we haven’t seen before.
Brewery: Clown Shoes Brewing
City: Ipswich, MA
Style: American Double IPA
IBU: Unknown, but definitely high
Availability: Limited release, 22 oz bottle