Ah, India Pale Ale. A style beloved by so many beer enthusiasts, but also feared by others (i.e. Yours Truly). Particularly in its American incarnations, it's intensely hopped, which gives it a really bitter taste. Personally, I prefer brews which exhibit a good malt character and restrained hops, so whenever I try an IPA it's with a sense of adventure. The two examples I've reviewed so far here (from Dundee and Southern Tier, respectively) have been pleasant surprises, with only moderate hops and a fresh, floral character; which led me to think maybe I'd judged the style too harshly based on a couple of bad experiences prior to starting Upstate Brews.
So I was pretty excited with today's bottle: Custom Brewcrafters' Caged Alpha Monkey. I had a pint of this when it first came out in December 2010, and did enjoy it but couldn't do a full review. My memory is that it had an intense hop character but it was of the fresh, floral variety rather than the aggressively bitter variety - and pretty enjoyable to an IPA-phobe like myself. The recipe's been tweaked since then so I wasn't expecting a clone of the first batch.
The brew poured nicely with a respectable off-white head, decent clarity and a rich golden colour.
Aroma - an intense, resinous, piney hop aroma hit my nose. There was some clean malt character detectable underneath. It's a good example of American IPA...which is great, but gave me a slight sense of foreboding as it's precisely the strong, intensely-hopped examples which have turned me off the style.
Taste - Hops, hops and more hops - bitter and resiny, with some citrus character as well. With this new batch, they seem to have majored on the bittering hops, which hasn't left much room for any finishing or dry hops to shine. A slightly sweet aftertaste, which allows the clean malt character to show itself.
Mouthfeel - a medium body, with low-moderate carbonation, overall pretty dry but as mentioned earlier the sweet malt is evident in the aftertaste. At 6.5% it's a stronger IPA, and a slight alcohol warmth is noticeable.
Technically it's really good - but I just can't get past the fact that this kind of beer is the reason why I have problems drinking IPA. So, here's my rating:
Aroma - 3.5/5
Taste - 2.5/5
Mouthfeel - 3/5
Overall - 3.5/5. If you love IPA you'll probably love this - it's just a matter of personal taste.