Sunday, June 12, 2011

Custom Brewcrafters - Caged Alpha Monkey IPA

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:

Appearance: 4/5
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.


  1. Your waaaay too kind in this review. Caged Alpha Monkey tastes like distilled simian shit filtered through a box of used Depends collected after the old folks Home's indian buffet night. And that is no exageration, indeed, I would rather be raped by a pod of angry humpback whales than taste this abomination again. In fact, now that I think about it, one does not taste this IPA so much as one's mouth is assaulted in a full on normandy esque Hops invasion. In crafting this "beverage" the only reasonable conclusion I can come to is that Custom Brewcrafters threw every sack of hops on hand into their beer tanks in an insane bid to mock the laws of nature regarding what is and is not fit for human consumption.

  2. This is a very good beer and if you are hop head/ipa fan you will really enjoy it. I have had it from the growler and in the bottle and I think the growler version is slightly better. My first experience with it was at a tasting at Wegmans and I bought a six pack right away. I think I would rate the taste 4.5 or 5. It is a very good ipa and lives up to its name.