Dark Horse Brewing Co. Crooked Tree IPA Review

Crooked Tree IPA by Dark Horse Brewing Co.

Crooked Tree IPA

In spite of my limited tenure in New York, I can already tell it is an exciting time to be a beer lover in the city. It seems like each new day brings news of yet another brewery distributing to the state. It is hard to keep up, but my liver is trying its best. When I saw that Bierkraft had tapped several kegs of Dark Horse beers, I hustled on over for a reasonably priced growler fill. Dark Horse has gained some following outside of Marshall, Michigan and I am excited to try the beers they send my way.

Beer Data:

Purchased: 9/17/12 at Bierkraft – 64 oz. Growler $11.95
Availability: Year-round (according to Dark Horse Brewing’s website)
Alcohol: 6% ABV

Commercial Description from Website:

Inspired by West Coast I.P.A.’s, but brewed with Michigan style. The Crooked Tree is heavily dry hopped to give it a big aroma of pine and citrus. The flavors are big, yet very balanced between fresh hops and malt. Often described as “grapefruit” our hops give this beer an excellent fruit flavor that finishes dry, crisp, and clean. It will pour a nice deep copper color with a bit of haziness. Because of our almost patented “Intense Transfer Methods” our Crooked Tree has won several medals in the India Pale Ale category.

Tasting Notes:

Aroma: This beer eschews the brash tropical and over-the-top hop aromas of trendy (and proprietary) hop varietals like Citra, Simcoe, Amarillo, and their New Zealand brethren.  Instead, what is immediately apparent are the classic aromas of grapefruit with a hint of an herbaceous note, reminiscent of classic hops like Cascade and Centennial. Aside from the hops, there are fairly strong malt aromas of toasty biscuits and crackers. The aroma is very nice, but perhaps a little understated by measure of other American IPAs. As the sample warms, a touch of alcohol presents itself.  8 / 12

Appearance: This is not a pretty beer. Out of the growler came a muddy copper devoid of any exciting highlights. The beer easily produced a nearly white meringue-like head that unfortunately dissipated rather quickly (perhaps because the carbonation was low from the growler fill). The foam is quite sticky, likely due to the large amount of hops used. 1 / 3

Flavor: Lots of grapefruit are the initial impression; however, this is followed by a very large malt flavor. The malt is less in the range of sweet caramel and toffee and more in the spectrum of heavily toasted malt. I get the impression that there is a firm Munich or Vienna malt presence with perhaps some biscuit like malts (Victory, Special Roast, Biscuit, etc.). The malt is more reminiscent of an English IPA and provides an interesting, but stylistically incorrect, counterpoint to the classic American hop profile.  The hops finish with a slight grassiness, likely from the dry hop. 13 / 20

Mouth Feel: This beer presents with a medium / medium-low level of carbonation likely the side-effect of the growler fill. This lends to an appealing almost cask like mouth-feel.  There is a firm bitterness that balances any residual sweetness and finishes with a touch of grassy astringency. Quite quaffable for an IPA. 3 / 5

Overall Impression: I very much enjoyed the balance of this beer. Unfortunately, to me the hallmark of the American IPA category is an assertiveness that celebrates huge in-your-face hop flavors at the cost of balance. This is America, dammit, and more is not always less when it comes to the IPA category. The beer is obviously well-crafted with no technological faults. It is a great drinker that one could easily empty a growler of (I did), but I doubt it would win many competitions as an American IPA. 6 / 10

Score: 31 / 50 (Very Good)

Note: Evaluation done according to BJCP Scoring System. This beer was reviewed as a Category 14b. American IPA.

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