Fearful Symmetries

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15 April, 2013

The Benedict Arnold of Beer: Double Agent IPL by Sam Adams



Sam Adams has taken the plunge into hop-fordwardness with their Hopology Collection, a series of beers that emphasize humulus lupulus. Double Agent is an India Pale Lager, a style which aims to mimic an IPA while retaining some lager characteristics, i.e. – very hoppy yet lean and crisp.

Double Agent pours a light amber and is very clear. I got a nice head which settled but still left a luscious bed of foam to get caught in my moustache. As the beer made its way from the glass to my gut, it left some nice Schaumhaftvermoegen. The aroma was a nice combination of the malt which had a plum-like sweetness and the hops which contributed grapefruit/citrus tones as well as a nice pine scent.

The taste was a lot like the aroma. There was a definite malt backbone to be had that had a peach-like sweetness. But the story here is the hops and Sam Adams used seven here: Zeus, Simcoe, Citra, Ahtanum, Cascade, Centennial, and Nelson Sauvin. You can taste grapefruit flavors first, which I presume is the Citra coming through, followed by a piney hop flavor which I believe is the Columbus hops. Mouthfeel is medium light which confounded my expectation considering the beer's color but it was just right considering the flavor. The resiny hop flavor gives way to a nice dry finish.

I was disappointed that, unlike the other IPL I've had, Coney Island's Sword Swallower, Double Agent didn't balance flavors well. It is certainly not a bad beer and hopheads should enjoy its medley of hops but I thought Sword Swallower hit the right notes in terms of melding hops and malt. Double Agent tasted more like a concession to the IPA trend than a unique riff on the well-known style. Still, I'd rather drink one of these than most IPAs when I find myself needing to overdose on American hops. And at 5% ABV, it is still quite sessionable unlike its ale cousins.

My guess is that most hopheads couldn't tell this IPL from an IPA. The differences are subtle. Since hops are the raison d'être of an IP-whatever, the lack of fruity esters may escape notice. Double Agent has a clean taste in this respect. The sweetness is of grain and not of yeast. As far as I know, the IPL isn't its own style in beer judging manuals. Whether it gains the honor or not remains to be seen but, to oversimplify on the basis of two beers, it really comes across to me as a pilsener brewed with American hops instead of Noble ones. Double Agent has 43 IBUs which is the high end for pilseners from Europe. In large measure, it's just the hop flavors which differ.

Junk food pairing: Quaff your Double Agent with some lime chili tortilla chips. Guacamole is highly recommended.

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|| Palmer, 2:48 PM

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