Saturday, October 26, 2013

Victory Brewing's DirtWolf

Words today are dedicated to one of the most hyped new beers of the moment, Victory Brewing's DirtWolf.  

DirtWolf, a double India Pale Ale from the Victory Brewing Company
8.7% ABV
IBUs unknown ( estimate: 80-90)

DirtWolf replaces Hop Wallop in the Victory arsenal, and has garnered lofty comparisons, most often to Lagunitas Sucks, which is heady company, indeed. 

There is much about DirtWolf to whet one's appetite; from the praise it has generated to an enticing hop profile (consisting of "Whole flower Citra, Chinook, Simcoe and Mosaic hops").
With all that going for it, it may be challenging for DirtWolf's quality to meet the anticipation leading to it.  

But, let us see. 

DirtWolf hits the glass with a straw yellow hue, not unlike many other double IPAs.  Light shines through easily but the liquid is sufficiently opaque to completely blur beyond recognition opposing objects. 

Only a minimal head settles atop the beer, and its presence is fleeting.  Bubbles collect at the bottom of the glass and, in passing, take turns traveling to the top.  The head, though, resists and remains thin. 

Notably, Victory didn't date this bottle, only indicating to "Enjoy by" March of 2014 (not sure the wisdom in such aging for a hop bomb).  There is no indication, however, that this one isn't fresh. 

The scent is floral with hints of orange rind.  Surprisingly, the aroma is rather subtle given the expected character of the beer (as a whole-flower double, after all).  One could go so far to describe what meets the olfactory as underwhelming.  

What's there is pleasing. But what's there is not enough. 

The first sensation encountered upon drinking is what initially seems to be soda-like carbonation.  The true nature of that tingling sensation reveals itself throughout the experience as a powerful peppery hop spice that delivers a big, bold, and lasting bite. 

Almost no lacing to speak of

Two unanticipated and interesting characteristics of this beer include a very gentle corn syrup sweetness that touches the middle of the palate, and an onion-like finish that lingers at the top of the throat and the back of the mouth. 

In general, DirtWolf's flavor profile consists of mostly floral goodness, tweaked by a little lime splash.  There is a dank, pine characteristic familiar to Lagunitas drinkers, and likely the cause of the comparison to Sucks. 

Unfortunately, those enjoyable notes are completely overwhelmed by that extraordinary tingling singularity brought forth by this beer's immense bitter spice.  

Bitterness in a big IPA is rarely negative and is typically expected.  It just, sadly, in this case, dominates in such a way to mute the many things about DirtWolf that could make it a unique standout among its style.  

Moreover, DirtWolf's mouthfeel is rather thin, and lacks the nuanced chewyness of, say, most editions of Stone's Enjoy By.  

The hops here surface in a way more juicy than resinous.  But one only receives hint of that juicy deliciousness before it burns up in a peppery blaze.  

Overall, DirtWolf is a good beer.  It simply lacks the complexity that makes the beers to which it is compared so interesting (and pleasing). 

Yet, this is certainly the best of Victory's offerings, and one of the better beers from the upper east coast.  Of course, not in the same stratosphere as Heady Topper, or even DC Brau's On the Wings of Armageddon.  

Does recommend DirtWolf?  Absolutely.  It's a three star beer (of a possible five).  

But its hype seems, one: overdone; and two: likely due to east coasters reaching for some new, bold thing to match game-changing product constantly emanating from the west.  

DirtWolf is new. Not unique.  And good. Not great.  Yet, worthy of a try.  

So, do so, and enjoy.  And feel free to respond with your opinion.  And, as always...