4.1AROMA 9/10 APPEARANCE 4/5 TASTE 8/10 PALATE 3/5 OVERALL 17/20
Hopheads love the India Pale Ale style and some prefer "double" or even "imperial" IPAs to the standard hop bomb. But some beers of the style are so huge they begin to blur the line between an extra IPA and a barleywine - much like Southern Tier Unearthly IPA. It’s not what I would expect from a beer of this style, but the end result was pleasantly surprising.
APPEARANCE AND AROMA
I split a 22oz bomber with a friend and poured my half into a snifter. The beer has the appearance of a typical IPA with a burnt umber color and hazy body. It doesn’t produce much head, although I am able to generate an almost yellow creamy froth with a good swirl of the glass.
The aroma is typical of an East Coast IPA with an intense pine smell. Standard IPAs tend to smell of pine needles, but Unearthly is pure sap. There’s also a dry, rubbing alcohol-like scent that indicates this will be an intense brew.
I’ve encountered many IPAs of various strengths and styles over the years, but it’s rare a beer of the style genuinely surprises me anymore. Southern Tier Unearthly is a rare example of that. The first sensation of the initial sip was very familiar with a piney resin and hop bite, but as it finished it was like a malt bomb. Caramel and butterscotch combined with a sap-like flavor make this beer reminiscent of a barleywine. There also seems to be notes of dark fruit like plum, fig, and cherry.
This is definitely one of the richest IPAs I’ve ever tasted. While there is a notable presence of hops, they are surprisingly gentle across the palate. They do linger, however, and for quite a while, leaving a dry, syrup-like sensation on my tongue. There’s also a gentle warmth from the alcohol which takes a little getting used to. Still, it’s a tasty beer to say the least.
With its density and robust body, it’s not surprising Unearthly is a sipping beer. Even as a hophead and an experienced IPA drinker I found this beer a bit challenging to drink. Thankfully the alcohol warmth doesn’t increase dramatically as it warms, although the rich palate seems to grow sweeter with each sip. It’s the double-edged sword of robustness.
At 11% ABV this beer is best enjoyed after dinner with friends. Don’t try to drink an entire bomber by yourself as the intensity of the palate will wear you out and the potency will get you legally drunk. I don’t think it would pair well with food except sharp cheeses.
Southern Tier is one of my favorite breweries so the fact I’m NOT rating Unearthly IPA among the best of the best shows how honest this review is. Perhaps if I were a bigger fan of imperial beers and the barleywine style this would rate higher for me. Regardless, I enjoyed it for what it was, even if it wasn’t what I expect or prefer.