Saturday, January 7, 2012

Ithaca Alphalpha

If you remember all the way back to 8 weeks ago, you know I visited the Ithaca brewery and bought this bottle of the funnily-named "Alphalpha" while there. It claims to be a "Double Honey Bitter" - huh? I knew I needed help reviewing this beer so I brought in Craig Gravina - a fellow Albany craft beer enthusiast who writes an awesome beer blog at This was his first-ever video beer review and he was a natural at it.

   AROMA 8/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 8/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 15/20
Chad9976 (601) - Albany, New York, USA - JAN 7, 2012
Ithaca Alphalpha is a beer I’ve only seen at the brewery, so I bought a bottle when I visited around Thanksgiving of 2011. The employees described it as a "double India Pale Ale with lots of honey in it," which definitely sounded appealing. The bottle describes it as a "Double Honey Bitter" - a hyperbolic statement to be sure as the beer drinks more like a regular East Coast style double IPA with subtle honey notes. This might be due to the fact the bottle was well over a month old by the time I drank it, or perhaps the honey was used more as a fermentable than a flavoring ingredient. Ultimately it’s a fine DIPA, but perhaps a little oversold.

I split a 750ml bottle with a friend. We each poured it into tulip glasses.

Appearance: Honey-colored dark yellow with slight orange shade; cloudy but transparent. Forms a large, white, frothy head which laces and retains quite well.

Smell: Big grapefruit aroma due to the Cascade hops. Significant pine needles and some sap fragrance as well.

Taste: Very prominent hop bitterness hits the tongue hard and never lets up. Much like a Stone Ruination or other West Coast DIPAs of the sort, it’s a strong, tart, almost acidic level of bitterness like pure grapefruit juice. The second half does impart some maltiness to balance it out. Slightly sweet, slightly confectionary notes of butterscotch, honey and caramel do indeed make noticeable (albeit brief) appearances. The finish returns to the initial palate of dry bitterness and the aftertaste follows suit.

While I do appreciate and enjoy the grapefruit flavor and unapologetic bitterness, I wish there had been more genuine fruit flavor. There’s definite pine in the second half plus slight candy notes, but it’s still a tad unbalanced (perhaps due to the age of the bottle?). I could see this beer working wonderfully as something to have with a hearty dinner.

Drinkability: Although Ithaca Alphalpha is an overtly bitter beer, it’s surprisingly easy to drink. The mouthfeel has a mostly soft, slightly creamy texture to it. The beer is a perfect level of carbonation which enables it to go down smooth. I wouldn’t call it refreshing, though, but I doubt it’s meant to be. Not something I’d recommend for beginners, but hop heads will definitely be able to enjoy it.
Grade: 8/10

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