Wednesday, May 9, 2012

He'Brew Bittersweet Lenny's R.I.P.A. (2012 original review)

This is a beer I've had a few times in the past but never really enjoyed because I suspect I was drinking old bottles each time. When Mike from Shmaltz gave me this bottle at the 2012 TAP NY Beer Fest I was pretty sure it was a fresh one (it's hard to tell since they don't date their bottles in any easy-to-read way). Anyway, since it's a New York beer AND it's made only 30 minutes north of me I decided to give this one another try. Would it be any different this time?

   AROMA 8/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 8/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 15/20
Chad9976 (661) - Albany, New York, USA - MAY 5, 2012
"Bittersweet" has always seemed like a contradictory word to me. How can something be bitter and sweet at the same time? Well, take a swig of He’Brew Bittersweet Lenny’s R.I.P.A. and you’ll know. This is a beer that walks a fine line between imperial IPA and a flat-out barleywine.

I poured a 12oz bottle into a tulip glass.

Appearance: Beautiful burgundy shade; hazy but translucent. Forms an average-sized, canary yellow, frothy head which leaves extraordinary amount of lacing on the glass.

Smell: Extremely sweet tropical/citrus fruit juice concentrate. A nose that indicates massive sweetness and bitterness.

Taste: Strong bitterness up front which immediately transitions to rich syrupy sweetness. It’s one of the sweetest beers of the style I’ve had, but also one of the few examples whose sweetness is kept in check. There’s no cloying or sticky aftertaste here. The bitterness comes back on the finish with a bit of a dry spice flavor due to the rye. The rye is rather subtle, although I’ve had old bottles where it tasted like sour rye extract. There’s also a pleasant, but subtle, presence of dark fruit through the middle. Cherry, plum, and raisin are all detectable plus a hint of dark chocolate. It’s a good balance of sweetness and raw bitterness, although the palate as a whole is nothing mind-blowing, just really impressive.

Drinkability: For such a big beer, He’Brew Bittersweet Lenny’s R.I.P.A. is surprisingly tame across the tongue. The mouthfeel is thick and full bodied, but only lightly carbonated. The texture is smooth and the aftertaste is only slightly dry, which is remarkable considering how much bitterness and sweetness is present while it’s in the mouth. For a beer weighing in at a hefty 10% ABV, there is no alcohol presence at all. No heat, no warmth, and it doesn’t go to your head or fill you up right away.

Grade: 8/10

NOTE: See my 2018 re-review to BJCP specs here:

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