Throwing a little weight around
A Review of 400 Pound Monkey by Left Hand Brewing Co.
Posted on 1/23/2012 by Brew's Your Daddy
It is no secret that one of the most popular styles in the craft beer world today is the India Pale Ale(IPA). It seems as though every brewery out there has their own version of this style, and for us fans of better beer, that is a hands down win. But along those same lines, we often have to deal with some creations that seem to have been made for what can only be described as the ''Hops Arms Race''. Anyone who has been through their fair share of craft brewed IPAs has undoubtedly gotten their tongue blown to bits by one of those palate abusing creations. It seems as though the pursuit of brew balance gets tossed to the side for the sake of attempting the most face twisting creation on the market. And while I will gladly defend and applaud the effort of original creation, sometimes I really just want a well balanced, great drinking IPA. For those of you who find yourself thinking the same thing, allow me to introduce you to a division of the IPA style that is actually the genesis of them all: The English IPA.

More often than not, if you have a tongue tearing, teeth shattering, head shaking experience with an IPA, you are holding what most would ''technically'' deem an AIPA, or American India Pale Ale. Without getting into a huge, drawn out discussion of what AIPAs are, or what the difference is between American and English IPAs, how about we just say this: The English started the IPA style. The American IPA is simply the American version or interpretation of the IPA style. And in true American fashion, being happy with something in its original form simply wasn't good enough. We had to try to make it better, and the only way we seem to know how to do that is to go big or go home. And again, while there have been some amazing creations due to this thinking, there have also been some huge blunders. Thankfully there are a few American breweries that have decided to pay homage to the original English style IPA, and as a result we are blessed with some high quality, well balanced, easy drinking creations. One of my favorite examples happens to be the 400 Pound Monkey from Left Hand Brewing Company.

In the glass, the 400 Pound Monkey takes on a coloration that while familiar to many craft beer lovers, can be a bit head tilting for those specifically familiar with typical IPAs. I would place it only a shade or two darker than what we like to call ''straw coloration''. Many people might even say it looks like a rich apple juice, and it would be hard to argue with them. In any event, it doesn't look like the murky, dark oranges that many have come to expect in their IPAs, and that is perfectly fine. Unless you are familiar with the English IPA style, the lighter coloration might seem off, but trust me when I say that it is spot on.

Something else that might catch you by surprise is how ''non-aggressive'' the aromas are. Some people might call the 400 Pound Monkey somewhat muted, but a better way to view it would be delicate. Again, remember that this is not your run of the mill, American craft brewery version of an IPA. Nose ripping citrus and pine aren't the norm here. There is a surprisingly warm and calm malt backbone throughout, but a smooth, earthy pine aroma is what greets you initially. There is a bit of a grassy and herbal layer laying just beneath the surface, and some peppery spice notes can be found from time to time with minimal effort. Other random pops of pineapple, lemon, and sweet caramel come through in random intervals, but are good enough to keep your nose satisfied.

In the taste department, while all of the flavors that one expects from an IPA reside within the 400 Pound Monkey, none of them seem to want to dominate the palate. And contrary to popular belief, that is a good thing. As if we don't preach the importance of balance enough here at BrewChief, I will say it again. Balance is probably the most important thing when it comes to IPAs. 400 Pound Monkey is a great example of what we are talking about. Honestly, since when did it become acceptable for a person to take a drink of a beer and get kicked in the mouth with grapefruit and pine so strong, that just the thought of finishing the glass causes terror sweats? No worries here though. The first sip coats your mouth with a slightly sweet caramel malt flavor that gives you a great base for absorbing all the other flavors in the glass. You want piney hops? You got it. Smooth, and a slightly bitter, but in a good way. You want citrus? You're covered. Sweet grapefruit and notes of lemon lay just past the pine layer, and they provide that hops tingle that we all have come to expect from an quality IPA. As far as the aftertaste goes, while very minimal, it is quite nice. The creaminess from the caramel flavor allows the hops continue to work for a brief moment, leaving you with a faint tingle for a few seconds, and then it fades away to nothingness.

400 Pound Monkey is one of those rare beers that can be enjoyed by all levels of better beer drinkers. Those with a good bit of craft beer experience can appreciate it as a great example of the English IPA style. It is everything it claims to be, and nothing that it shouldn't be. The flavors are right, and so are aromas and mouthfeel. And as an added bonus, it is highly drinkable, and who doesn't want that? As far as those new to the movement, it would make for a great bridge beer. It isn't offensive or abusive in any way, and has all of the flavors that make an IPA delicious. Anyone with a willing mind, who wants to learn and try the IPA style, would be treated well with one of these in their hands. Left Hand Brewing Company has given us of the better beer world a brew to be shared by all, so I highly suggest everyone go out and get started on that.

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400 Pound Monkey by Left Hand Brewing Co.
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