In our latest Brewtal Truth column in the February issue of Decibel, we queried Magrudergrind guitarist RJ Ober about his job working as a sales manager for Victory Brewing. One of the things he mentioned, which was left out due to space constraints, is the fact that he had the honor of naming the brewery's new double IPA, DirtWolf. Sounds kinda metal, huh? It's actually a reference to the fact that hop's Latin name is Humulus lupulus, which as Ober explains, "humulus being most closely linked to humus (earth or soil) and lupulus, a diminutive of lupus, or wolf." Hence DirtWolf, a double IPA packed with four varieties of whole-flower hops. As you can see from the hop tattoo Ober sports on his right shoulder in the photo below, he's obviously a big fan of the hop flower.
DIRTWOLF Double IPA Victory Downingtown, PA 8.7% ABV
The four hop varieties referenced above—Mosaic, Citra, Simcoe and Chinook—are largely responsible for this big beast's bold fruit, forest and spice notes. And, really, when you're drinking a big-ass double (or imperial) IPA like this, you're looking for some serious hop action. Which is why breweries typically use varieties that are more about gaudy aromatics and exotic flavors than crushing bitterness. You can definitely have both—in fact, in a high-alcohol beer such as this, bitterness is necessary to balance the sweetness of the huge malt bill—but most brews in this category really are more about showing off the many unique characteristics that different hop varieties offer.
DirtWolf features mostly newer hop varieties that are definitely big on the aromatics. Mosaic throws earthy/funky floral and fruit notes; Citra offers a wide variety of interesting citrus notes; Simcoe is piney and earthy; and Chinook is a bitter badass with lots of classic NW hop notes of grapefruit and resin. Together they cover the hop spectrum from lush and round to spiky and sharp. And with a nice sweet boozy background, they get to shine without totally harshing your palate.
There's no question that a significant amount of hops was used to brew DirtWolf, but for those leery of a bitter barrage, this style is frequently easier to delve into than a straight-up IPA. With a double IPA such as this, where the big alcohol offers a significant buffer against bitterness, the edges are a little rounder and overall they can be a bit more approachable. This certainly is, which is a testament to the brewing expertise at Victory. DirtWolf is exactly what it purports to be, a showcase for the characteristics that make hops so appealing and intriguing. It's not the kind of beer that hopheads punish their palates with (not that there's anything wrong with that), it's a well-balanced and very quaffable (maybe too quaffable...) brew with a lot of hoppy heft and strong bite.
Adem Tepedelen's new craft beer book, Decibel Presents the Brewtal Truth Guide to Extreme Beers: An All-Excess Pass to Brewing's Outer Limits, is now available in the Decibel online store.