It's certainly shaping up to be a good summer for new hoppy beers -- over the last couple of months, we've seen the introduction of Capital Brewery's Mutiny and Capsized, Hinterland's White Cap IPA, Central Waters Hop Rise, Karben4's Fantasy Factory and Vintage Brewing's Square Pig. Now joining that list is Furthermore with its Full Thicket Double IPA.
What is it? Full Thicket Double IPA from Furthermore Beer of Spring Green, Wisconsin.
Style: The Double India Pale Ale (IPA) is also called an Imperial IPA. The style is an American creation, evolving from hop lovers' quest for a robust and aggressive bitterness and strength. The Double IPA is most often deep golden to reddish amber in color, with medium- to full-bodied mouthfeel. It's known for a strong hop profile that features resiny, piney and/or citrus tones depending upon the type of hops in the recipe. There should be some maltiness, which adds a spicy and warm complexity to the flavor profile, but the maltiness should be clean and not dominate the overall flavor. The finish will often have alcoholic warmth, attributed to its 7.5% to 10% ABV.
Background: Furthermore hasn't introduced a new beer since 2010, when it released an IPA named Hopperbolic. Full Thicket is destined to become a year-round regular beer for the Spring Green-based beer company. Furthermore makes most of its beers under contract with Sand Creek Brewing Company in Black River Falls, while Full Thicket is made by Milwaukee Brewing Company. Company owner Aran Madden personally oversees production and all recipe development.
Full Thicket is made with Wisconsin-grown varieties of Mt. Hood and Cascade hops, supplied by Gorst Valley Hops of Mazomanie. Mt. Hood hops are known for spicy-floral aromatics and Cascade for citrus-like flavor. Madden also adds non-Wisconsin-grown Columbus, commonly found in many IPAs and Double IPAs.
Madden says he's drawn to a range of IPAs, from big Double IPAs to even thin IPAs. He says he's been "toying with doing something like this, that isn't supposed to be a big, chewy, bitter beer." Full Thicket finishes at 7.2% ABV. Its hoppiness is estimated at 75 IBUs (International Bittering Units). "A lot of IPAs try to impress you with bitterness and it ends there," says Madden. Here, he went for "malty-nuttiness" as a counterpoint to the bitter hops.
Full Thicket started appearing in Madison in March during a handful of special draught-only tappings. Bottles didn't make local shelves until early May. It sells for $10-$11/six-pack. On tap around Madison it often sells for $5-$6/pint.
In other news, Furthermore Beer recently expanded its distribution into Illinois. For the past three months, Furthermore's draught products have been turning up in the Chicago market. Packaged beers are headed there soon.
- Aroma: Medium, firm, floral hoppiness.
- Appearance: Clear, deep copper. Medium soft, off-white head.
- Texture: Medium-bodied and bubbly.
- Taste: A nice, firm burst of floral-hoppy bitterness. Then, a biscuit-like maltiness in the background that also adds a light nutty-like flavor.
- Finish/Aftertaste: Dry and bitter. A hint of alcoholic warmth from its 7.2% ABV.
Glassware: I like a heavy clear glass mug for the Double IPA. The thick handle provides some insulation and will allow the beer to slowly warm, while it is also a great way to show off the color of a hearty, flavorful brew. As Full Thicket warms slightly, expect those malty and nutty tones to emerge even more.
Pairs well with: The bitterness of a Double IPA is great for spicy dishes, especially Cajun or Indian. Among my favorites for the style is jambalaya.
Rating: Two Bottle Openers (out of four)
The Verdict: I like Full Thicket for what it stands for, a local beer maker using local hops. However, the subtleness to its hop character is far from the outright bold spicy-assertiveness I look for in the Double IPA style. Okay, Aran Madden isn't known for following strict style definitions, with beers like Fatty Boombalatty and Makeweight (which I picked in 2008 as my favorite big beer with flavor). He even says he didn't intend for Full Thicket to be a hop monster and wanted to balance its bitterness with specialty malts. So, this beer does succeed with that in mind. But those malts lend a lot of biscuit and earthy tones that pulled my attention away from the hops. It's bitter, but I found this beer lacking the complex blend of spicy and resiny tones of a Double IPA. In the end, Full Thicket is still a very drinkable hoppy brew, especially if you're looking for a lighter, more approachable Double IPA.