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Thirsty Thursday: Burley Oak Brewing Company’s Lost IPA

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Photo By Ed Miller

Welcome to Thirsty Thursday, a weekly column where we pick a beer from our fridge and review it, because in a world where two new breweries launch every single week, sometimes we need some help sifting through all of the hops.

Not unlike most of these reviews, the story behind this week’s beer starts at my local bottle shop.  I recently wanted to grab something for the weekend and gravitated towards singles from places like Half Acre Brewing Company and Toppling Goliath Brewing Company, so when I saw an effort from Burley Oak Brewing Company, which was right up my alley, sitting on the shelf, I was immediately sold.  Familiar with Burley Oak through word of mouth, I had to give it a whirl and see if it lived up to all of the hype. So, without further ado, this week’s beer is Lost IPA.

Founded in 2009 by Bryan Brushmiller as a homebrewing hobby, it officially became his career two years later when he opened the brewery in Berlin, Maryland – a small town on the state’s Eastern Shore – in a building that produced oak barrels in the early 1900s to ship local seafood and produce off to Baltimore.  Brushmiller created his career and now employs 28 others to help him continue to develop the brewery, which produces about 4,800 barrels annually and focuses on sustainable practices through both local materials and craftsmen.  The goal is to “create distinctive beers whose quality is unsurpassed using new and traditional brewing methods.”

Judging by the brewery’s website, Burley Oak follows a rotating production list, creating an expansive amount of limited releases depending on the calendar or the ingredients available.  Lost IPA, which is currently available in cans, was the product of a conversation on making the perfect IPA, one people would want to drink all the time. This 7.2 percent ABV west coast-style IPA is touted as clean and dry, with matching aromas and flavor profiles.  Burley Oak claims that Lost IPA is “the ultimate showcase of the most expressive hops available to brewers today.”

When it comes to the can, it’s abundantly simple.  It looks like your standard 16-ounce aluminum can but it features a ton of small, colorful Andy Warhol-like hops spread out across it.  Other then the name, there’s no real information listed besides the ABV and where it’s brewed. I can tell you that this specific batch was brewed back on Feb. 5 and the can cost me $5.20, which is not a bad deal.

As I cracked Lost IPA open and prepared to dump it into my teku glass, I gave it a honking whiff and what I got was extremely on point.  I got a healthy dose of melon and pine that were balanced nicely, along with some other fruity flavors that I couldn’t really identify. The pour was solid but nothing to write home about, especially in regards to the carbonation.  Sure there was a decent head to it but I was kind of hoping for a little more to complement the golden color and slight cloudy haze. It did lace very well though, so I’ll certainly give Burley Oak kudos for that. So, the smell was amazing, the look was solid but what about the actual taste of this effort?

Well, I thought it missed the mark a little bit here.  It tried to follow the smell but I really didn’t get much of the flavor brought about by the hops and there was a strong bitterness on the back-end.  I completely understand that the west coast version of the IPA is rooted in a strong bitter flavor, but I felt like the bitterness really overtook the beer, overpowering the other flavors.  It was still a tasty effort but I found myself a little disappointed based on all of the hype around the brewery. The drinkability was decent but I would find myself probably reaching for something different after the first can.

Lost IPA does have a BeerAdvocate a site score of 89 and an average score of 4.01, based on 101 ratings – more than I thought would be on there.  I would score it a little below that, giving Lost IPA a 7.6 out of 10. I just wish it tasted a little more like it smelled, with a better balance of between the bitterness and the fruit flavors that seeped through from the hops.  I’m a little disappointed with my first Burley Oak effort but I need to try another one. Maybe I just need to try something in the brewery’s J.R.E.A.M. series, which is a highly-touted line of fruited sours with lactose. I’ll keep my eyes peeled.

Stay tuned for next week, because I might just try something from your favorite brewery.