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.
Last week, a friend was down in the Baltimore area and I recommended he visit Heavy Seas Beer en route to the new Guinness brewery that’s down there. I have never been to Heavy Seas myself but it’s one of the breweries on my list of spots to visit – yes, I keep a list because I’m a nerd. After suggesting it to him, I later noticed one of their more limited efforts on the shelf at my local beer store and I decided to grab it, thanks in part to the trippy artwork on the label, but more about that in a little while. This particular four-pack was one of two left and I believe it had been sitting there for a while, since Heavy Seas released 24 Anniversary Ale in mid-December, but that didn’t stop me since I knew the freshness of this beer wouldn’t be an issue at this point.
Founded in 1994 as Clipper City Brewing Company by Hugh Sisson, an integral individual for getting brewpubs legalized in Maryland – under the tutelage of Senator George Della – in 1987, it later changed names and developed into one of the state’s largest, and most respected, breweries. With business booming, Heavy Seas expanded the brewery back in 2010, eventually adding 11 new fermentation vessels, three new brite tanks and a massive 96,000 cubic-foot walk-in refrigerator, among other things. Today, the brewery distributes to 17 states and touts several medals at both the Great American Beer Festival and the World Beer Cup.
24 Anniversary Ale is listed as a quadruple IPA, something you don’t see too many of right now. I found that, and the fact that it checks in at a whopping 14.0 percent ABV, to be very intriguing when I grabbed it. Brewed with Citra, Galaxy and Enigma hops, 24 Anniversary Ale is 95 IBUs and the company describes it as “bursting with notes of grapefruit, orange and ripe stone fruit.” It was brewed for Heavy Seas to say that they love you, the drinker, almost as much as they love good beer.
There’s just something about awesome label art that draws me to a beer and 24 Anniversary Ale definitely stood out. It has a funky purple and red vibe, featuring a skull and a face with some trippy stuff going on all around – you’re best off just checking out the photo for yourself. The label was designed by a Baltimore-based marketing agency called Nightshift Creative, which will create more than a dozen designs for the brewery in the upcoming year, per its Instagram. The best part about this particular label might be the fact that it not only gives the alcohol content but it explains in great detail the reasoning for this anniversary beer and also the contents inside.
But, when it comes down to it, the stuff inside is what I’m most interested in discovering.
I cracked open 24 Anniversary Ale and quickly rushed it straight to my nose. Immediately, I got the citrus aroma brought about by the hops, plus a little bit of a floral scent – and it smelled wonderful, much like many DIPAs I’ve had. It poured into my tulip glass pretty beautifully, with a golden color and a ton of fluffy off-white head brought upon by a rush of bubbles, indicating that the carbonation would eventually lead to a picturesque retention. That also gave it a full-bodied mouthfeel. The flavors mostly followed suit with the smell, with a strong citrus present – I really only noted pineapple – and a little floral taste. It has a little bit of warmth to it brought about by booziness and its extremely bitter, and dry, on the back-end – one of the most bitter I’ve ever had. In fact, I would probably call 24 Anniversary Ale a “bitter bomb” and while it might be just a little much, it’s kind of what I should have expected from a quadruple IPA bolstered with hops.
A four-pack of these 16-ounce “pounder” cans was just a smidge under $18, which is a good deal for the complexity of the beer and the fact that it’s a limited release. When I looked it up on BeerAdvocate, I saw it has a score of 89 from the website and an average score of 3.98, based upon 10 ratings from drinkers just like you and me. I’m not too far off of that average, as I would give 24 Anniversary Ale a 7.8 out of 10. The artwork on the label is great, it has a little dankness that’s subdued by a humongous amount of bitterness and it has the look and smell. But it’s a sipper, lacks in drinkability and offers a pungent aftertaste that you’d better enjoy. This one is definitely a behemoth of an IPA but I’ve had better from Heavy Seas. Now, I just need to get down there for a visit.
Stay tuned for next week, because I might just try something from your favorite brewery.