I’ve been holding onto these notes for a while, waiting for a good day to post them. Given it’s been pouring all day and there’s window-shaking thunder in the area, I think I’ve found that good day.
Name: Stormwatch Ale
Origin: Free State Brewery, Lawrence, KS
Style: Brown IPA, or IBA, or American IPA, or Black IPA, or Cascadian Dark Ale (see discussion)
ABV: not listed, but the OG is 1.059
I drank this: on tap at the brewery
We’ll start with the style here. The brewery describes this as a “dark brown, hoppy ale,” which I do agree with. Beer Advocate calls it an American IPA, which I don’t agree with, because the color is much too dark for a typical IPA (IPAs are usually shades of bright amber; the Stormwatch is a deep brown). However, Beer Advocate very recently added a style called a Black IPA/Cascadian Dark Ale, which I think would fit this beer nicely. I may have to add a tag for that.
So why the labeling problem? This beer is very, very much like the Boulder Flashback Ale (reviewed here) in that it’s a mishmash of competing styles. In some respects, it’s a classic brown ale, malty and slightly nutty. In others, it’s an IPA, bright and sparkly hops with a strong bitter kick. The Boulder version of this style tasted as if someone had poured two vastly different beers into the same glass – it was interesting, but not all that melded together. The Free State version is much closer to being a coherent whole.
This beer starts off with a soft and creamy mouthfeel, which then goes almost immediately sharp. It’s the mouthfeel equivalent of running your hand across a rosepetal and then hitting a thorn. (I cannot believe I just used goth-y rose imagery in a beer description, no matter how well it sums up what I’m trying to get across. *facepalm*) It’s a fun drinking experience, actually, because the feel of the beer is deeply divided and shifts constantly. It’s worth a pint just to feel it.
Flavor-wise, this begins with a dark brown bread/molasses/malt hit, the kind of dark malt profile that makes brown ales so wonderfully drinkable. It ends with a sharp/bittersweet hop bite. The hops are strong with this beer – they overtake the malts in the nose and eventually dominate the malts in the flavor as well. The sweet-citrus hop bite lingers in the aftertaste.
Overall, this is an interesting take on the dark IPA, a style that I’m beginning to see with some regularity. The best of this style, at least that I’ve had so far, is the Dogfish Head India Brown Ale, which is bloody fantastic. However, I haven’t had one since February and can’t get it in Kansas, so it’ll be a while before I’m able to review it. Until I can get more of that, however, the Free State version is a worthwhile, drinkable substitution.