From a new IPA to an old one, Nebraska Brewing Company sells a $20-plus bottle of Hop God IPA aged for six months in Chardonnay barrels. Like it or not, pricy beers are establishing a foothold in the market. The process to produce some of these beers is costly; the barrels are wildly expensive. The beers are not for everybody, but both the consumer and brewer have the free will to decide how much they'd like to invest.
For review's sake I invested in this one. Hop God, the IPA, is a cross between a Belgian tripel and a west coast IPA. It weighs in at 9 percent alcohol by volume. The beer is complex and bitter (101 international bitterness units!) even before being soaked in oak.
The barrel-aged version pours a cloudy orange with a billowy white head. It smells tart and musty. One detriment to aging an IPA is the loss of most of the symphony of aromatics that usually accompanies highly-hopped beers. The brewer says there's a ton of citrusy goodness in here, and the IBUs back that up, but there's little citrus present in the nose.
Another wrinkle to remember is this is a Belgian style tripel hopped to very high amounts, not a traditional IPA. Belgian yeast makes its presence known throughout. Bitter and sour, sweet and tangy flavors mingle in this sipper, which hovers around 10 percent ABV. I get peach, lemon, and ripe cheese. It's hot as I drink this, and the liquid in the glass becomes tarter and funkier as it warms.
This is a hard beer to wrap your head around. The 6-month aging process mellows out the hops somewhat, but the beer is still bitter. I'm not the biggest Chardonnay guy, so the oak is somewhat bothersome. What's most troublesome, though, is that despite all the hops almost no aspects of a traditional IPA remain in this beer. If you want the sensation of biting into a grapefruit you're barking up the wrong barrel.