"size doesn't matter"
One thing I've been really excited about doing on this blog is testing my pre-conceived notions about beers that I like. In this case, I've taken two of my favorite IPAs - Resin by Sixpoint and Hop Stoopid by Lagunitas - and blind taste tested them side by side to see which properties jump out at me from each one when tasted back and forth with the other, and ultimately which is my favorite.
Both of these breweries are big favorites of mine, each one producing at least a half-dozen beers that I think are exceptional. That being said, IPAs are my favorite type of beer - especially double or imperial IPAs - so these two beers are my go-to purchase at the package store more than any other single beer from any brewer. The problem with picking a favorite is that they're so similar in so many ways, that if I drank each of these a day apart from each other, I don't know that I'd be able to write this post. So, I decided to blind taste them side by side, going back and forth from one to the other to see which properties were drawn out when sipped right after the competing beer. Kind of like how cheddar cheese on apple pie will make the pie taste sweeter and the cheese taste sharper.
I had an unbiased third party (thanks babe!!) pour the beers into identical GlenCairn glasses marked 'A' and 'B', and I dove right in:
(presented on ceremonial tasting plate)
Appearance - Right away I could see that 'A' was much brighter in appearance, however both beers had nearly identical head accumulation and lacing. I assumed that Resin would be stickier and leave more lacing than usual, but I guess that's what's so cool about doing the blind test - I could be drinking Red Tick Ale and the name wouldn't influence the flavor (although I'd like to think that I could still tell whether it needs more dog).
Aroma - 'A' hit me right on the nose with a bold, upfront citrusy hop aroma. 'B' had a much more subtle aroma, and I could actually smell the malt almost as much as the hops. This really surpised me since I always thought both beers were really aggressively hoppy.
Taste - As promised by the aroma, 'A' is really aggressively hoppy up front, with a relatively crisp finish for an Imperial IPA. 'B' has a deeper, broader flavor that lingers longer in the aftertaste. Right away I could taste a slightly soapy flavor in 'B' that I normally associate with certain belgian yeasts, and which I notice a lot in my homebrews that are bottle conditioned. This was pretty unexpected because I hadn't ever noticed that flavor in either of these beers before. Also, as I was going sip-for-sip back and forth between beers, a floral hop element started to emerge in 'A'. I'm not normally a big floral hop guy, but it was pretty cool to be able to distinguish more flavors as I kept drinking.
Mouthfeel - Both were pretty much the same, although I'd say that 'A' was more sessionable because of the brightness and crispness of the flavor.
Overall - I correctly guessed that 'A' was Hop Stoopid and 'B' was Resin. The dead giveaway was the brightness in color and crisp, citrusy hop flavor that Lagunitas is famous for. So the big reveal wasn't exactly mind blowing, but it did surprise me a little to admit that I liked Hop Stoopid better. What it really came down to was the sessionability - I wanted to go refill my glass with that more than I did with the Resin. But I don't think I'd have been able to make that call if I hadn't done this side-by-side tasting. You could hand me one tomorrow and I might confuse it for the other. What I hoped to accomplish with this inaugural Beer Wars was identify the little things that make each beer unique, instead of writing a review that simply says "hoppy flavor with good lacing", which could apply to a hundred different IPAs.
This was fun, let's do it again sometime.
tl;dr - peel the labels off your beers