By Andy Phelps
Joining the ranks of Clown Shoes seemingly infinitely-expanding repertoire is Space Cake, a double IPA utilizing the newly popular Mosaic hop! I've found Mosaic hop beers to be very flavorful and interesting attention grabbers with different yet equally-intense notes ranging from tropical fruit to melon to berry and grassy herbalness. So does Space Cake live up to the hype surrounding its main hop addition touted on the label? Does it stack up to other available double IPAs? How does it compare to Galactica, its widely-available and considerably-highly-rated sister beer? I can't answer anything about its goofy, over-the-top label. That's just too ridiculous for me to handle adequately.
The pour on this was much darker than expected, with a burnt-orange hue and tight yet compact foam dying down after several minutes of heady volume; its opacity is nearly 100 percent consistent, looking more like a German weizenbock than an American double IPA. Interesting; no hop solids detected and definitely some yeast in suspension... wonder how this affects the flavor profile? The nose, anyway, is thickly bitter with notes of guava and kiwi fruit surrounding an earthy, dank and herbal backbone that contains some specialty malts bringing out a deep, sweet caramel note. This is West Coast style, that's for sure! Big, sweet, candied orange and melon sit alongside tangy citrus in beautiful, hoppy harmony, while a rather hefty, balancing malt aspect keeps it all in check with some strange notes of, well, cake! I can see where they get the name from, as the maltiness seems to point towards a "pound cake" like aspect. Regardless, it's a very interesting build that smells fantastic, but how does it drink? The flavor is somewhere between a palate-shredding dIPA and a maltier, stronger take on the style, and the lingering bitterness and bright fruity character melding with the malty heaviness is something many beer nerds will recognize as typical for higher-alcohol IPAs. With this right up there at nine percent (a full one percent higher than its aforementioned sister beer), it carries some reminding heat with it, and drinking this bomber isn't without its moments of "whoa, this is heavy" at times, making it less furtive about ABV than others I've had. Regardless, discovering new flavors such as passionfruit and mango, as this drinks and comes into its own, is a rewarding experience that very few beers give me. Seems like a fantastic recipe here, though it's not like Clown Shoes to make a poor recipe considering their track record!
This brew is full of fresh (bottled middle-to-end of February!) fruity hops and sweet, tropical flavor all backed by a wonderfully commanding and heavy malty back that isn't afraid to take command of the palate. The finish is, of course, very hoppy, bitter and lingering, but the flavor is rather fruity and less pine-y than most strong IPAs, making this fantastically well-balanced. In other words, it's exactly the kind of great beer I consistently expect from Clown Shoes, one of the foremost amazing contract brewing outfits in the industry. Their dedication to their markets, both new and old, their inventive/wacky new ideas, incredibly laid-back attitude and, yet, all this with the constant creation of new beers has kept them dear to me for years, and I hope for years to come. Gregg is a stand-up act, and everything he touches seems to turn to gold. This West Coast style dIPA via Massachusetts delivers fantastic flavor, solid balance and very interesting elements altogether in one great package, and all at a really low price! I paid $6.50 for my bomber, and that's a nine percent beer packed with intense, complex flavor. Respect for CS! Buy this now... actually, buy a few and spread the word about Space Cake! Great stuff.
The official breakdown:
- Style: American Double / Imperial IPA
- ABV: 9%
- Appearance: A ruddy yet surprisingly clean orange amber with a lazy, dissipating bone-white head that lasts for a few minutes before dying down
- Scent: A giant, encompassing experience involving big citrus, tropical fruit and herbal notes combined with some solvent alcohol and caramel malt
- Taste: This is a Mosaic-bomb, but it's not without its malt assistance; guava, melon, cut grass, candied orange and lemon zest with a commanding malt backing
- Mouthfeel: Smooth and multi-faceted with a notable alcohol presence overshadowing the need for peppy carbonation, which this does definitely lack
- Drinkability: This is probably a beer for sharing and considering with good, like-minded friends; it won't convince IPA haters, but it's very true to style