By Andy Phelps
Long Trail has never been covered in Original Gravity before. I've always found their flagship ales not particularly impressive, even though they're typically well-built and worth a shot. Recently, they've been undergoing an overhaul to their design and output including fairly modern looking branding and a bomber-only line of "select" beers called the Brush and Barrel series which has so far included an imperial chocolate porter, a strong pumpkin ale and, most recently, a moderately well-received saison. I feel like this revamping is becoming common for established breweries that are looking to diversify their output, and Limbo is certainly a good beer to put in sixers to start with. With a pretty high IBU rating of 80, 7.6 percent ABV (which is pushing close into double IPA territory) and a nice price point, this is poised to be a contender in the current East Coast IPA scene, and some friendly competition is always good.
This pours a pretty clear, surprisingly deep orange-ish color with a foamy, sudsy head that sticks around for quite a while in the glass. There's a moderate amount of hop solids that are floating about aimlessly in the glass, but they're very fine and the beer seems to be pretty translucent when all is said and done. It's not a bad looking beer in the glass, but the carbonation is also a bit on the lazy side, making this come off slightly "unenthusiastic" on the palate, but we'll get to that later. The nose is comprised of almost nothing but pure hop oil aroma; a huge bouquet of resinous scents ranging from tropical mango and guava to pine to slightly catty and funky. Some bitter orange, lemon and hay also blend in here and there, and there's a slight sniff of ethanol in there for good measure, to let you know this is no session IPA unlike what most breweries are peddling these days! The palate contains a dramatic bitterness right off the bat, one which follows through until the very end with a drying yet satisfying finish that coats the tongue with oily goodness. There's a light backup malt character that seems to be very firmly planted in the "caramel" or crystal malt side of things, and there's a lot more rindlike orange here to interplay with all the pine and the overall surprisingly fruity and clean flavor. No real trace of yeastiness here hence the cleanliness, just a nicely-bodied sorta-double IPA that drinks easy and satisfactory with a good, slightly complex flavor layout. Now, my one thing is probably that the feel is just slightly too thick for my liking, and the carbonation does nothing to liven up the proceedings. This is a pretty fresh beer (just about two weeks old at the time of drinking), like IPAs should be, but it just seems dull on the tongue which doesn't mesh with the clean and drinkable way it comes off.
That said, if my only real criticism of a beer is that the carbonation is merely there and not engaging in any real way, it's probably a safe bet to say the beer is bordering greatness. Do I think this beer is great? Well, on its own, the recipe doesn't seem particularly stellar (not that it's bad at all) and it's not doing anything new or mind-blowing really, but LT should be congratulated on going out there with a completely new branding featuring a style they've never really handled and pretty much nailing it, when all is said and done. It isn't like a lot of breweries to just go and reinvent themselves, and I doubt this means a constant, consistent overhaul, but it's a nice start that really seems to have put Long Trail back on the radar for a lot of craft beer lovers in New England, given the reviews, and I don't blame any of those people for thinking that this could mean good things to come! Nice stuff... maybe I'll have to keep a better eye out on them now!
The official breakdown:
- Style: American IPA
- ABV: 7.6%
- Appearance: Solid orange/goldenrod color with a rather unmoving head that laces nicely all the way down; slight hop solids suspended in the body
- Scent: A big explosion of complex hop oils ranging from tropical to citrus to pine and vegetal/funk here and there; malt is restrained to allow hops to shine through
- Taste: A wash of viscous, resinous flavors; passionfruit, guava, melon and pine are upfront, followed by orange and lemon peel/pith, grapefruit and caramel malt
- Mouthfeel: There's something about this that isn't as engaging as it could be, and I think it lies in the carbonation being vapid; coating and oily; dry
- Drinkability: Despite the feel, this is a really drinkable sorta-double-IPA available regularly in six-packs for a good price; kind of a no-brainer here