Tonight I'm opening a bottle of a new beer by a rather unknown brewery out of Manchester, N.H. An extension of its own ale house, Nepenthe is a brewery that has been around for a little over a year and it peddles "post-modern takes" on the tradition of brewing. Though I think that might be a bit pretentious, its interesting brown-newsprint labels, Old English brewery font and strange approach all lend some credence to the claim, whatever it may mean. I've had the pale ale from the brewery before and, while it was much maltier than expected (but not in a traditional English pale ale way), it was enjoyable and different. As the brewery's first high gravity beer, I expect Lotus-Eater to deliver an interesting experience.
The pour on this extremely cloudy beer is absolutely crazy. I've had beers with intense, billowing pours, but this is probably the most extravagant of them all; even at a 45 degree angle, foam absolutely gushed out of the bottle into my glass as carbonation bubbles began to rise fervently from the bottom. The color is a strange muddy orange-copper with absolutely no light penetration; the closest I've seen to this color in an IPA of any kind was in Brash's Item Nine which is a wheat-based "white IPA." I'm not too sure about the ingredients in this, but due to the fact that it's not being billed as a white IPA, I don't think it's meant to be one. I like unfiltered beer a lot, but this jumps the shark and appears quite dirty and unpolished. As the head calms down, I get scents of yeasty/musty funk, mango, dried hay, apples, apricots, banana, clove, caramel malt, estery/spicy/fruity alcohol, tangerines and oranges. There are definitely big helpings of Citra hops here, which work to bring out the huge, tropical fruit aroma. This has a very, very multifaceted nose and I'm pretty excited to take a sip. As I finally make my way past the clouds of foam on the surface, I get a hit of intense carbonation piled up with flavors of tropical fruit, plastic, biscuit-y malt, lemons and, of course, the nutty yeast which drowns out the back end almost single-handedly. Absolutely weird. This actually tastes kind of like a bizarre homebrew, but regardless of that, it does have a definite "handmade" quality to it that some may really like. I think it tastes quite fresh and has a lot of life to the hoppy, bitter and fruity notes, but the carbonation is a tad over-zealous in the front and the body of the beer is a bit too thin for the style. That said, this is very, very strange and actually pretty nice if you take it for what it is, which is a mildly-off-style but endearing and rather confusing beer. I would guess that the market for this is simultaneously wide and quite niche; it's definitely a big IPA with a somewhat sweet, oily character to it but the appearance and semi-"off" body might be cons to some people.
Lacing as the beer drinks is kind of thin and inconsistent especially given the unthinkably-aggressive pour it displayed, but that isn't to say you shouldn't expect some large, unwieldy chunks of foam clinging tenaciously to the side. The oily slickness of the hops really wakes up the palate to the large amount of fruit flavor going on, but sometimes things get lost in this brew. For instance, the malt flavor is surprisingly inactive and, though it backs up the hops decently, it doesn't lend any character in its own right, while the hops are somewhat muddied and indistinct with a very nebulous but complex character that seems unpolished. The alcohol is fairly well-hidden and the beer drinks fairly creamy in spite of the initial carbonated blast, but the balance is somewhat askew. This is a bit too homebrew-y to be a legitimate release; the flavors are in competition with each other and the overly-yeasty nature doesn't allow the hop flavor to cut through as much as it should. In the end, I love the complex scent and what they were going for with the extremely-cloudy body, but I think the taste hasn't quite caught up to it yet.
The official breakdown:
- Style: Double / Imperial India Pale Ale
- ABV: 8.2%
- Appearance: Milky yellow/orange-copper with muddy sediment present. Clumps of lace retain somewhat alongside an absolutely voluminous head; weird
- Scent: A clash of rustic and tropical scents; mango, tangerine, apple, hay/grass, pale/biscuit-y malt, orange, lemon zest and funky yeast notes
- Taste: Zesty fresh fruit, tropical notes, pineapple, orange, grapefruit-y; a bit plastic-y, nutty yeast, pale malt backing, somewhat sweet ethanol bite
- Mouthfeel: Initial carbonation punch is a bit harsh and unexpected, but the middle and back are watery and lack body; finish is dry and slick
- Drinkability: Alcohol content is fairly well-hidden; lots of esters thrown around though. Bizarre, unbalanced body is a bit distracting