Thursday, September 1, 2011

Day 38 (8/31/2011): The Oracle by Bell's Brewery

I was amazed to find some singles of these about a week after they were bottles up at Bell's earlier in August. Not only does it have an extremely limited distribution, but I found them for $2.99 a bottle! I only picked up a couple of them - one for myself and one for a trading partner - leaving the rest for whoever was lucky to find them. It was very, very difficult not to buy all of them that were there.

This is the much less talked about double IPA brother (or sister) to Hopslam. While everyone clamors for the latter, many don't even know the former exists. It seems far more of a limited release, so that might have something to do with it. What I found was that The Oracle is just as impressive (if nor more so, depending on your tastes) as Hopsmal, though it is an entirely different offering of the same style.

The Oracle pours a beautiful clear orange with a short, maybe one finger tall effervescent white head. It recedes quickly, leaving a slight bubbly layer on top of the body. The smell is hops, hops, hops. I get a ton of pine with a slight whiff of citrus-grapefruit. More pine - leff citrus and fruit than Hopslam. There is some sweetness, but this doesn't smell like a balanced beer, which here smells wonderful.

In a pleasant surprise, this beer ends up tasting magically balanced, despite the smell. There is a lot of grapefruit hoppiness up front, balanced with a strong malt backbone which never lets the hops get out of control. The only bitterness in this beer is in a pine finish. Usually I can't stand bitter finishes, but the sweetness stays on your tongue through it, tempering the bite a bit. Even though this is a 10% beer, there is hardyly any booze in the taste or on the tongue/throat They did a great job hiding the high ABV. If anything, it adds a nice spiciness to the flavor, reminiscent of a rye addition. This is certainly a big beer, but it drinks well with medium carbonation and body.

Boy, do I wish this was more readily available. I think I might actually like it more than Hopslam, though admittedly it's been since early this year since I've had a bottle of it. I would love it if they were released more closely together so I could do a side by side comparison without one of them being significantly older than the other. Which you will like is largely dependent on your tastes: this is definitely a more of a West Coast IPA with a lot of pine and resiny hops. Hopslam is more malt forward, with grapefruit and sweetness dominating the taste. You owe it to yourself to try both, though, if at all posible. I give The Oracle by Bell's Brewery an A.

(P.S. Keystone in Covington tapped a keg of this last night. If you're lucky and it hasn't kicked yet, you can go grab yourself a pint of it)

Style: American double/imperial IPA
ABV: 10%
IBU: ?
Beer Advocate: A-
Ratebeer: 100/99

Picked up from the Root Cellar in Kenwood for $2.99 a bargain. It is obviously distributed in Cincinnati, but if you're trying to find a bottle now, you're probably looking too late.

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