BEER REVIEW: Fat Tug IPA
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BEER REVIEW: Fat Tug IPA - Driftwood Brewery
Okay, I'm just going to come right out and say it: if you haven't tried Fat Tug IPA, stop reading this right now. Go and find yourself a bottle, drink it and come back. I'll be waiting right here to say "You're welcome."
Oh, you're back? Well...you're welcome. That was damn tasty, wasn't it?
If you're like me, you're a certified, unabashed hop head. It's not just a term of endearment, it's a way of life. You're a card-carrying member, proudly wearing the overpriced mail order t-shirt of sub-par quality, because you like hops and you want people to know, dammit! Okay, let's be honest - it's not really like that. Well, for the most part, anyway. Many people (who aren't necessarily considered beer "enthusiasts") often assume that a hop-forward beer is going to be devoid of flavour, and you know what? It pains me to admit that sometimes, they're right. There are some IPAs out there that try hard to be so damn bitter (is 128 IBUs really necessary?) that the actual product is unpalatable. But hey - real bitter, right? I'm more than happy to report that this beer isn't one of them.
STYLE: Northwest IPA
Fat Tug is one of the core beers produced by Driftwood Brewery in beautiful Victoria, British Columbia. You might notice I mentioned "Northwest" IPA. More than one kind of IPA, you say? Yep. The IPA boom really began more than a decade ago (they were being brewed long before that, and some would argue that they've peaked), and like anything, with so much of it being produced, regional styles were bound to become a natural byproduct. A delicious, tummy-tickling byproduct. In a nutshell, most Northwest IPAs tend to have a bigger malt profile than your classic west coast IPA, giving the beer a sweeter backbone in addition to the big hops that dominate the flavour. Fat Tug is a shining example of the style.
Okay, full disclosure: this is one of my favourite beer label designs out there - period. It's a simple blue/green colour scheme that artfully depicts a tug boat (what we can assume is "the" Fat Tug), battling the stormy seas while the menacing tentacles of the Kraken poke through the surface. Good luck sir. The artwork also features the Kraken in the lower left corner of the wrap-around label, in an interesting layout that makes the consumer actually take a good look at it. The colour also looks great on the 650 ml brown bottle that Fat Tug is housed in. As someone who works in marketing, I firmly believe that the name and label of a beer is an extension of the product itself. This is a great example of tasteful simplicity - beer companies, take note.
Bright, golden orange...just a beautiful thing, really. It's basically that mid-range tone between the dark orange-red and bright yellow on the fringe of a cherry sunburst Gibson Les Paul electric guitar. Once poured, it has a thick, creamy two-finger head that definitely wants to stick around for the long haul. You'll be at least a third of the way through this beast before the head starts giving away. Despite its intoxicating aroma basically begging you to take that first sip, you'll almost not want to, as this beer is visual poetry.
Oh boy. Fat Tug runs the gamut of aromatic emotion. The initial whiff gives off a strong dose of juicy melon, mango and orange with some nice floral notes. On the back end, the sweetness is evident, not just because of the malt, but there is a really distinct accent of honey. And behind that, the multi-layered aroma even has a subtle hint of mint, which isn't usual for this style, but adds a surprisingly pleasant element. With all its characteristics, this is essentially the American Ninja Warrior of beer aromas, and your nose is the hapless athlete that's inevitably going to end up in the pool.
"Despite its intoxicating aroma basically begging you to take that first sip, you'll almost not want to, as this beer is visual poetry."
Wow - so much to say, and not enough space! Well, there is, actually - this is my blog and I have all the room I want. This beauty starts out with all those fruit notes I mentioned above: juicy, tropical fruit combined with bright (not sweet) citrus accents for an explosion of fruity flavour. It's like a big bag of skittles, and I'm tasting the rainbow for sure. While all of this is happening, late in the party the sticky malt pokes its head in the door and asks everything to calm down a little. It's a nice evolution of flavour, and it's followed by a strong bitterness that one would expect from this style. It doesn't disappoint in this area - the bitter profile is big, bold, and lingers long after the finish. The whole experience is medium-bodied and pleasantly oily from the huge alpha acid content in the five hops used: cascade, columbus, centennial, amarillo and the wonderfully flavoured citra hop.
In my opinion, Fat Tug IPA is one of the most complex and flavourful IPAs available, regardless of region. I have no problem whatsoever putting it on par with some of the best IPAs from Canada- doing so would actually be my complete pleasure. It's also kind of funny (in a very juvenile way, of course) to say you're "going for/going to have a Fat Tug." Say that out loud in a public place and look around at the reaction. A word of advice, however: check the bottling dates on this beer before purchasing (it's printed faintly on the neck of the bottle). With any hop-strong beer, especially IPAs, fresher = better (always!). This is not a beer you'd want to cellar for a few months. I've had really fresh Fat Tug, and I've had "not-so-fresh" Fat Tug. Let's just say you'll always want to be on the first boat.
Now, let's hope that damn Kraken stays put for a while so you can enjoy this magnificent IPA.