After making a trip to the west coast this summer, it's a reminder of how hard it is to get excited about most Midwestern IPAs. It's similar to the difference between the freshness of seafood on the coast versus land locked states. In west coast IPA's the citrus hop nose and flavors just leap out at you, while their Midwestern cousins are far more tame and ordinary. Several Midwestern brewers take worthy stabs at it, such as Bell's formidable Two Hearted Ale and their powerhouse Hopslam, Founders Double Trouble and the Centennial, Three Floyd's brilliant Dreadnaught and the English-styled Blackheart, which is very underrated. Surly's unique Furious is a very aggressively hopped IPA from the Land O' Lakes. Perhaps the best of the bunch that I've tried so far is Dark Horse's Crooked Tree IPA.
Described as a "west coast style" IPA, Crooked Tree makes an impressive run at closing the Midwest-West Coast gap, which will never rival Biggie vs. Tupac, but may be a debate that will stir more interest some day thanks to brewers like Dark Horse. Similar to many West Coast IPAs, Crooked Tree hits you with an aggressive hop profile on the nose; those alpha acids fill your sockets with pine and citrus. I had the pleasure of having this one at the Fiddler's Hearth in South Bend in an English style 20 oz. pint glass, which allowed the Crooked Tree to prominently display its proud cumulus head. It has that classic spartan nature of a west coast IPA, with a lean body grounded in hops overriding the less pronounced malts. Each sip offers rugged, biting piney flavor and some citrus fruit. The delicate malts smooth this out on the palate just enough but never disturb the beer's hop focus. It has a highly concentrated mouth feel and plenty enough bite to thoroughly entertain the palate upon each sip. There's a bit of grain on the finish. Like all great beers, it was satisfying throughout and leaves you wanting another. It has a substantial alcohol profile, however - I'd say it's around 6 or 7 %.
Crooked Tree is a great beer and one of the best IPA's I've had. And I've had a lot. It is the best such I've had in the Midwest and I highly recommend finding it on tap. It drinks wonderfully out of a bottle too with an, expectedly, more modest nose.
I would rank this as 4.75 out of 5 stars. Superb.