We write a lot about hops at this site because Shaun and I love them. While that lucky dog Shaun's apparently been helping himself to the Pacific Northwest hop harvest ales like Ponce de Leon lapping up the fountain of youth, I've been stuck here in the Midwest sifting through for nuggets of hop goodness. Three Floyds makes this job much easier. Our latest theme has been hop harvest beers and I need to indulge in a Broo Doo in order to stay relevant here; but that hasn't shown up on tap yet. Review forthcoming. Meanwhile, I indulged in a hop monster that's been around for awhile that I've yet to review, Three Floyds Arctic Panzer Wolf.
The Floyds don't like telling you what's in their beer. You just have to know the code. It makes them dangerous and scary but the coolest explanation would be that they really do code their beers to keep the uniformed off of them. That makes Floyds drinkers part of a club of sorts. Sometimes they throw you a hint. For example, Alpha King probably takes its name from the alpha bittering acids derived from hops that are stored in the three most prominent uber-bitter hops comprising that beer. Usually they make you guess at the nomenclature.
When a friend of mine, a year or so ago, told me that a new Three Floyds brew, Arctic Panzer Wolf was on tap at the Whole Foods palace store in Lincoln Park, I didn't know what to think. The name gave no clues about it. You never know with Three Floyds. Was it a Belgian? A fruity beer? Was it a hop blast? Once I found out it was an imperial IPA, you'd better believe I had my ticket punched and was on the lookout for it.
I've had it a number of times now, most recently at the recently-opened Farmhouse Bar on Chicago Ave. in River North, conveniently right off the Brown Line stop. A friend of mine and I stopped in there for my first visit to find they had Panzer Wolf on tap. I was dying for an IPA and brother I got my fill. When you crave an IPA and it's well presented to you, it's almost an emotional experience. The friendly bartender served it up in a tall tulip glass with a wide bottom. It fanned out at the top allowing for an opulent hop bouquet.
Arctic Panzer Wolf has a dense, foamy head, and underneath it, a beautiful pale orange body that's rather opaque. It has a very clean smell, grapefruit, pine, desert flowers. Intense is the flavor as grapefruit socks you again and again. Miraculously, it does not have the disturbing drying effect that I get with Port's Mongo. Its finish is sharp and alarmingly bitter and momentarily seems as if it's going to become overwhelming but always rights itself. This slows your pacing but makes you crave your next sip. The hops are piney and juicy with that monstrous grapefruit.
Its label mate, the Dreadnaught, is far tamer and more regal. Panzer Wolf is the harsher of the two yet tamed with enough imperial malts to ease what would be tundra like conditions. I suppose that explains the name. They chose a steely-eyed white creature that roams the harshest frozen conditions in search of survival to explain this beer. It's cold and harsh but there are means of survival as the malts guide you through. You can't see them because you're blinded by the blizzard-like hop assault. They're always there though. Like polar air, the same harshness of this beer is refreshingly crisp.
Let me add that Three Floyds's IPA lineup is plain stunning. How a Midwestern brewer makes two glorious tropical IPA's, Dreadnaught and Arctic Panzer Wolf, then a third IPA, the creamy, English styled Blackheart, and a fourth, the unusually milky Apocalypse Cow (brewed with lactose sugars), all in terrific, complex, bold, yet balanced fashion is beyond me. Most west coast brewers would pretend to an IPA lineup this deep. Add in the robustly hoppy Alpha King, and tack on the venerable Zombie Dust, and you have a breathtaking hops lineup. Breathtaking.
While Dreadnaught is clearly the star of the show, Panzer Wolf hits cleanup in this order and may be the bigger revelation in the sense that Three Floyds has created another imperial IPA at the same 9% level that's very dissimilar but still marvelous.
4.7 of 5 stars.