Size 7 IPA from Steel Toe Brewing is I think my favorite Minnesota-made IPA. Having honed his skills in the Pacific Northwest, brewer Jason Schoneman likes IPAs that favor hop flavor and aroma over palate peeling bitterness. That’s my kind of IPA. I love the juicy fruits and pine sap. I’m not so crazy about the bitter.
I’m also not crazy about double IPAs. They tend to be overly bitter or overly syrupy for my taste; a lot of hops an little else or under-attenuated and sticky. There are a few that I enjoy; Avery Maharaja and Pliny the Elder come to mind. But even those I’m pretty much done with after one glass.
Given how much I like Size 7 though, I was intrigued by the prospect of a Steel Toe double IPA. I figured if I were going to like anyone’s version it would be Jason’s. I somehow missed last year’s release of Size 11. This year I made sure to pick up a bottle before it disappeared.
Here’s my notes:
Aroma: A basket of juicy fruits. In fact it reminds me a bit of Juicy Fruit gum. Kiwi, tangerines, and tropical fruits like mango. Underneath is a light, grainy maltiness, with subtle tones of biscuit and toast that get stronger as is warms.
Appearance: Medium amber to copper and very clear. A towering cap of creamy, ivory foam that lasts all the way to the bottom of the glass.
Flavor: Hops are king and bitterness is high, but it’s not insane. There is enough malt there to maintain balance. It’s malty but not sweet. Caramel notes combine with the biscuit and toast that carry over from the aroma. Toast gets stronger as it warms. It’s just a guess, but I’d say that there is a good bit of Munich or some such malt in there. It dries out in the end, leaving it refreshing. Now let’s get back to those hops. The bitterness has a sharp, mineral quality and leaves a cooling sensation on the back of my throat. Those fruits from the aroma come back in the flavor. It’s that same juicy fruit gum thing, but this time with some herbs added. Mint? Bitterness lingers, but it isn’t astringent. Hop flavors hang around with it. Dry finish to keep it light.
Mouthfeel: Medium body. Medium carbonation.
Overall Impression: I’m the oddball who first considers the malt in an IPA. I know the hops will be there. I want to know what else is going on. Jason didn’t neglect the malt. It isn’t just there to keep the hops company. It adds interest of its own and is a nearly equal partner to the hops in the overall experience of the beer. It’s nicely layered and complex. The hops dominate but don’t overwhelm. This might be my new favorite DIPA. I’m sorry I only bought one bottle.