I always enjoy getting to review (and obviously drink) beers from out of state, ones that I most likely wouldn’t come in contact with. Don’t get me wrong, I love drinking and reviewing local beers and getting them some publicity, and I also love traveling and visiting breweries (just yesterday I was in Wellsboro Pennsylvania, visited the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, and visited the restaurant and brewery – The Wellsboro House), but its also nice getting beers to review, from family, co-workers, and friends. (Hint…. hint…. for any friends, family, etc reading this…. )
A co-worker, Jam, was coming back from South Carolina, and he stopped at a bottle / can shop and grabbed a few beers for me and other co-workers. From Jam, I received a bottle of ‘Up The Creek Extreme Ale’, a can of Sidestepper (Charles Town Fermentary), a can of Pixels (Seminar Brewing), and a can of of a Red Ale / IPA by a collaboration with a radio station (the name eludes me and I left it in my friend’s fridge; but it had a tiger on it, thus why Jam got it for me due to me liking the Bengals). So this is the first of the South Carolina series of brews I’ll be reviewing. (I’ll be doing Sidestepper soon, because I just recently drank that; haven’t gotten to drink the others yet, will probably do the Pixels beer while streaming with D. Scott over at Knights of Nostalgia).
Quickly, before I go too much further, I want to throw a quick shout out to Josh; who is jumping back into the reviewing game (don’t call it a comeback son, he never left). He will have his first review since his Beer Review of Adroit Theory’s COLONIZATION back on November 11th, 2019. Stay tuned, I’m sure you won’t want to miss his newest beer review!
Now…. onto the review!
Beer: Up The Creek Extreme Ale
Brewery: Thomas Creek Brewery
Style: IPA – Imperial / Double
Untappd Description: Up The Creek is a hoppy behemoth of a beer with its 12.5% ABV well hidden under heavy layers of malt. The hops come through powerfully in the mouth, with rich roasted malt, sweet caramel, and a burst of vinous fruit. The finish is malty sweet and fruity, while the hops dissipate. Use caution or you’ll be Up The Creek!
Ok…. so firstly, let me just say, this is the highest IBU we’ve reviewed here on the blog. Probably by a pretty far margin. The highest IBU I’ve ever had, according to the Untappd records of beers I drank is – Gyroscopes and Infrared by Broken Goblet. It was 174 IBU. After that it was the Mean Manalishi Double IPA by Hoppin’ Frog Brewery, clocking in 168 IBU, and in third place is Mango Bomb by Pizza Boy – clocking in at 162 IBU. Up The Creek Extreme Ale is number 7 on my list (according to Untappd), and if you count home brews (at a home brew event I had one that would be number 5 on my list; called Idiot Parade by McCarthy Brewing.)
IBU is a term for IPAs that means: “International Bitterness Units are a chemical/instrumental measurement of the number of bittering compounds, specifically isomerized and oxidized alpha acids, polyphenols, and a few other select bittering chemicals, that make your beer taste bitter. (Last Call for IBUs: Fact, Fiction and What They Mean in Your Beer – May 3, 2017). Overall, its a term that’s not being used as much in the industry anymore, and many brewers aren’t even bothering with testing it or listing it when listing their beers on platforms like Untappd or Beer Advocate. But its still a valuable tool and measurement when it is listed, and I still like to keep track of it, and include it when doing the beer reviews here. Its just not the be – all – end – all it used to be in terms of understanding IPAs (especially since New England IPAs seem to be more mainstream now, actually, being made more than regular old school West Coast style IPAs).
This is an old fashioned high octane ‘pushing the envelope’ West Coast style IPA. Appearance and look for this is on the malty end of IPAs (West Coast IPAs). It has a brown / amber hue, slightly transparent, but mostly opaque. Malt colored and malt looking like a malt bomb through and through. Caramel colored. It has a very rich, frothy, foamy head to it, thick, creamy looking with lots of bubbles.
Aroma is caramel, sweet roasted malt, and then pungent face-punching, nose walloping, hop explosion (can’t even call it aroma, its about as subtle as a sledgehammer to the gonads). You get the idea that this is going to be bitter just by the hop nose to it, and the malt sweetness does nothing to cover it past that initial whiff of the malt.
This doesn’t quite live up to the description provided by Untappd. The Untappd description gives you the impression there’s a bit of hype to this, that there’s more complexity to this than there really is. It starts off with the barest of traces of sweet, or caramel, malt. And then takes a very heavy swan dive off the cliff into a sea of hops. A sea of bitterness, of super hop flavor, super hop bitterness, super hop everything. Overpoweringly so. Too much so. A blend and cornucopia of hops, that doesn’t let you really even distinguish and unique hop flavors or notes. Its just straight hop bitterness in such an overwhelming display of raw power and hop (bitterness) that it doesn’t leave you tasting much of anything else. The malt taste is so minuscule and minimal you don’t taste any of it as soon as you get your first taste of the hops. Unlike the description, the hops don’t really ‘dissipate’, they stay there, punching you like a… like a… like a hop drinking punching bag…. yea… like that! There is definitely no dissipation here. I also don’t really get any ‘fruity’ ending to this. Maybe subtle stone fruit notes… but I think its so awash from the hop bitterness that its too hard to tell, and its too hard to differentiate between hop notes and fruit (stone or otherwise) notes. I think its all just a blend, and whatever notes are supposed to be in there, are so overpowered by the hop bitterness, that its too impossible to tell or to be able to pull them out and take note of them or actually savor them. Now… all of this is to say its not a bad beer; its just not… a great beer. And particularly not my style as much anymore. I do like West Coast style IPAs, and the New England IPA craze hasn’t diminished that; its just… this is too much. Too bitter, too hoppy, not enough actual flavor to it, and too hard to differentiate and tell the various hop notes apart from each other. I’m sure theres lots of ‘ultra’ or ‘uber’ hop heads or hop nerds or beer nerds out there who will love this, and all the better for it and for them, this just isn’t particularly my favorite or something I would outright pursue again.
My Untappd Rating: ***.50
Global Untappd Rating: 3.60 (as of 10.10.20)
Be sure to check out some of our recent beer reviews:
- Dreams of Orgonon (Human Robot)
- Unicorns Stomping Spotted Lanternflies (Saucony Creek Brewing Company)
- Griddle (Funk Brewing Company)
- Esmeralda (Ministry of Brewing)
- Out of Order: Blue Milk (RAR Brewing)
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Peace, cheers, and prost!