Captain Lawrence, Xtra Gold

Grade: A
Captain Lawrence Brewing Co.

I figured that since I sang the praises of this beer in the previous post, it deserved the full Burgers and Brews treatment, and not just a passing impression from a festival. You've probably heard me espouse the view on this blog that Belgian IPAs are the holy grail of brewing. It's just beyond our grasp, the chemistry of Belgian yeast paired with American hops is an undiscovered country, full of wild wonders and horrible pitfalls. I wanted to be there when the science met the imagination, when the worlds of Belgian ale and American hop bombs could be one. To that end I've tried many an essay in the craft, hoping each time that the next would achieve this lofty goal, and I've been let down terribly every time. But this time friends, this time...I believe I have found the holy grail...and it's made in New York.

Crystal clear and light golden straw in color, with a frothy pure white head that laces the glass nicely. Hops are foremost in the aroma, citrus, peach, a tiny little bit of pine, and maybe some pineapple. Upon swirling it around a little, the Belgian aromas come out, the slight spice and banana mixing and mingling with the hops in a very interesting, and intriguing way. There is a very nice and pronounced hop flavor in the first sip, the peach and pineapple coming through loud and clear.

The most interesting part, however, is the fact that the hops carry almost no bitterness with them. The flavor evolves from the hoppy and citrus forward first sip into the more Belgian flavors of clove and banana. The finish is incredibly smooth, balanced, and dry. Exactly what you'd expect from a classic Belgian golden strong ale. The way this beer progresses in one sip is a miracle to me. The ability to take the best parts of both an IPA and a Belgian golden strong (i.e. the huge floral aroma and flavor of hops and the complex esters from Belgian yeast) and blend them together is something many have strived for, but few have attained. And I would argue no one has achieved the balance that Captain Lawrence has. At the end of every sip I'm left with such a wonderful mix of hops, malt, and fruit esters that my hand unconsciously reaches for the glass again and again.