Magic Rock: Un-Human Cannonball (England: IIPA: 11% ABV)
Visual: Deep hazy yellow over ripe banana to bruised peach. Thin white bubbled head and some carbonation.
Nose: Mango. Dry. Dried apricot. Dried banana.
Body: Hugely juicy, yet with dry undertones. Banana. Lychee. Peach in syrup. Hop oils. Thick. Low level hop oil bitterness. Toffee.
Finish: Very full of lychee. Resinous. Peach. Key lime. Tart white grapes. Pineapple. Hop oil bitterness slowly builds. Very long lasting.
Conclusion: Wow, the aroma on this in no way hints at how booming it is going to be. The aroma is quite muted, with some dry fruit – not bad, but very restrained. There is no hop bitterness or even, in general, any hop feel, just subtle fruitiness.
Then you take the first sip and – boom! There is still no real bitterness, or much traditional hop character, but the fruit level just explodes. At this point there isn’t even much evident from the malt base, just a slight hint of a drier character under the massive amount of fruit, but that is about it.
However, the fruit, wow. Lychee, lots of lychee. Peach. Key lime. Sweet syrup and tart notes mixing in delicious ways – the sweeter mid body leading out into the tarter notes that last long into the finish. And oh does that finish last, I can take an age between sips and still those fruit juice notes cling.
Warmth does let a slight toffee base show itself, but it isn’t really the thing this beer is about. The body feels attenuated just enough to let it slip out of the way, but still have just enough base to really let the fruity hops explode. The more traditional character builds up over time and it both gives the body a bit more grip and makes the finish last even longer – it builds up more in a hop oil fashion than a crisp hop character, and gives an oily bitter character.
With the thickness of texture and flavour it often feels like a stewed fruit IPA, yet it still has that aforementioned dryness, especially in the finish, so it doesn’t get sickly and cloying.
Frankly an excellent IPA – juicy yet dry backed – well made with big flavours without needed to be a bitter hop bomb. Excellent and distinctive. I am always nervous approaching massively hyped beers like this, as you can find an average beer buoyed up by its rep, or a good beer that feels like a let down compared to its reputation. This, however, is great and well worth trying to find.
Background: I nearly didn’t get to try this. I missed out on a chance to sample it last year, and this year the shops sold out before I could grab a bottle. Thankfully someone mentioned that Colonna and Hunter had it on tap. So I grabbed my review kit and ran over to grab it. Apparently the most expensive beer C&H have had on, and they had special 1/6th glasses for it. I went for a half, because if you have the chance, you might as well. I don’t do many “In the field” tasting notes these days, when I am out with friends I try to be more social, as the more extended notes I do these days take a while to do. This, however, was a special occasion.