Firestone Walker: Leo Vs Ursus: Fortem (USA: IIPA: 8.2% ABV)

Visual: Apricot colour with a light haze. Lots of small bubbled carbonation and a yellowed mound of bubbles for the head.

Nose: Floral. Vanilla. Tangerine. Pine cones. Crisp. Pickle touched hop oils deep in. Oily in general later on. Pumpkin. Apricot.

Body: Apricot. Prickling. Carrot cake. Peach syrup. Vanilla. Thick whipped cream. Slight sour cream. Sour grapes. Hop oils. Dill pickle touch. Sour dough. Creamy kiwi and lime. Oily bitterness. Pumpkin.

Finish: Oily bitterness. Mandarin orange. Peach. Prickling hops. Sour cream and chives. Dill pickle touch. Dried apricot. Creamy lime. Vanilla custard.

Conclusion: Firestone Walker, long time no see, hope you hold up to my memories. So, I was happy to see from early on onwards that it is complex and layered as all get out. It is lightly floral and tart at the start, then the aroma seeps into heavier, oilier notes bringing out mustier and thicker dried mango, pumpkin and apricot notes that finish off the nasal experience. That may sound bad, I mean it in a good way, a crisp introduction that leads to a full experience.

Now the hops are less prickly and bitter than you would expect. Then again I found out while drinking this that it is over a year old, so that could explain a lot. It is instead an oily, seeping slow bitterness instead of the fresh hop kick. Or maybe the beer was like that all along and age did nothing. If you have drunk it fresh please let me know.

The fruitiness hasn’t been reduced though – thick apricot matched against a savoury carrot cake contrast that also gives a heavier character to this – a fuller feel, made fuller still by a mild savoury cream and chives note which adds a slight sour tang under the sweeter character.

The beer starts initially only ok due to the lighter hop presence, but builds weight and matching thick, oily notes that bring huge fruit range and light savoury contrast. Now, not every note hits it out of the park – there is a dill pickle sourness if you dig deep into it which needs a bigger contrasting flavour to make it work. Then again that could be due to age again, and fresher hops would have matched it better. Any which way this is generally the kind of IIPA I like – Big, rewarding, not overly sweet, nor assault bitterness, but balanced in the elements.

So, now I wonder would this feel rougher fresh, bigger? Would I have enjoyed it as much young, or has age turned it into my kind of beer? I enjoyed it, that is the main thing, however it came about.

Background: Been a while since I did a Firestone Walker beer – a few stores seem not to store them since Duvel Moortgat bought them up. So, while I was grabbing a few rarities from beerhawk online I put in a can of this. Thought I would see how they were doing post being bought up for myself. I did notice during drinking that this was canned over a year ago. Now I am not part of the cult of freshness that says fresh is always better – even big IPAs I’ve found can sometimes do with a few weeks to month to settle down before drinking, but a year is quite a time for a hop led beer. Ah well, let’s see how it goes. It was very warm when I drank this, so was nice to have a good chilled IIPA to sip down. I put on Garbage V2.0 on to listen to – 20th anniversary of its release and it is still great. Also I feel old.

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