Big Sky Brewing Company is a Montana-based brewery that has been operating since the mid-1990’s. Two of the brewers are Michigan natives who got their start homebrewing, then started Big Sky after relocating to Missoula. Big Sky is probably best known for its brown ale, Moose Drool (which I will be reviewing in the next few weeks), but I’ve been doing a run of warmer weather beers and picked up a few IPA’s I’ve never had, this being one of them.
For those who are new to beer, India Pale Ales (IPA) are beers that tend to be a bit higher in alcohol and whose main flavor and aroma feature is hops. IPA’s are high in bitterness units (IBU’s), but are often balanced with a strong malt backbone. Depending on the hops used, the aromas can vary from very citrusy (especially grapefruit) to a sharper, more organic aroma often described as “cat pee.” IPA’s are one of my favorite styles of beer.
Big Sky IPA pours a caramel/amber color that is clear with a nice, fluffy, off-white head. The aroma caught me off guard, containing something I had trouble putting my finger on, but that was very pleasant. I decided it’s a tangerine-like aroma, citrusy, but not the grapefruit I normally get from IPA’s, and definitely not orange.
On my first sip that tangerine tone carried through both early on and late in the flavor profile, with a little coming through, along with a lot of grapefruit, on the aftertaste. I also caught a lot of alcohol on my first sip. According to Big Sky’s website, this beer weighs in at 6.2% ABV and 65 IBU’s. Long into the aftertaste of the first sip, grapefruit was still noticeable with some nice bitterness more felt than tasted on the tongue.
This is definitely a hop-forward beer, with a lot of bitterness and hop flavor and that grapefruit and tangerine dominating the flavor and aroma. It’s hard to describe, but there definitely is some malt balance in the middle of the flavor, but the initial flavors, and those that roll off the middle of a sip are all hops. That initial blast of alcohol I got on the first sip disappeared as I drank, but there was a bit of alcohol in the flavor profile, as well.
Big Sky IPA has a nice mouthfeel and body, with a slightly higher carbonation than some of the IPA’s I’ve been having recently. I am really enjoying this beer. It is really hoppy without being cloying or a bitter bomb, as some of the West Coast IPA’s tend to be (which I also like, don’t get me wrong!). This is an easy beer to drink, but I found myself really sipping it and enjoying all of that interesting citrus flavor.