Tasting Notes - Thornbridge Halcyon Imperial IPA

Words & Photos - Matthew Curtis

Now, you know me, I love American IPA, it’s the holy grail of beer as far as I’m concerned so surely my absolute favourite beer of all time must certainly hail from the United States, right? Well if you’d asked me a few months ago you’d probably have been right but when it comes to lip-smacking hop-bombs the UK have upped the ante.

Take a look at Summer WineBrodiesThe Kernel and Magic Rock (to name but a few), these guys are setting the brewing world on fire with their stunning range of brews and I’m positive that these brewers will win international awards for their efforts in the not too distant future. Perhaps it’s because we Brits have a dryer palate that our breweries seem to produce a much more crisp, slightly more bitter version of American style IPA and it’s because of this that I think we are producing the best IPA in the world at the moment.

Halcyon and on and on

I’m a fickle man by nature and my opinion on things is always changing and so for me a piece of writing such as this is a snapshot of now and not set in stone but I believe the beer I am about to write about is arguably the best interpretation of my favourite style of beer. The brewery is Thornbridge, made famous for Jaipur which for the record DOES NOT SUCK and if you think it’s changed then maybe it’s not the beer but it is you that has changed. Your palate may have sampled so much hoppy delight that it’s simply risen to a higher plane just like Cordelia Chase at the climax of Angel season 3.

Before I go on I must enthuse that I have paid for every bottle of Thornbridge beer that I have ever drunk and have no association with either the brewery or any of the retailers that sell it, I just love their beer, plain and simple. That said I was a little bit mortified when I saw Simon from CAMRGB post a less than flattering review over on his blog this morning which for parities sake you can read here. I have had this review on the back burner for a few weeks while I worked on my Bruges write up and in answer to Simon I feel that today is a good day to post this review. That’s the wonderful thing about beer though, isn’t it, how it divides our opinion and inspires us to write. If we all liked exactly the same thing the beer blogosphere would be a terribly dull place indeed.

I pull the nicely chilled bottle out of the fridge and crack open the top and even before I pour I get a hint of the airy, zesty notes that are about to leap forth from my glass. It pours the colour of light golden straw and as the evening sunlight pours through the glass the beer appears to be almost luminescent. A nice head of foam forms on top of the beer which dies down pretty quickly leaving a healthy halo of bubbles indicating that this bottle is in great condition. The nose is big, no scratch that the nose is gigantic with notes of grapefruit, pine and lemon zest caressing my nostrils. These aromas translate beautifully onto the palate, a bitter medley of citrus fruits and a refreshing quality as bright as a spring meadow. The malts are present, holding this beer up but only in terms of creating a round, balanced mouthful and not making it overly chewy or sweet. The finish is crisp, dry and ultimately enticing, it’s almost impossible to resist taking another sip after you swallow and the 7.4% ABV is barely detectable.

Halcyon is a beautiful, fruity, zingy, bitter beer and is in a single word, superb. It has literally every quality I look for in an IPA and leaves no box unchecked. Perhaps Simon has found himself in a situation similar to when I reviewed Stone IPA a couple of months ago where the hops had deteriorated in the bottle, next time I buy some Halcyon I will be sure to (against my better wishes) let a bottle deliberately deteriorate and see if I get the same results as he did and I will be sure to let you all know what I find.