This is going to be a bit of a challenge. But I am privileged to be one of the first (if not the very first) to review this beer for you. As Highland Brewing Co. works on a new spring seasonal, a couple casks of this one leaked out so to speak. One of which landed near me, and I jumped at the chance to grab a growler of it as Highland just happens to be one of my favorites producers of beer.
Here's what little I know about this unique IPA: it's about 6.2% ABV and is an amber ale that is dry-hopped to finish the ale at 70 IBUs. It comes from Highland's small batch pilot brewery and is supposed to only be available at the brewery itself until ready for distribution and mass consumption. I would imagine these "test" casks are sent out to test the market a bit. So much could change before it hits mass consumption. But based on what I tasted, I hope that it doesn't. Let's pour a pint and see where this goes.
Pours a solid amber with a good size two finger head which dissipates fairly quickly. And when I say "solid amber" I mean it is dark, very dark, and glows red when you hold it up to the light. Looks both intriguing and delicious.
Smell is fairly malty underneath with floral hops bouncing through. Already appears like the red ale and malts will be the canvas on which the hops will paint their hoppy floral picture. Another sniff and I pick up some sweet, perhaps caramel. It has a very curious aroma. The floral hops are unmistakable. Yet, both my eyes and my nose are telling me this will be nice and malty.
Taste is also very unique and much, much different from the Kashmir IPA and other beers that Highland produces. At the front there is a definitive hoppy bite and bitterness. Good citrusy kick that melds into a roasty flavor distinctive of amber ales. On the back the ale gives way to a piney, resinous taste that is both deep and crisp. Each sip has undertones of roasted malt that play nice with the brisk bitterness of the beer. One second it feels like a solid IPA, the next it's much more balanced and complex. Not only does the malt balance out the beer overall, but the hops are a good compliment of both floral and fruit. This is very enjoyable to drink.
The mouthfeel is crisp, although not overwhelmed by the carbonation. Smooth flow from beginning to end, not boozy at all. Afterwards there is some stickiness to it, but it's hard to tell if it comes from the malt or the hops. My guess is the hops as it has that trademark resiney feel on the roof of your mouth, but like the taste it is balanced out by the sweetness of the amber ale malts.
Overall this is going to (probably) be a unique addition to the Highland lineup. It doesn't have the drinkability/sessionability of their Little Hump Spring Ale and it's much more complex than the Kashmir IPA. I like beers that make you think while you drink and really challenge your taste buds. In that vein, this one definitely doesn't disappoint. The amber ale is a great base for the dry-hopped flavor that (allegedly) the Calypso and Columbus hops produce. Very good beer. Exactly what you come to epxect from Highland, one of the best breweries out there.
So look for Wolf Den IPA later this spring on shelves and taps. Or maybe even earlier as I could see this red ale IPA as a mystery cask at a beer festival or two this winter.