Brewery: Westbrook Brewing
Style: Imperial IPA
Cost: ???? (12oz)
Glassware: Snifter, Tulip
Purchased@: Beer Trade
Brew Date: Mid August
Drink Date: Mid October
Quick Take: This is one of the bigger disappointments I’ve come across after a pretty stellar run of beers. That isn’t to say it’s bad, it isn’t, but the heavy malt and lack of hops (and grapefruit actually) makes this simply a good beer. The lack of hop bite makes me a sad panda, but those that are only IPA curious may actually find a lot to like with the malt being the star of the show.
Brew Facts: The original 2011 release of Citrus Ninja Exchange saw 50lbs of grapefruit tossed in the fermentor and a rigorous 4 dry-hoppening schedule. This was done in collaboration with the Charleston Beer Exchange, a well-regarded bottle shop and growler fill store in Charleston, SC, only 10 miles away from Westbrook.
Appearance: This pours a headless, golden copper with a bit of haze. Great amber and deep orange hues give the color some depth if that matters. Lazy strings of foamy lace drape across the glass in ragged claw marks of bubbles. A swirl finds the expected slick, clear oil wash across the snifter. A nice look that suggests a heavy dose of malt.
Aroma: The nose follows the playbook, emanating heavy malt smells, but adds blood orange, a light lactose, and artificial sweetener to the mix. It’s like a creamy, sugared grapefruit peel with some booze coming along out for the ride. I’m surprised at how timid the grapefruit/citrus elements are for a beer called Citrus Ninja.
Taste/Mouth Feel: I sip, roll it around in my mouth, and find, unsurprisingly, a medium, malty body. What did surprise is the small-bubbled carbonation that borders flat. The lower carb lets the alcohol heat come through and the mouth feel to have a slicker quality than usual. Not ideal for a bold IPA. The initial taste has a soapy/floral undertone that marries to a lemony, candied presence that doesn’t taste like purely candied sugar. I may be getting interference from the malt, but the sugar has an artificial quality to it. Not a deal breaker, but it overcompensates for a bitterness that never consistently asserts itself. It seems to ebb and flow with each sip, never surging to a particularly bitter high until the final sip, which breaks the mild hopping to end on a pleasing spicy bitterness. The bottom of the bottle finds a stronger grapefruit and less sugary malt, so you may want to agitate it before pouring. Some tangy, lip sticky alcohol heat flairs on the finish, but at appropriate levels.
Final Thoughts: This is one of the bigger disappointments I’ve come across after a pretty stellar run of beers. That isn’t to say it’s bad, it isn’t, but the heavy malt and lack of hops (and grapefruit actually) makes this simply a good beer. Maybe my hopes were inflated as I’ve had great beers from Westbrook I had major expectations for the Ninja. Those expectations were clearly too high and that shouldn’t reflect negatively on the beer. That said, I find no reason to covet this one or really go out of my way to get it again. For those that have had the 1000 IBU Mikkeller beer, Citrus Ninja has a similar malt profile with the slightest touch more sweet grapefruit. The lack of hop bite makes me a sad panda, but those that are only IPA curious may actually find a lot to like with the malt being the star of the show.
Note: It has come to my attention through a trusted source that my experience with this beer is atypical. Claims of massive citrus and bitter hops make me think this bottle may have been older than anticipated. I will be trying this again when it is released next year with a emphasis on drinking it as fresh as possible.