As a self-confessed Cloudwater fanboy, I was absolutely delighted when my Brother's girlfriend revealed my Christmas gift of two shiny new beers to try from the Manchester based brewery's Winter Range; The Australian Hopfen Weisse and the Winter IPA. To celebrate the first #Craftbeerhour of 2016, I decided to treat myself and review the IPA, and I'm pleased to report that like most Cloudwater brews, it doesn't disappoint. Weighing in at a hefty 8%, just one per cent shy of their fantastic Double IPA released back in November, the Winter IPA pours a dark, hazy golden colour, with a slightly off-white and modestly frothy head. The beer is moderately well carbonated, with this particular bottle having beer packaged up less than a month ago.
Straight away on the nose there is the distinctly West-Coast IPA hop aroma, with lots of juicy peach-like smells emanating from the 70kg of aroma hops used in the beer. Mosaic and Simcoe are two of my favourite hops, and this beer really showcases them at their best. The aroma really does bear remarkable similarities to their DIPA, which also used Simcoe, Vic Secret, Chinook and Pacific Jade aroma hops.
The similarities don't end there, however, with the same Pilgrim Alpha acid Co2 extract used for bittering in both beers. I'm somewhat skeptical about the use of Co2 hop extracts, but the bitterness really carries through the beer with a more than subtle hint of spice accompanying it. The initial taste is definitely one of grapefruit, but this quickly fades to something more herbal as I progress further down my glass. There is, however, an extremely zesty, bitter finish that I'm not hugely keen on, but this is only a minor quibble.
The real beauty of this beer is definitely in it's use of hop character, making the choice of Maris Otter and Pale malts somewhat an inevitability. However, the beer does not feel thin at any point, with enough of a malty backbone to ensure that I'm not simply blown away by hops and nothing else. Overall the beer feels extremely balanced and certainly not too boozy; quite an achievement for a beer of its strength.
In this Winter IPA, Cloudwater have made another stand-out beer, capable of standing alongside the DIPA and Autumn Red Ale as one of the best they have produced thus far as a brewery. I'm extremely excited to see what else they have up their sleeves for later in 2016.