Dorian Hargrove 11:39 a.m., May 23
The sound of a keg of triple IPA being tapped resonates like the screech of a dog whistle calling hopheads from far and wide to whatever bar’s been lucky enough to procure a keg of Russian River Pliny the Younger or Dogfish Head 120-Minute IPA. Of all beer styles, IIIPA is the holy grail for American beer drinkers. Crafting one of these ultra-hopped numbers is difficult; a true test of a brewer’s abilities.
Recently, when a local brewer told me he was giving it a go, I applauded his ambition while silently wondering if he’d be able to pull off that tall task. The go-getting craftsman in question is Dan Love, owner and head brewer at Vista’s Mother Earth Brew Co.
He regularly collaborates on experimental beers conceived in collaboration with Grant Tondro, the owner of Rancho Bernardo’s Urge American Gastropub. Big Mother Triple IPA is the latest in a successful line of the duo's devising that’s yielded such successful forays as last November’s chocolate and vanilla Mother’s Milk Cream Ale.
This latest special edition beer comes in at 10.8% ABV and a whopping 140 Nelson hop-borne international bittering units. To put things in perspective, breaking 100 IBUs is a big deal for most hoppy beers. Coming in at 140 is like a MLB pitcher hitting 102 on the radar gun. But how does it taste and, just as important, how does it hold up to Pliny and 120-Minute?
The mother of all blind tastings. From the left, Russian River Pliny the Younger, Dogfish Head 120-Minute IPA, and Mother Earth Brew Co. Big Mother Triple IPA.
The answer to that last one is admirably. I recently tried all three in a blind tasting and, while I gravitated toward Pliny the Younger as my personal fave, I felt Big Mother came in far ahead of 120-Minute. The beer pours a slow-burning ember hue, exhibiting great clarity and a bouquet that, with its papaya, mango, and passion fruit notes, is like sticking one’s nose in a gift basket full of tropical fruit.
The real treat comes on the first sip. Pronounced grapefruit notes hit first, giving way to a semisweet roundness, followed by a finish with savory hints of deeply brûléed sugar. Love used both honey and agave nectar to boost the beer’s fermentable sugars. The result is a texture that isn’t as sticky as Pliny and is far less sugary than 120-Minute.
But don’t take my word. Big Mother will be tapped twice this week at Urge—in tandem with 120-Minute at 4 p.m. this Monday (March 5), then Tuesday at 4 p.m. along with Pliny the Younger. Triple the triple. Drink it up, hopaholics. Urge Gastropub is located at 16761 Bernardo Center Drive.