A session beer this is not. The first clue is the bomber, the second the brewer. If you also get past the radiating hops, imperial designation, and ABV/IBU attributes without realizing this, then you’re in for quite the surprise. We’re quite fond of Lickinghole Creek (LCCB) around here, but even then this elicited a “whoa…” at the dinner table. Much of what we love about these guys has to do with the immense amount of flavor they coax out of their lineup. That’s before getting into the flavor experimentation itself, which tends to be right out in front of the fashionable styles (such as certain spicy mango habañero or wet hopped offerings), or LCCB being one of VA’s early leaders in locally sourced, farm grown ingredients. With all that going for them, I was drawn to this beer by something else: the promise of my favorite kind of IPA.
Nuclear Nugget, Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery (Goochland, VA) – @LCCB_FarmBrews
Imperial IPA, ABV 10.5%, IBU 105
Presentation: Bomber pour into snifter.
Taste: “Honey! It’s made from honey!” If you successfully identified that movie quote, you have my undying admiration and friendship. And for this beer, it’s oh so true, even if it’s not actually mead. The nose leads with a very ambitious blast of LCCB’s locally sourced honey. As you let this complex monster sit on your tongue (and I do suggest you try out both quick sips and longer pulls to see the difference), you should pick up a bevy of herbs such as some slightly spicy and earthy thyme in addition to a smooth caramel/malt backbone. Typically I’m sensitive to Centennial hops, and those certainly come through on the back of your tongue in the finish though in this case I didn’t find it quite as overpowering. The herbal notes come from the Nugget hops from which the beer derives its name, and as for the nuclear, well…
ABV/IBU: …You will feel every bit of those 105 IBUs by the time you’ve finished your second or third sip. More like 105 megatons of hops. The sweeter flavors do mellow out the alcohol, so be careful to keep this one in a smaller glass. It took me nearly four hours to make it through this bomber, and even that felt fast.
Overall: LCCB warns that this beer is neither delicate nor subtle. But as I hinted earlier, I really enjoy honey in my IPAs. It can make or break certain beers, elevating them from an exercise in hop tolerance to one of precision and balance between the sweet and bitter flavors. Keeping this beer unfiltered is also a good move, and your palate will thank you after that slow radiation burn that is the first minute or so. But holy schnikes does this Imperial call down some righteous hop thunder. The flavors are absolutely wonderful, though, and it’s that precision which keeps this beer balanced in the end. There’s a bit of something for everyone, from the sweet aroma and spicy flavor profile to the hop bitterness…so long as this isn’t your first experience with a palate wrecking beer.