9 May 2021
Beer: Big Smile
Style: Imperial IPA
Brewery: Hop Valley
Location: Eugene, OR
Hops: Citra© Cryo Hops©
Big IPAs can sometimes be overwhelming. Once you move into the realm of the “imperials” flavor can fall off in favor of the higher alcohol content. Or, worse, brewers can just throw hops at the beer to cover up this taste resulting in what tastes like a bottle of hop puree. I’ve had enough of these for the rest of my life, and hope to avoid them when I can.
With that said, I took a risk on an imperial IPA that I hadn’t seen before: Big Smile from Hop Valley, in Eugene, OR. I’m always won over by the colorful and creative labels on their beers and their clever names (for instance their Citrus Mistress IPA). Because of their steady availability and constantly being on sale, I’ve drank a lot of Hop Valley’s brews during COVID. I’m almost always happy with them (save their Red Can lager), and this one was no different.
Big Smile is a bold and potent beer, tipping the scales at 9.2% ABV. The taste of this strong beer is entirely masked by a skillful use of Citra© Cryo Hops©. This resulted in a tasty if not dangerous creation. The beer itself tastes like a fairly standard IPA. Sitting at 67 IBUs, it isn’t especially bitter and is at the lower end of the IBU ratings for the style. The underlying malt is undetectable, which is common for any style of IPA made in Oregon or the Pacific Northwest more broadly. Overall, the taste is bright and a bit fruity. Given that the only hops used is Citra©, this is to be expected. Their decidedly citrus tones are the most prominent element of Big Smile’s flavor profile. If you don’t like this type of hops, this beer is not for you.
All of this said, Big Smile is a good tasting and easy drinking beer. Generally this would be all I need to rate a beer quite highly. However, because it clocks in at 9.2% ABV, being so easy to drink is a bit of a problem for Big Smile. I found this out personally when I drank the six-pack in a rather short amount of time, not realizing quite how much it was effecting me. This was – at least in part – because I never got the quintessential (for me) “you’ve had too much” taste in the back of my throat. All I tasted and felt in my descent to incoherency was the deliciousness of this beer. This, coupled with its flavor being rather standard for an IPA these days, led me to putting Big Smile at a mid-tier ranking overall. Would I buy this beer again? Yes, in a heartbeat. But I would be more inclined to reach for something a bit different depending on what’s on offer at my local store.