Annette and Jack Slocum purchased the Grumpy Troll Brewpub and Pizzeria three years ago on March 15, and this year is also the couple's 30th year of marriage. "I wanted to honor the moment," says Grumpy Troll brewmaster Mark Knoebl, about the Grumpy Troll's new A & J Anniversary Ale. His tribute to the Slocums is a double IPA, and it stacks up well against some of the best locally made versions of the style. This is a beer not to overlook if you enjoy hops.
What is it? A & J Anniversary Ale from the Grumpy Troll Brewpub and Pizzeria of Mount Horeb.
Style: The Imperial India Pale Ale, or IIPA, is also called a double IPA. The style is an American creation, evolving from the hop lovers' quest for a robust and aggressive bitterness and strength. It's a deep golden to reddish amber in color, with medium- to full-bodied mouthfeel. This is a brew known for a strong hop profile, with a firm malty backbone that can lend spicy warmth. The double IPA can be quite strong at 7.5%-10% ABV.
Background: A double IPA to celebrate the Grumpy Troll's new ownership is fitting because Annette really likes hoppy beers. A & J Anniversary ale was first brewed in March 2013, and now it turns up a couple of times a year (usually in February and March, and again in August and September). Knoebl brews it as a counterpart to the brewpub's other IIPA called Maggie that was created by former Grumpy Troll brewmaster Mark Duchow. Maggie is an English take on the style with a very loyal following among brewpub regulars. A & J, the American version of the double IPA, is more assertive in its hoppiness. The two beers are not usually on tap at the same time; however, currently, both are available in 22-ounce bottles for sale in the brewpub.
A & J is made with all American hops including Simcoe, Columbus, Centennial and Cascade. Each barrel gets about 3.2 pounds total. Knoebl's blend of the four is what gives it a distinctive hoppy signature. "The Cascade, Columbus and Centennial are work-horse hops with bitterness, while the Simcoe complement them," says Knoebl. Simcoe hops in particular have lots of piney and resiny character.
A & J finishes around 8.5% ABV, with an estimated 100 IBUs (International Bitterness Units). It sells for $5.50/pint, $16.50/growler (refill) or $8.50/22-ounce bottle. The current release of A & J should be on tap at the brewpub into early April.
- Aroma: Assertive resin and pine.
- Appearance: Golden-copper color with a slight haze. A medium soft tan head.
- Texture: Full-bodied, bubbly with some softness. Dry from beginning to end.
- Taste: A firm pine hoppiness that's also somewhat spicy and dry.
- Finish/Aftertaste: The pine hoppiness continues, and so does the dryness, which lingers and builds on the palate.
Glassware: I like the heavy clear glass mug for the double IPA -- it's a beer that deserves a hearty drinking vessel. Sip and appreciate the layers of bitterness and undertones of malt and spice.
Pairs well with: From the Grumpy Troll's menu, it's great with the Under the Bridge Reuben or the Italian Wrap, which offer enough flavor to stand up to the hops. Double IPAs are excellent with blue cheese, and for that reason my pick is Hook's Blue Paradise.
Rating: Four Bottle Openers (out of four)
The Consensus: A & J Anniversary Ale from the Grumpy Troll has not received enough ratings to be evaluated by either RateBeer or Beer Advocate.
The Verdict: For the past couple of years I've timed visits to the Grumpy Troll around the release of A & J Anniversary Ale. It seems to be a beer that goes unnoticed to all but the Grumpy Troll regulars. While I first noticed its counterpart, Maggie, quite some time ago, A & J is my pick between the two. It has just what I like in the double IPA -- lots of West Coast hops with piney, resiny aroma and flavor with a long-lingering dryness. It's a beer with an attitude that hop-heads can appreciate. However, it's not so intensely bitter that it becomes a palate wrecker. In sheer bitterness it falls between an IPA and an over-the-top double. A & J Anniversary Ale is worth the trip to Mount Horeb, and it's a nice way to celebrate the success of Annette and Jack Slocum in making the Grumpy Troll a worthy beer destination.