Evil Twin is a nomadic (or the ethnically and politically incorrect, but infinitely more popularly described gypsy) brewery that traces its origins to Denmark. Evil Twin literally brews all over the world utilizing excess capacity from other breweries to create their beers. Due to the nature of being a nomadic brewery, many of these beers are one-off production runs.
Earlier today, I came across a beer by Evil Twin that I hadn’t seen available near me previously– Yang. Yang is a self-described ‘Imperial Taiji India Pale Ale’. Taiji (太極) is commonly known in the West as Tai Chi. Taiji – loosely translated – means Supreme Ultimate. That’s one hell of a claim to make for any beer.
From the initial pour, I notice that this is not going to be a normal DIPA. As I pour this brew into a snifter, instead of the familiar bright color of an IPA, I am greeted with the rusty hue of old iced tea. The head is robust and creamy, but dissipates quickly with minimal lacing, especially for a beer at 10% ABV.
Initially the nose is wrong. I am blasted with caramelization and the malty notes of old ale and a touch of raisin. There are hints of bitterness, but the hop profile is more British than America, which for a double IPA, is odd. The DIPA originated on the American West Coast and generally has the robust citrus and resin notes that are so familiar to that style. This is nothing like this. I need to take a break and reevaluate.
As I fire up my laptop, the beer starts to gradually warm and it continues to open up. It is still nothing like the traditional styling of the Double/Imperial IPA, but it’s not wrong. It’s a more classic IPA than that, if I can be a bit contradictory. The style is reminiscent of some of the original IPAs made in the United States: New England IPAs.
Most craft beer aficionados are familiar with the difference between the hop forward West Coast IPAs and their more balanced and malty East Coast brethren. However, even before these two styles dominated the market, New England IPAs had already made their mark in the beer world. New England IPAs are malty like the well-known East Coast style, but the hops are much different. In a New England IPA, the hops are of British origin and this can make all the difference in the world. Despite there being potential confusion over the name, like UK Fuggles versus US Fuggles – the types of hops used in the styling is much different. If you have never had a New England IPA, think of it as a supercharged ESB and you’ll start to get the idea. Yang is a better fit with the New England IPA style in mind.
As Yang opens, there is a solid balance between the malt and bitterness. There is a slight note of resin that is an interesting counterpart to the richness of the malt. There is some alcohol bite to the beer, but it is nothing like the 10% would indicate. Some biscuit notes starts to rise through the richness that play off of the pine and grapefruit that are awakening. The light carbonation plays with the floral touch that hits the palate about midway. The finish is a strong interesting balance of candied sugar and a high sharp bitterness.
In drinking Yang this evening, I was reminded that I shouldn’t go into a beer having anything but the faintest of expectations. My initial impression was to excoriate this beer and wonder how it could possibly style itself as an Imperial IPA. While BJCP guidelines are important, they should only be used as guidelines into how we approach beer. If we become dogmatic about what fits into a certain category and what does not fit, we may lose sight of something good that is sitting right in front of us, but isn’t quite what we expect.
Yang is a good beer. While it is not what most expect from an Imperial IPA nor is it anything close to the self-titled ‘taiji’, it is worth a go with an open mind.