Arbor Ales 2012 was brewed in response to rumours that Arbor Ales were going to brew a beer with 2012 international bitterness units (IBU) for the 2012 London Olympics. From what I understand, this beer was a challenge to design and brew and adding up the hops IBUs to create this beer was an interesting feat.
The nose is burnt dark roasted malts with coffee and chocolate. The bitterness of this beer bites at the tongue as you first drink it, then comes a cascade of different hoppy bitterness. The flavours are almost crowded with a dark roasted coffee malt undertone and strongly bitter hops over the top. There is an interesting spike of bitterness which comes and then quickly fades (so quickly I find it difficult to describe – like the inside zest of an orange – the pithy bit). The bitterness almost scorches your taste buds leaving a strong bitter coffee flavour on the tongue but little else.Arbor Ales 2012 is unbelievably bitter, it is easily the most painfully bitter beer I have tried. Sadly this leads to more of an experience than a pleasant beer. The interesting peak in bitterness is something I would like to understand, whether it is an effect of the mix of hops or a single hop adding an interesting peak. The main effect of the mix of hops is that they drown each other out, all of the subtle flavours which the individual hops would usually add are lost in the noise of the wall of bitterness.
The choice to brew a dark IPA is an interesting one, this seems to add even more to the bitterness of the beer, if this was chosen to add IBU then fair enough, otherwise this seems to just add a thick roasted backdrop to the beer which does not help its flavour.Sadly this beer does not appeal to me, it is clever in its construction but the effect is a novelty rather than an attractive beer. The tribute to the Olympics is an interesting one and the 2012 IBUs is a brilliant idea on paper but the flavour is less one of gold and more of the bitter bitter tears of our athletes missing the podium at the last minute.