I think we can all agree that it’s pretty frigging cold out there right now. Time to drink dark, strong beers to stave off the bite of winter. That normally means malt forward styles like imperial stouts and barleywines, which can leave the hop heads among us with a moderate to severe case of seasonal affective disorder? Fortunately, the brewers at Seventh Son have come to the rescue. Their latest offering, Mr. Owl, takes the malt bill of a brown ale and mates it with the hops of a double IPA.
- Brewery: Seventh Son Brewing (Columbus, OH)
- Style: Double India Brown Ale
- ABV: 8.5%
- IBUs: 75
- Price: $10.99 for a 750 mL bottle
The beer is described this way on the label:
“Mr. Owl has a deep mahogany body and dense khaki head. This beer mixes milk-chocolate character of a rich brown ale with the aggressive bitterness and tropical citrus flavors found in an imperial IPA. Ample doses of Citra, Horizon, and Columbus hops bring orange rind aroma while dark cocoa maltiness lends weight and balance.”
Mr. Owl fills is a dark reddish-brown beer that comes close to matching the mahogany color promised on the label. Beautiful ruby highlights are evident without looking very hard, and the beer is topped by an ample 2-3 fingers of biege head. As the head dies away it leaves behind a substantial amount of lacing on the walls of the glass. The aroma hints at the malt-hop balance that characterizes this beer, equal parts caramel/cocoa from the roasted malts and citrus fruits from the hops. The initial taste is reminiscent of a brown ale with a distinct note of caramel, that transitions to a cola like taste mid-palate, as hopped up dark beers are prone to do. All the while the fruity, slightly dank, hoppy flavors of a DIPA sneak up on you, growing steadily as the drink progresses leading to a decidedly IPA-like finish.
The hop-malt balance is spot on for a black/brown IPA. In the span of just a few seconds you are taken on a journey that starts on the shores of the River Tyne and finishes in the shadows of the Cascade Mountains. While the malts mask some of the intense hop character that you would expect from a double IPA, especially one from Seventh Son, they also keep the bitterness in check. Not surprisingly it shares many similarities with the classic Dogfish Head beer, Indian Brown Ale, although if anything the hops are more expressive in Mr. Owl. Is the hybrid between a brown ale and a double IPA a harmonious marriage? That’s a matter of personal preference, but I am happy to report that in Mr. Owl they meet in the middle and the cross pollination is a tasty treat.
Rating scale: 10 = perfection, 9 = excellent, one of the top beers in the world, 8 = very good, one of the top beers in its style category, 7 = good, a solid beer I’m happy to be drinking, 6 = average, not bad but not something I’m likely to buy again, 5 = below average, 3-4 = poor, should be avoided, 1-2 drainpour.