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Sunday, April 20, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 60.0° F  Mostly Cloudy
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BEER

Beer Here: Imperial IPA from the Great Dane Hilldale

This beer needs an aggressive pairing.
Credit:Robin Shepard
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The Great Dane's Hilldale brewpub has been open since 2006, but until last month, state law prohibited it from making beer. Regulations from just after Prohibition restricted the Madison microbrewer because of the number of brewing operations in the company's ownership. Changes were made by the Wisconsin legislature last fall, and the Great Dane Hilldale turned out its first brews on-site at a symbolic post-Prohibition party in early December.

The brewpub is located at the southeast corner of the Hilldale shopping mall. This Great Dane brewery is about two-thirds the size of the downtown location, but about twice the size of the Fitchburg site.


What is it? Imperial India pale ale from the Great Dane Pub and Brewery at Hilldale Mall.

Style: The Imperial IPA, also called a double IPA, is an American spin on the IPA. Brewers load up the hops to satisfy the following of beer aficionados affectionately known as hop heads. The Imperial India pale ale takes the bitter, citrus and piney notes of the typical IPA to a more intense level.

While some malty sweetness is found in the background, this beer emphasizes hops. The finish will also has some alcoholic warmth. The India pale ale, which the beer is based upon, is a style dating back to the 1700s, when the British found that using high amount of hops, which act a preservative in beer, would help the beer destined for troops in India withstand the long sea voyages.

Background: This beer is unique to Great Dane Hilldale; you won't find it at the other locations. It is served from a standard cold, carbon dioxide-driven tap to accentuate its crisp, hoppy qualities. Hilldale brewer Don Vasa plans to make this beer available year-round. While the bitter tones dominate, there is a sticky caramel maltiness in the background.

Tasting notes:

  • Aroma: Strong, hoppy, crisp floral notes in the nose.
  • Appearance: Clear deep copper color with a marbly, tan head.
  • Texture: Full-bodied and bubbly.
  • Taste: Assertive hoppiness with a firm caramel malty background.
  • Finish/Aftertaste: Light amounts of warmth and a lingering citrus tone to the hoppiness.

Glassware: The English pint glass with its slight cure near the top will hold the beer's head and will also allow you a good grip for sipping this beer -- a beer that should be savored, not guzzled.

Pairs well with: This beer needs an aggressive pairing. Look for flavors that will compete with the long-lasting hoppy bite of this beer. From the Grant Dane's menu, try Tara's Cajun Chicken sandwich with its blackened spices, or the spicy Creole-Style Jambalaya.

Rating: Four Bottle Openers.

(I am using a one to four bottle opener scale: four is a great beer, distinctive, you'll have this over others; three is a beer you enjoy, reliable, close to its described style; two is problematic, lacks distinction, but worth having again; one is a beer that isn't true to its style, you would not recommend it to a friend.)

The Consensus: The Great Dane's Imperial IPA does not have enough ratings to be evaluated by Beer Advocate nor Rate Beer.

The Verdict: This beer has some aggressive hoppiness with a complex, malty backbone. It is a hop lover's dream, but all too often these highly hopped beers just seem to be a painful experience -- like hop resin in a glass. That isn't the case with the Great Dane's Imperial IPA. There is some complexity and interplay between the hops and malt, as well as the citrus and piney tones of a well-hopped beer. A must-try.

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