The Imperial IPA That Blew Me Away

It’s rare that a beer will catch me off guard these days – I guess it’s part of being a beer geek in the information age.  I usually know a little something about most beers before I try them for the first time, at least the good ones.

I guess there’s also a legion of craft beers out there that I know nothing about, but that’s mostly because there’s nothing noteworthy about them, they are unsung for a reason.

But then there are the gems that fall between these two groups – the amazing beers that you’ve never heard of.  The ones that surprise you when they hit your palate.

I had one of those last night.

I picked up a bomber of this Imperial IPA without really looking at the label.  I knew I hadn’t seen it before, and I was in the mood for something new, plus I was craving hops, so it definitely fit the bill.  I threw it in the fridge when I got home and promptly forgot all about it.

Historical Reenactment

Fast forward to last night, when I was thirsty for a hopped-up treat.  I remembered I had this puppy in the fridge, so I cracked it open, and it proceeded to blow off the top of my head.

It was perhaps the most intense IPA I’ve ever had.  I could almost feel a thin film of hops coating my mouth.  It was so intense, it almost overwhelmed my ability to process how it tasted, like when you turn up music so loud you can no longer hear the melody, you just feel the sound in your chest.

The beer in question is Old Schoolhouse Imperial IPA from Washington State.  It has an ABV of around 9% (details are sketchy online and I didn’t check the bottle before recycling it) and is brewed with Columbus, Warrior, Centennial, Cascade, Amarillo, Simcoe, Citra hops.

The result is an intensely hoppy brew that leans more towards pine trees than  grapefruits in flavor profile, which is how I like them.  Add in a boozy backside, and I was in heaven. People are always going on about west coast IPA’s (mostly people from the west coast, it turns out) and I have to hand it to them – this west coast beer won my heart.

Even my wife enjoyed it, and she doesn’t like hoppy beers.  I think the trick is that this beer goes so far beyond hoppy, it has become an entirely different thing, like a beer infused with some kind of delicious herbal resin.  She asked for more than a couple of sips as she too tried to wrap her mind around this tasty treat.

One of the great things about being a craft beer geek is that there’s always a new surprise waiting around the corner.  I had such a surprise last night, and it makes me want to go back to the beer store and load up on random beers I know nothing about in hopes of a repeat performance.

Of course I’ll also throw in an Old Schoolhouse IIPA – I’d like to ride that roller coaster one more time!



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Craft beer nerd, frequent beer blogger and occasional home brewer.

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23 Comments on “The Imperial IPA That Blew Me Away”

  1. February 28, 2012 at 12:33 pm #

    That is a rare thing to find these days.

    • February 28, 2012 at 12:36 pm #

      Yeah, it was like discovering a new species living in Central Park.

  2. February 28, 2012 at 12:54 pm #

    Your surprise over a beer you hadn’t heard of is what we experience whenever we visit a brewery that doesn’t bottle or can, 9 times out of 10 there’s something in the line up that gets our attention.

    I’m fairly sure I saw this beer in the cooler here the last time I went to the liquor store, I’ll definitely have to try try it. I tend to like the resinous hops more so than the fruity ones, but I’ve also been digging the more earthy ones too recently.

    Has the Deviant Dales made its way out to you yet? That’s a pretty big hop bomb also, but it sounds like this tops it. I’ve also been liking Odell’s Myrcenary recently, although the hop profile is more diverse.

    • February 28, 2012 at 12:58 pm #

      No Devious Dales yet 😦

      • February 28, 2012 at 1:04 pm #

        When it does, snatch up all you can. I grabbed the last four pack on Friday at the largest store in central Denver and they still haven’t restocked. Something tells me that OB will have to add shifts to keep up with the demand.

        • February 28, 2012 at 1:20 pm #

          Or they’ll just limit distribution, cutting out places like New Jersey. 😦

  3. splat8391
    February 28, 2012 at 1:26 pm #

    Hey Jim – really interesting. Not a brewer I’d heard of either. I’m wondering how you’d compare it to some of the hoppier bombs out there like Weyerbacher Double Simcoe or even the Dogfish 120?

    • February 28, 2012 at 1:29 pm #

      Not near to 120, which is a boozefest, not a hop bomb IMO. Simcoe is closer, but I don’t recall that having the punch-in-the-face that this beer had.

      Some compare it to Pliny the Elder, but I’ve only had Pliny once, and it didn’t leave the impression that this puppy did.

  4. February 28, 2012 at 2:03 pm #

    Just tried this one myself last week and really enjoyed it. Totally different than Pliny for me. It was really hard to pin down the hop profile … I think they use quite a few different hops. I’ve been extremely impressed with everything I’ve tried from Old Schoolhouse. Their Ruud Awakening IPA and Old Hooligan Stout (almost Founders Breakfast-like) are both fantastic. Cheers!

    • February 28, 2012 at 2:06 pm #

      I’m going to try whatever I can find out here from these guys. I prefer imperial stuff, so all bets are off, but that IPA was so good, they are definitely on my radar.

  5. February 28, 2012 at 2:56 pm #

    I’ve been to their brewery in Winthrop (something like 4 hours northeast of Seattle), the beer was tasty. The Imperial Stout is very very delicious. They had just bottled some Imperial IPA, but hadn’t labeled them yet so apparently according to state law they couldn’t sell them to us, but we did have it on tap.

    • February 28, 2012 at 3:03 pm #

      I can’t wait to try more of their stuff. Hopefully I can find more than the IIPA around here.

  6. February 28, 2012 at 5:51 pm #

    Blaze, the brewer there, is a buddy of mine. He is a very talented brewer, and many beer geeks out there overlook their stuff because of their way out of the way location (it’s really way out there). It’s awesome the stuff is starting to make it out in to some other areas.

  7. Kid Carboy Jr.
    February 28, 2012 at 6:27 pm #

    Where did you buy this, Jim? Sounds very tasty. Evan, how far do they distribute?

    • February 28, 2012 at 6:32 pm #

      To my knowledge, they only have limited distribution throughout Washington state, and some distribution in New Jersey. I think that’s pretty much it. They’re a very small operation.

  8. Larry
    March 4, 2012 at 6:42 pm #

    I haven’t tried this one yet , We make it a point to stop in every time we visit Winthrop. They have some awesome Stouts ,,not to mention the porter. Great place,Beer,food and live music….

    • March 4, 2012 at 8:38 pm #

      I had the imperial stout this weekend, and it was very good.

      • Casey
        March 9, 2012 at 8:54 am #


        Hi,I am the owner of Old Schoolhouse Brewery and my son Blaze is the brewer that made the Imperial IPA. We are aeromatic hop lovers, hence the abundance of dry hop flavors that we cannot create by cramming the kettle with hops. One of the other techniques Blaze is perfecting is the use of natural carbonation which he believes allows the flavors to come out much more. The underground cult following for Blaze’s beers is just beginning and your entertaining review helps the beer world discover us hidden up in the North Cascade mountains. Double dry-hopping with Simcoe, Amarillo, and Citra is intended to temperarily disable the taste buds. Plus the new crop of Simcoe must have an abnormally large quantity of cannibinoids or something that makes this beer dangerously drinkable and brings on the giggles. Thanks for your great blog.

        • March 9, 2012 at 11:40 am #

          Thank you and Blaze for making such a wonderful brew. I also had your Imperial Stout, and it too was awesome. You somehow managed to get a lot of nuances packed into there without using whiskey barrels, which was pretty neat. Anyway, I’m a fan of your big stuff, that’s for sure. Just promise me that when you get big you’ll still ship to Northern NJ!


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