There’s tension at the heart of an oaked India pale lager.
The hops that make an India-anything work are better when fresh, which
is why the labels of top-notch IPAs like Russian River’s Pliny the
Elder, Cigar City’s Jai Alai and the Alchemist’s Heady Topper carry
explicit directions to crack them as quickly as you can. On the other
hand, the process of imparting oak flavor to beer through wooden
barrels, chips or spirals takes time. So Widmer Brothers deserves more
than a little credit for hitting the perfect balance of green and oak
with its new Downward Spiral oaked Imperial IPL. Made with new oak
spirals and plenty of Cascade hops, it’s got all the gummy pine resin of
just-plucked cones, an aroma that reminds me of the warm sawdust left
from a freshly cut two-by-four and the crisp finish of a cold-fermented
lager. But for the fact that it’s an Imperial-strength 9 percent ABV, I
could drink these 12-ounce bottles all night. It’s my favorite Widmer
beer of the year and reason enough for this style to exist. Recommended.