Ale Asylum, based here in Madison, is favorite of MBR. The Mercy Grand Cru was last year's Best Beer. Interestingly, the Ballistic is the first proper American IPA from Ale Asylum. I say that's interesting because, at least in my mind and in others I've talked to, Ale Asylum has a reputation for hoppier beers.
I had a chance to talk with Otto at Ale Asylum about the Ballistic:
Despite a reputation for hoppy beers, it took you a while to make a proper American IPA; how come?
Who you callin’ proper?
Actually, it wasn’t until this year that we had the capacity to even THINK about doing seasonals. We wanted to make sure adding seasonals didn’t affect the availability of the year round Ale Asylum brands. After expansions in 2007 & 2008, we still weren’t keeping up with demand. It wasn’t until our latest Spring ‘09 expansion that we had the room.
Yup. Tasty little critters, ain’t they?
Is there an Imperial IPA coming down the pike?
Probably not. Our take on the style would have to be so brutally hopped it wouldn’t tickle the taste buds so much as beat them into submission.[ed note: yum.]
Are you guys hopheads or does it just seem that way?
I think that’s fairly accurate, but we’d probably say we’re “sessionable” hopheads. Everything in moderation, especially moderation.
We do plenty of bouncing back and forth between the other brands in our lineup, though. Gotta keep things interesting. Since we have a nice rotation of seasonals in the tap room we get plenty opportunities to stray.
You're being kidnapped and sent to an island and you can have a lifetime supply of only one IPA not made by Ale Asylum. Which IPA do you take?
Dean and Chris (head brewer) said Centennial IPA from Founders. I said Racer 5, if only because it pains me to agree with them on anything.
And a reminder: FYI: Sticky McDoogle Scotch Ale comes out this June!
Ale Asylum Ballistic (while reviews on BeerAdvocate and RateBeer are generally positive, I'm not going to publish them because the sample size - 18 and 15, respectively - just isn't high enough to be meaningful)
Appearance: head is tall and dense, finely carbonated, a clear russet colored body
Aroma: citrus; oranges, grapefruits, lemons, clementine, tangerine, it's all in there, with a slight alcoholic zing - very little malt in the aroma at all except as a very faint mustiness
Flavor: the foam tastes of all hops, but the body has a decent build of caramel and base malts (maybe Munich or Vienna?)
Body: solid medium body
Drinkability: for as big as it is, it has a pretty high sessionability, though if you don't like citrus hops, you probably won't want too many of these
Summary: improves greatly with proper serving temperature - cold it is just too numbing and overpowering, but as it warms up it becomes infinitely more balanced; really, a very nice beer - I look forward to drinking the other 5 in the six-pack. Unfortunately it's a seasonal, so I won't get a shot at more until next year.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the odd labeling decision to have a person on the label shooting a gun at the customer. While the label is evocative of a James Bond intro or an iPod commercial, pointing hand guns at the customer, even hand guns shooting hops, doesn't seem like a wise decision when it's not entirely necessary (is it ever necessary?).