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Chicagoist's Beer of the Week: Two Brothers Heavy Handed IPA

By Jason Baldacci in Food on Oct 4, 2013 6:20PM

We were very excited this week when we bellied up to a bar to see one of our very favorite seasonal beers on tap.

Heavy Handed IPA is a Harvest Ale from Two Brothers Brewing Company. The beer pours a nice copper hue into the glass, with big aromas of citrus and herbs that you could pick up from a mile away. There are some serious hops at play here. Those aromas not only transfer to the palate, they intensify quite a bit with the very first sip. The citrus hits us up front with notes of orange rind and tangerine while those herbal tones skip along the surface and make us think of chamomile. There's also a very present note of earthy pine that dominates the finish of the beer, but all of this extravagant hop profile is actually balanced very nicely with a biscuity slightly caramelized malt backbone. At 5.7% alcohol content, Heavy Handed IPA is a hop lover's delight that's probably delicious enough to convert a few people who claim they don't like bitter beers since Harvest Ale is a different kind of IPA.

What makes a Harvest Ale? Harvest Ales are a relatively new American brewing tradition that have become more and more popular over the past few years. They're made in the fall to commemorate the yearly hop harvest and are special because they're brewed with hops that haven't gone through the usual drying process. This technique many brewers have started referring to as "wet hopping." When hops are harvested they have an incredibly high moisture content, so they're laid out in a warm kilning room to dry, sealed up in airtight packaging and then kept frozen to be brewed with throughout the year. For Harvest Ales, breweries tell their hop farmers to skip that drying process altogether and the hops are shipped out immediately after they're picked. They are thrown right into the brew kettle as soon as they arrive to the brewery. This means that all of that moisture makes it into the beer instead of being dried out in a kiln and the natural oils in the hops are retained, making for an incredibly fragrant and potent kind of IPA.

Two Brothers actually takes the whole Harvest Ale thing an extra step further with Heavy Handed by brewing several batches, each with a different hop strain. The batch number is on each label and you can check the brewery's website to see what kind of hops they used for the beer you're drinking.

Heavy Handed is available on draft and in 12-oz bottles. Check to see who has it available near you.