Beer and Metal: Two Brothers Brewing's Heavier Handed | Bleader

Beer and Metal: Two Brothers Brewing's Heavier Handed

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Two Brothers Brewing, based in Warrenville, Illinois, released its yearly batch of Heavier Handed IPA late last month, so I'm reviewing it for this Monday's Beer and Metal post. Heavier Handed, as the name implies, is a juiced-up version of the Heavy Handed IPA, and both beers are what tend to get referred to as "harvest ales" or "wet hop ales," meaning they're brewed with hops that are just picked and still green, not dried as usual.

Heavier Handed contains 8.1 percent alcohol, compared to 6.7 percent for its little brother, and it's aged in what Two Brothers calls French oak foudres. A foudre, if the Internet is to be believed, is a great stonking barrel or vat of unspecified size, historically used in parts of France for aging beer or (more commonly) wine. The word apparently also means "lightning" in French, so go figure.

Perhaps counterintuitively, harvest ales can't compete with the intense hop flavors found in especially aggressive beers made with the dried variety. I'll make a semieducated guess and compare the use of fresh hops in brewing to the substitution of fresh herbs for dried in cooking—in my experience it can take a fistful of green leaves to do the job of a tablespoon of dried. Maybe using fresh hops requires a volume so much larger than normal that you reach a practical upper limit sooner. I'm sure any actual brewers reading could clear this up in the comments.

Heavier Handed has a pleasant, gentle aroma, dominated by fruity hops—peach, raspberry, canteloupe—with a touch of caramel and vanilla cake. On the tongue the hops are more piney and herbal, though the fruit flavors are still strong—I get a lick of red grapefruit too. I can taste caramel and vanilla again, plus some leathern bitterness from the oak ("leathern" is a pretty metal word, I think).

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I recommend letting this beer warm up for a bit, to at least 50 degrees, or the tannins from the oak will pop out in front and spoil the fun. Closer to room temperature, everything comes together nicely and that flavor no longer seems sharp or obtrusive. I figure this is because the tongue can taste bitterness, but the subtler business worked by the malts and hops requires the olfactory sense—and the warmer something is, the more it smells, as anyone who's been in a CTA station in the summer can attest. (I assume this is also why Coors Light is being marketed with that "Super Cold Activation" nonsense—because if the beer weren't at something like freezer temperature, it'd stink like a Wrigleyville men's room.)

Heavier Handed isn't new, but at least now they're selling it in 22-ounce bottles again, instead of those ridiculously huge three-liter jeroboams or whatever that I never bought because I couldn't have carried one on my bike.

While we're on the subject of heavy-handedness, it's time to shoehorn some metal into this post. And I can't think of anyone who's made heavy-handedness as crucial a part of his aesthetic as Devin Townsend—the phrase "wall of sound" seems inadequate to describe the towering maelstrom of his production style. He's all about giant over-the-top gestures: furious, corny, sentimental, terrifying, cheesy, epic, insane, you name it. His music is an acquired taste, and certainly polarizes the famously fractious metal-nerd community, but as much as I love noisome, inhuman death metal and suffocatingly despairing doom, I'm not too hard or kvlt or underground to enjoy him.

As you may know, Mr. Townsend used to play in an almost painfully gonzo omni-metal band called Strapping Young Lad. Here's the satisfyingly silly video for SYL's "Love?" from Alien, which for no clear reason riffs on the Evil Dead movies.

And what do you know—there's a full HD stream of SYL's album City on YouTube.

Outside and after SYL the self-professed bald bastard has given regular vent to his pop impulses, with equally excessive results. This live video of the Devin Townsend Project's "Supercrush!" will give you some idea of his goofy and endearing onstage charisma.

Philip Montoro writes about beer and metal, singly or in combination, every Monday.

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