Cambridge Brewing Company’s Audacity of Hops

By Emily Brightman

(Justin Surgent/Daily Collegian)
(Justin Surgent/Daily Collegian)

Anyone who reads this column with any regularity is apt to be aware of my infatuation with India Pale Ales, as the style receives frequent mention and has been featured multiple times throughout the course of my ever-evolving beer reviews. I have certain standards of bitterness that I require in most, if not all, of my preferred fermented beverages, and despite the grammatical incorrectness of it, I have been known to use such cheap colloquialisms as “the bitter, the better.” The unofficial term for a beer geek of my ilk is “hop head,” which is really far less pejorative than it sounds. As a thoroughbred brew nerd, I wear the label with pride (pun intended).

Some might call my fervent hop obsession “audacious,” which as it turns out is a perfect segue into the subject of this week’s column: Cambridge Brewing Company’s Audacity of Hops Belgian-Style Double IPA. Being something of a self-described smart ass, naturally I was drawn to a beer that promised to be just as cheeky.

Founded in the Kendall Square section of Cambridge in 1989, the Cambridge Brewing Company has crafted a reputation for brewing “…classic, unique and experimental beers.” Originally founded as a draft-only brewery (meaning their beers were only available on tap at the brewery’s in-house restaurant), CBC officially began bottling their beers for sale in 2011. The CBC Bottling Project, according to the brewery’s website, is “run quite like the brew schedule at the brewpub,” which means that only small, single batches of rotating CBC brews are routinely bottled for public sale. The Audacity of Hops IPA and Tripel Threat Ale are available throughout the year with occasional appearances from beers such as Flower Child IPA, Heather Ale and others on a rotating monthly basis.

CBC brewers currently share facilities with Ipswich Ale Brewery, which allows them to bottle at higher volume as well as be actively involved in every facet of the brewing process. CBC’s website also includes a list of their beers currently available on tap as well as a locator for bars serving their product. While many of the on tap locations are centered in Cambridge and Somerville, there is a small variety of 22 oz. bottles from CBC available at Spirit Haus in Amherst, including the subject of this week’s column.

The name “Audacity of Hops” is presumably a proverbial tip of the hat to the book of the same name by Tom Acitelli about the explosion of craft beer brewing in America. Pictured on the beer’s label is what can only be described as a tribute to Atlas of Greek mythology. Featuring an oversized lime green hop bearing the beer’s name supported by the lifting arms of a small cartoon man, the caricature is a clever visual interpretation of the breadth (or audacity, as it were) of the beer’s flavor.

Audacity of Hops is billed as a Belgian-style Double IPA, which immediately delineates some key flavor characteristics. Double IPA means almost literally what it suggests: Utilization of double the amount of hops involved in brewing an IPA. According to its label, Audacity is “Liberally hopped to an audacious degree,” which adequately describes both the style and name of the beer. Belgian influenced beers are typically characterized by a larger or sweeter yeast complex versus the more bitter American styles, as well as a noticeably dry finish fleshed out in the body by a medium mouth feel. According to BeerAdvocate, the style is still being developed but is gaining popularity with American brewers at the crux of Belgian yeast and American hops.

As can be expected with beers of this caliber, Audacity’s most notable characteristic is a massively earthy hop aroma. Poured from a 22 oz. bottle into a snifter glass, the distinct scent of grassy, tart hops melded with sweet Belgian yeast floods the nostrils above a lighter scent of malt, creating a nose that is equal parts sweet and sour. With medium-light carbonation and a foamy eggshell head that remains consistent above a cloudy golden body, Audacity of Hops conveys the physical characteristics of the dueling nature of its brewing style: Haziness of yeast in the body reflective of Belgian influence and the foamy head and moderate carbonation of an IPA. Audacity seems to carve out a niche of its own in terms of defining characteristics.

The first sip heralds the expected wave of hoppy bitterness rounded out by a divergent sweetness with a full-bodied mouth feel indicated by the beer’s hazy body. Definite notes of champagne and bread make up the Belgian tasting element, whereas the floral sensation of a largely hopped beer makes itself known beneath the superficial syrupiness of sweet yeast. The finish, while dry and lingering, is far more reminiscent of drier ales and American pale ales than that is of its Belgian counterpart, but with definite influences of yeast-heavy brewing.

The subtleties of caramel and malt sugar are distinguished in the lighter facets of the beer’s sweetness but not so much to the extent that the bitterness is forgotten. Overall the sensation is of drinking a hefty IPA but with definitive elements distinguishing to Belgian yeast-heavy beers. While it is certainly not the most hop-intensive IPA I have ever come across, Audacity of Hops is worthy of mention solely on the basis of the complexity of its flavor. Combining domestic elements of American craft brewing tradition with the ancient roots of Belgian beer, Audacity of Hops is the kind of beer that satisfies both the indulgent IPA lover and the fan of lighter, sweeter ales, as this beer almost mystically manages to combine both tasting elements in one bottle.

Though its repertoire may be in short supply, CBC’s Audacity of Hops and Heather Ale are both currently available at Spirit Haus in Amherst for the ridiculously reasonable price of $6, a refreshing reprieve from the cache of expensive beers that tend to populate my personal beer stash. Due to its local origins, I recommend Audacity on the sole basis of its guaranteed freshness, but there is also something to be said for the pluck involved in brewing a beer that melds two essentially separated brewing practices: Belgian and American. While IPAs are hardly fully Americanized, the style has been burgeoning in popularity among craft beer circles for the last few decades and has certainly made its presence known among brew geeks nationwide and internationally. CBC certainly perpetuates their legacy of uniqueness with this impressively complex beer that spans the chasm of American versus European brewing, and does so in a way that is both palatable and intricate.

The much-anticipated onset of spring indicates that summer, and thus the peak season of IPAs, is just around the corner, and Cambridge Brewing Company has prepared the perfect prototype for long nights of beer swilling with their simultaneously sweet and tart Audacity of Hops IPA. Equipped with a minimalist label that belies the density of its composition, Audacity of Hops is, in fact, nothing if not daring. If worse comes to worst, your beer-swilling friends might at least be impressed with the fact that you’re drinking a beer whose name extends beyond that of the monosyllabic.

Emily A. Brightman can be reached at [email protected].