After a year-long absence, Big A IPA makes a triumphant return to Smuttynose Brewing's lineup. It's now available year-round in 4-packs of 12 oz. bottles and on draft.
The brewery recently sent me a sample and I discovered that this is not the same Big A IPA that I tasted a few years ago...
First, the alcohol content has been reduced. When I first tasted it back in 2011, it weighed in at 9.74% ABV and the alcohol heat was quite prominent. The new Big A is 8.2% ABV (according to the bottle code). In this case, less is more as the alcohol heat has disappeared.
The hops have also been modified. The bittering and aroma hops are essentially the same, but the dry hops have been revamped. Citra, Saphir, Falconer's Flight, and Bravo have replaced CTZ, Nugget, and Glacier, as the dry hops of choice. Overall bitterness has increased to 85 IBU's (estimated) from 74 IBUs. When I compared the current incarnation of Big A to the one I tasted in 2011, I noticed a big difference in aroma and taste. Pine and grapefruit are now prominent, compared to tropical fruit in 2011. The flavor of caramel malt remains the same and continues to serve as a nice backdrop that balances the hop bitterness.
In recent years, consumer tastes have shifted to lower alcohol (session) beers. Big A IPA is no session beer, but the elimination of alcohol heat makes it far more drinkable than it was years past.
If Smuttynose is available in your area, and you're a fan of double IPAs, give Big A IPA a shot.