Sun King Brewery Fistful of Hops Orange 2017 IPA (6.3% ABV)
Pour: 16oz can into a snifter
Appearance: Pours a hazy medium-gold with about an inch of off-white, persistent head. Good edging, a nice amount of lacing.
Aroma: Mostly caramel malt in the nose, but with a touch of burnt orange and grapefruit zest as well.
Taste: Very malt-forward. Bitter caramel throughout the flavor profile, with just a bit of burnt citrus in the mid-mouth. Bitter finish, bitter aftertaste. Frankly it tastes a bit like something went wrong in the canning of this one – I can’t imagine it was actually supposed to taste like this.
Mouthfeel: Medium bodied and fairly still. Slightly dry finish, more bitter than oily.
I know this will probably sound like sacrilege and kill any credibility I might have with a certain segment of this column’s readership, but I’ve just never really warmed to Sun King’s beers. I know that they’re basically the elder statesmen of Indianapolis craft breweries at this point and the second largest brewery in the state after a certain Munster-based operation, but of all the numerous varieties of their beers that I’ve tried, only two have really stuck with me: Grapefruit Jungle IPA and Whip Fight, the barrel-aged version of Wee Heavy. Yet I still sample any new Sun King beer that makes its way up to Northern Indiana, because I can’t help but feel like I’m somehow missing the plot. I mean, Sun King is essentially omnipresent in Naptown – that generally doesn’t happen with mediocre craft breweries, and it’s not like there’s a lack of other options in town. So either the vast majority of craft beer drinkers in Indy have poor taste in beer, or the problem is with my palate. Invoking the principle of Occam’s Razor, it has to be me, right?
So this is the first year that I’ve seen any of Sun King’s Fistful of Hops beers up in my part of the state. For those unfamiliar, Fistful of Hops is a rotating series of beers that all feature the same hop base and a different ‘fistful’ of seasonal hops. They rotate every quarter, and the summer Orange variety generally features a fruiter blend of hops. The Sun King website hasn’t been updated with this year’s specs, but according to the Beer Advocate site this year’s fistful is Centennial, Mosiac & El Dorado Hops, which should make for a very fruity combination. However, the dominant note in this beer isn’t a hop note – it’s a caramel hops, followed by whole a lot of bitterness. Like, a metric fuckton of bitter – to the point where I wonder if something went wrong in the canning process. As my palate got used to it, though, some of the bitterness did start to fade, but never to the point where I felt like the beer had a complete flavor profile. The mid-mouth seemed completely MIA.
So in the end, I’m not sure how I feel about this beer. I don’t exactly have the highest expectations of any Sun King beer that I try, but something about this one really seems off. I wish I had a chance to try it on tap before passing judgment on it, just for the sake of comparison, but I don’t know of anywhere close to me that has Sun King on tap. Either way, I’ll keep trying any Sun King beer that comes my way, until I figure out what it is that I’m missing.