It is a Sunday afternoon. I sit on the couch with a bowl of popcorn in my lap. It is 3pm and I am watching World War Z on Netflix. It is a hard life. On the coffee table sits a glass filled with a dark dark brown liquid one could confuse with a cola. It is not. It is, in fact, an Imperial India Brown Ale, the (Extra) Terrestrial produced by Wellington Brewery of Guelph, Ontario (The Royal City).
When one thinks of beer and Guelph, the most common thought is of Sleeman Brewery, one of the larger breweries in Canada and now the property of Sapporo. Yet with the growing micro-brew culture of Ontario, Guelph’s second largest brewery, Wellington, is quickly becoming a mainstay in the beer aficionado’s lexicon. Wellington has become renowned for many of its strong dark beers. Arkell Best Bitters, Imperial Russian Stout, what can I say… I’m a big fan. But it is the Welly One-off series that I am more and more becoming a fan of. Much like my love of my local Block 3 Brewing Co., it is the one-offs that attract me more and more to a brewery. I love the experimentation that comes with them, and lately Wellington has been hitting them out of the park.
Today I feel like comparing two of the recently released one-offs. Wellington’s Terrestrial India Brown Ale and the (Extra) Terrestrial Imperial India Brown Ale.
The first thing you may ask is what the hell is an India Brown Ale. It is a hybrid of an English Brown Ale with a hoppy cascadian pale ale. One of the more famous India Brown Ale’s is from Delaware’s Dogfish Head Brewery, currently rated a 92 on Beer Advocate.
Looking at the Terrestrial, it comes to us in a simple non-descript aluminium can with a sticker of a cool little UFO beaming up a hop in its tractor beam. Open up a can and poor it into a clean, clear glass, and you will notice it has a very dark brown colour. Not black like a porter or a stout, but far more dark than your standard brown ale. It is a 5.9% apv beer which won’t knock you on your ass, but it is still by no means a light beer. This is its third run as a Welly One-off series for obvious reasons, it tastes great and meets the need of many a hop-head.
On my first sip, I remarked that it resembled a porter with a slight hoppy finish. Using Amarillo and Sorachi Ace hops, the Terrestrial is slightly earthy on the nose and in its initial taste. I’d almost describe it as slightly nutty. There are hints of citrus, primarily grapefruit that come in the middle. The after-taste is where the malt comes in, and though it is not overwhelmingly malty, it is enough for malt lovers for sure. There is a slight bitterness, but not significant and not enough to dissuade those with a milder pallet.
Compare all of this to the newly released (Extra) Terrestrial Imperial India Brown Ale. Released just this past Thursday, the Extra is an 8.2%apv beer. It is far darker in the glass than it’s regular counterpart. It is currently being sold in 750ml bottles and is a first of its kind for Wellington Brewery.
The initial nose of the beer is hops, through and through. When you take your first sip of the (Extra) Terrestrial, those hops remain the first thing that hit your tongue. The middle is like a very strong malty porter. Finally, the after-taste brings back those hops that were there in the beginning. According to Welllington, they have used twice the amount of malt as the regular terrestrial IBA, and the bitterness ranks at a full 90 IBU (International Bittering Units).
Drinking the (Extra) Terrestrial, you notice right away that it does not have the earthiness of the original IBA. The beer is bitter, more so than the original, but it is not overwhelmingly so. Where you are going to notice the biggest difference is its 8.2%apv. This is a beer that is the definition of strong. I had one pint and I was literally feeling loopy afterwards. That is not to say it is boozey in its taste, however. If anything it is the opposite. This is a high alcohol beer that drinks like a low alcohol beer. I think mainly because it does not have the strong flavour of an imperial stout. In fact, one could be forgiven if in a blind taste test, they thought it was an IPA. If anything, I would argue that the (Extra) Terrestrial strikes the perfect balance of hops and a porter’s maltiness. Both hop-heads and malt-lovers will find something to love with this beer.
So all in all, both beers are going to find their respective audiences. I would argue that only the (Extra) is going to really meet the needs of the ‘TRUE’ hop-heads, as the citrus and bitterness are there from the nose to completion. But if all you want is a slight bitterness with the earthiness of a light porter, than the original is the beer for you. Either way, both beers present you with a great reason to head down to Guelph while supplies last. Both beers can only be purchased in retail at the brewery.
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