As you know, we've had a long-standing relationship with Left Hand ever since we started pouring their flagship ESB, Sawtooth Ale (which the New York Times called the World's Best ESB) over a year ago. Since then, we've also enjoyed their Oak Aged Imperial Stout, their Milk Stout, and of course their Oktoberfest, which we participated in the brewing of last June.
Why is it called "400 Pound Monkey"? It's a "tribute" to Joe Schiraldi, Left Hand's Director of Brewing Operations. Joe was being interviewed by a beer industry publication, and when asked to comment on the proliferation of IPAs (and Left Hand's not brewing one) responded, "Any monkey can throw 400 pounds of hops into a kettle and call it an IPA". So, when Left Hand decided to finally brew an IPA, they wanted to do something excellent and different. They settled on brewing an English-style IPA with British hop varieties instead of the Pacific Northwest varieties used in most American IPAs. We had Test Batch #2 on tap last winter and tasted Test Batch #3 when we were at Left Hand in June.
Chris Lennert, Left Hand's VP of Operations was up in Seattle in late summer and told us that the latest test batch of 400 Pound Monkey wasn't scheduled to be distributed to Seattle, but we stepped in and committed to enough kegs for them to send it here. That's how we became the exclusive seller of Left Hand's Test Batch #5 of 400 Pound Monkey; we shared four of our kegs with a Left Hand account in Alaska, but kept the rest for ourselves. 400 Pound Monkey will hit retail shelves in bottles this month, but won't come out in kegs officially until later this year. Until then, Shultzy's is the only place in Western Washington to enjoy "The Monkey" on tap.
So what does Left Hand's head brewer, Ro Guenzel, have to say about this latest version of 400 Pound Monkey?
Test batch #5... ahh, a good one. We were getting close at that point. The biggest difference from what you have and what we are going to bottle is an increase in aroma. We upped the dry hopping and changed around the late additions to get a little more earthy hoppiness coming through. It almost resembles the smell of a white mold cheese, intentionally. We hope this beer will help stimulate discussions about hops. All too often, if a beer doesn't smell like the ubiquitous American hops people think the beer is not hoppy. A sad thing when it comes to earthy English varieties and well made pilsners. I think most people are not familiar with the vast range of hop aromas including the aforementioned white mold or my favorite descriptor, wet tweed.
Although we've got a quite a few kegs, they're going pretty fast, so come by and enjoy some of this special beer while it lasts.