Tamarack Brewing Company, Lakeside and Missoula

Story and photography by Lido Vizzutti
Let us not go quietly into this spring.

Instead of easing into the season with a session, a fruity, a floral or a maibock, let us grab the hops by the horn and wrestle right into the big, robust, boozy beer we have been dreaming of all winter.

Tamarack Brewing Company touts the first sips of Headwall Double IPA (or Imperial IPA) as “a Chuck Norris roundhouse kick to the face.”

But to describe it this way is a misnomer. No one walks away from the Chuck intact, and no one signs up for seconds. However, for fans of high ABV, hoppy – not bitter – and powerful IPAs, you’ll be asking for more.

“We’re trying to go overboard on hop flavor but restrain the bitterness,” said head brewer Kyle Carlson. “It’s not assaulting bitter. It has a really big mouth feel, then tapers down and finishes with a pinch of sweetness. And then that dryness kicks in and kind of washes over your palate a little bit.”

The opening aroma is of pine needles and tropical fruit. The initial sip is staggering and large. Yet, according to Carlson, after your palate is initially shocked with that first wave, you can really start to taste the subtleties.

“It’s real intense, but in a way that opens up the door that you want to have another sip. Then you can start to pick apart some of the complexities of all the hop character that’s going on.”

It’s crisp, dry, intricate, smooth – very smooth – making this highly drinkable 9.7 percent brew dangerous and a favorite among the brew team and staff.

“We’re not trying to swing our mash paddle and see who can make the most bitter beer. We’re trying to make a nice, crisp, hoppy, not necessarily super bitter beer,” Carlson said.

With a super clean malt bill to highlight the hops, consumers get to experience the special hop combination of Chinook, Amarillo and especially the Mosaic.

“We do need somewhat of a backbone to handle that heavy hopping load,” said Carlson.

“Because we’re over five pounds a barrel of hops, which is, you know, borderline ridiculous.”

Last year, Headwall won the Brewing News’ National Imperial IPA Championship. The March-madness-bracket-style competition pitted Imperial IPAs in a head-to-head blind tasting competition, and when the dust settled Tamarack was on top.

Headwall will be making another appearance on the 2016 brackets and Carlson hopes to have a repeat of last year. Follow along at brewingnews.com/nipac.

Style Double IPA
IBU 85
ABV 9.7%
Malts Pale, ESB, Caraplis, and Caramel 10
Hops Chinook, Amarillo, Mosaic, Citra, Simcoe
Yeast California Ale
Appearance Bright and golden straw with the slightest hop haze
Description Mellow aroma of pine needles. The initial taste is intense with hops and smoothly fades with tropical fruits, finishing rich without being sweet.
Where to get it Headwall Double IPA can be found on tap at the Tamarack Brewing Company’s Lakeside location at 106 Blacktail Road and their Missoula pub house at 231 W. Front St. Contact Tamarack Brewing company at (406) 844-0244 or visit tamarackbrewing.com for availability or more information.