Ballast Point - Tongue Buckler

Fun Fact: Did you know you can switch the language on your Facebook to Pirate?  Basically changes “Friends” to “Mateys” and “like” to “Yarrr”, doofy stuff like that.  Yes, people do this.  So if you’re super into this ‘Pirate Lifestyle’ (which I guess, if Vince Vaughn comedies are to be believed, exists?), you can browse your pirate facebook, scarf down some Pirate’s Booty puffed corn, and drink something that is actually pretty good.  Of course, I am talking about Ballast Point Brewing Co.’s Tongue Buckler.  Now you may think, “Tongue Buckler?  Is this some kind of palate-destroying hop bomb that our beloved Mitchell warns us against?”  Well, firstly never question me again, please.  Secondly, no.  Thirdly, it’s MISTER Wilburn, thank you.

Tongue Buckler is one of Ballast Point’s Robust Series, specifically their Imperial Red Ale.  I’ve had good experiences with their Imperial Pale Ale, so the idea of one with some nice red malty goodness is pretty inviting.  It’s got a 10% ABV, and a pretty hearty 107 on the IBU scale.  For the uninitiated, the IBU (or International Bittering Unit) measures just how bitter a beer is.  For example, a boring ol’ adjunct lager is somewhere around a zero; your average IPA, somewhere upwards of 70.
It just goes up from there, flying towards the sun on hoppy, waxen wings like so many Icaruses (Icarae?  Icarii?  Help me out here).  Despite this, there is still a strong market for lovers of beers that are well balanced and high in hops.  The craft beer community may be approaching a nadir in the backlash of this IBU arms race, thanks to a few fed-up and foreboding Daedalus…es (Boy English is fun).  Heck, I’ve been saying it all along!  Everyone,you can just crown me King of Beer for working that one out for you (you’re welcome).
Whew, ok enough talking like a clown with a problem in his brain.  Let’s get drinkin’.  It is a clear, hazelnut amber color, with a very big, foamy beige head.  The head was so thick that it almost peaked like a whipped meringue.  Dang, now I’m thinking how good an Imperial Red Ale meringue would be on a pie.  DANG.
It gives off a deliciously malty nose, with an equally big hit of resinous hops.  The malt is almost toffee-like, very sweet smelling.  Something noticeable and rare for the scent: very well balanced.  The first taste, you get a big bitter tightening all over the tongue.  The “buckling” as it seems.  A touch more floral and piney than they nose would lead on, but still very much resinous.  There is even a bit of citrus in there, making for quite a complex hop arrangement.  Towards the end of the taste you get more of that sweet toffee malt, but with a pronounced nuttiness.  The more sips you take, the more it starts to balance out, giving more of a molasses and toasty flavor from the malt.
Even to the end of my 8oz pour, there remained a little puck of super-dense head lending a bit of creaminess to each taste.  Enjoyable, but not unnecessary with such a full bodied and just slightly slick mouthfeel.  An interesting style and a great beer for those who love big flavor.  Oh, and hey, there’s a pirate on the label!