All over the country, brew masters are teaming up with friends, and even competitors, building off each other's strengths to create incredible and innovative new beers.
Lake Zurich, IL based Phase Three Brewing Company (Pixel Density) took this idea to new heights when they teamed up with fellow Illinois native Standard Meadery to create the Double Dry Hopped (DDH) Cross Pollination Double IPA.
If you're a beer enthusiast like me, you're probably familiar with the complex and diverse world of beer. The shear number of different styles is incredible, but something general consumers have become comfortable with.
Mead on the other hand, may be somewhat of a new concept to the casual beer drinker. It's not however a new concept overall.
Dating back to ancient times throughout Europe, Africa, and Asia, meads are created using honey as the main ingredient to facilitate the fermentation process. This is contrary to beer, which most commonly includes malted grains (i.e. barley) for fermentation.
Just like with beer, there are numerous variations, ABV levels, and flavor profiles with meads. In general however, the honey used results in a sweet, wine-like beverage. It's even referred to as "honey-wine" at times. The flavor of any specific mead will be very reflective of the honey variation used to create it.
To be clear, Cross Pollination is definitely a beer, not a mead. That said, there are aspects of this brew that absolutely capture the spirit and flavor of a mead.
Phase Three and Standard Meadery merged these two worlds by combining Citra Hops and Orange Blossom Honey, and double dry-hopping it to create this beautiful 8.0% ABV hybrid.
The label created for this beer captures the collaboration wonderfully. Both the Three Phase Brewing and Standard Meadery names are clear and present. What's more is the label shows a traditional Phase Three hummingbird teamed up with a bumblebee. The two approach a Lilly and prepare to... pollinate it.
Surrounding the can is an elaborate black and white floral design reminiscent of a really well-done tattoo. The pattern is beautiful.
Appearance and Aroma
As this beer is poured into a glass, it looksthick and dense. The color is a deep gold and reminds me of the color of honey from certain angles.
There was very little head present on the pour, but as you drink there is heavy lacing, a result of the beer's thickness.
I loved the aroma of this beer. The Citra hops are very apparent on the nose with strong citrus and tropical notes including lemon and orange zest, as well as pineapple.
The sweetness of the honey is also present in the aroma, although not as strong as it is on the taste.
This beer is wild, and I mean that in the best way possible. At first it's all IPA, with an upfront juicy-citrus flavor. There is just a hint of pine and a mild dank flavor as well.
Then, it immediately shifts. At first, you notice how thick and creamy this beer is. While in the mouth, it is very reminiscent of a cream ale.
The finish is where the orange blossom honey shines. As soon as you swallow you get a blast of dense, sweet honey flavor. The honey almost coats your mouth and sticks around for a while, leaving a really nice, smooth aftertaste.
I love IPAs, and I've been very curious about the mead game for a while now, not really knowing where to start. So, when I saw this collaboration I was very excited to try it. Cross Pollination was one of the more unique beers I've tried, and honestly I wasn't sure about it at first. I will say however, the more I drank, the more I enjoyed it.
For any current beer fan interested in getting into mead, I can't think of a better way to start that journey. Phase Three and Standard Meadery have developed the perfect balance between their respective styles.
This beer is simultaneously a well-done IPA and wonderful introduction to mead. Personally, it has me excited to expand my knowledge of the honey-based beverage.