Texas Ale Project Bills This Beer as "Extreme" — But Can a Beer Really Surprise Us Anymore?

Texas Ale Project re-released 100 Million Angels Singing recently, an early present to DFW beer lovers ahead of the brewery’s first birthday party on April 30. It’s a double IPA with Texas-sized specs: 100 IBUs, 9 percent ABV, an old-growth forest of hop varieties that promise the taste of pine, resin and citrus. Some might call it extreme — the brewery does, anyway, and so it became our gateway ale into this week’s examination of what it means for a beer to really get weird in 2016.

Our field trip to T.A.P. coincided with a local private school’s sock hop-themed fundraiser. Small children in poodle skirts and leather jackets romped around the patio. Dulcet doo-wop harmonies resonated off the fermenters, which towered over two pomaded dads playing pingpong. If David Lynch ever makes another movie for Disney, it could start like this. 

100 Million Angels Singing came as a 16-ounce pint, served in plasticware to avoid any pint-sized-person mishaps. Nonetheless, the beer looked gorgeous. The color was pale amber with a sturdy crown of foam. It was surprisingly soft on the nose for a hop grenade — pine and herbal aromas came through with a hard sniff. Happily, the grenade detonated on the first sip, delivering a Hawaiian punch of evergreen dankness. The grain bill defers to all those hops, but I found it did the most to distinguish 100 Million Angels Singing from other recent Texas DIPAs. Very bready, a little cheesy and faintly funky, it tasted like the pint had been aged with a few slices of stuffed-crust pizza (which is an endorsement, by the way). The angels hit their hallelujahs on the back end, where all that alcohol by volume finally revealed itself with just a bit of boozy heat. At just five bucks, it was a delightfully cheap thrill.

I liked this beer, but its designation as “extreme” prompted me to contemplate how hard it is for a beer to really shock drinkers anymore. Double IPAs have been around for roughly 22 years, barely a fleck of foam in beer history. For a taste of that history, there’s Dogfish Head’s Birra Etrusca; if you want to forget your own name, there’s BrewDog’s 41 percent ABV Sink The Bismarck. And, depending on your taste in lambics, you’re liable to taste more produce after a single Spec’s run than an elementary school kid tastes all week.

The only impulse of contemporary beerworking that’s inspired some hesitation, it seems, is the recent crowdfunding pitch for a wild ale soured with bacteria from a woman’s you-know-where. But even if the cervesia theca seems unlikely, recall: We live and imbibe in an era when a brewery can sell a gose that tastes and smells like unwashed scrotum, with reasonable confidence that it will sell out. So who knows? As the limits of beer lovers’ tastes hurtle ever outward, a brew sourced from supermodel nether-regions isn’t totally out of bounds.

Texas Ale Project, 1001 N. Riverfront Blvd.