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Smuttynose Big A IPA - Smuttynose Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Smuttynose Big A IPASmuttynose Big A IPA

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.
very good

1,508 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,508
Reviews: 872
rAvg: 3.97
pDev: 10.83%
Wants: 87
Gots: 71 | FT: 0
Brewed by:
Smuttynose Brewing Company visit their website
New Hampshire, United States

Style | ABV
American Double / Imperial IPA |  9.70% ABV

Availability: Rotating

Notes/Commercial Description:
Ever since Stash Wojciechowski, the “Killer Kielbasa,” created this Imperial IPA for our Big Beer Series, Big A IPA has gotten a lot of attention. Lauded by the New York Times and Men's Journal Magazine, it’s been one of the most talked-about beers around. Brewed in very small quantities, it has also been one of the hardest-to-find. Until now.

Big A IPA has everything you’d want in an India Pale Ale, only more: more hops, more malt & more flavor. Na zdrowie!

120 IBU

(Beer added by: BeerAdvocate on 06-16-2002)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 1,508 | Reviews: 872 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of andyj
4.05/5  rDev +2%

I just loved the picture on the label and hey it says the guy is Polish so what could be wrong with this beer? It seems like they make imperial everything nowadays and this beer is no exception to the imperialization of normal gravity beers. What is interesting about this Big IPA is that while it is wonderfully bitter the strength of it does not ruin the taste of the IPA. In fact without knowing that it is an imperialized beer I would not have know so, because there is very little residual alcohol flavors in it. So this is definitely a good brewing job to say the least. Don't get me wrong it is pretty strong. I don't know if this in the same league as the Dog Fish Head varieties of strong IPAs, but they definitely give them a run for their money.

andyj, Oct 03, 2003
Photo of OldFrothingSlosh
4.03/5  rDev +1.5%

22oz bomber with a note that pugilist Stash Wojciechwski created this IPA for the Big Beer Series. $3.99 at Wine N Beer Westpark.

Poured a cloudy honey-orage in color. Thick and amazingly sticky white head leaves distinct rings around the glass. Aroma is "kick yo' ass" hops. It's like a used car ad: Come on down to Leapin' Larry's. We got all sorts of hops: citrus hops, pine hops, flower hops. You name it...I've got it! A virtual cornucopia of hops for the nose. Alcohol definitely noted as well. Taste is all hops. ABV is slightly overbearing in this one (is that a bad thing?). A war is waged between the hops and ABV to see who can win. Scurrying around in the background lies the malt. Too intimidated to show itself, it skulks about, watching the two masters battle on the battleground that is your palate. Exhausted, the ABV surrenders in defeat, begging for mercy. A heavyweight fight has just occurred in your mouth, and you've felt every punch. ABV leaves you slightly dazed and confused. Finish is minimal, and intensely bitter. A "pissed off at the world" bitter. Mouthfeel? Very good. Smooth when it needs to be, raw and abrasive when you think about not respecting this beer. Drinkability is good as well. Overall, a great beer, but just ever-so-slightly unrefined. Smoothing out the raw, hoppy bitterness (did I actually just say that a beer could be...*gasp*...TOO hoopy?!?) would make this a true contender.

OldFrothingSlosh, Sep 27, 2003
Photo of John
4.25/5  rDev +7.1%

22 oz. bomber. Bottle conditioned...though it doesn't state this on the label. I poured the whole lot of it and behold, a ton of chunky yeast in my glass. How's about a warning Smutty? Anyway the liquid that's inside the bottle is enough to allow me to forgive this oversight. The color is a hazy orange with a huge citrus aroma. The head is lacking, even with a vigorous pour. The taste is impressive. Monstrous fruity hop flavor smacks your buds around. Orange, tangerine, grapefruit. The malt contributes minimally to the flavor, but provides a substantial backbone in terms of body. Hops are oily, spicy, fruity, peppery. An alcohol warming effect balance the hops somewhat. Slick mouthfeel. All this for $2.95 for a bomber? Hell yeah. This could be a regular in my fridge. Well done Smutty.

John, Sep 27, 2003
Photo of UnionMade
3.78/5  rDev -4.8%

The beer is a honeyed amber color, topped with a frothy, oily looking head. The head dies out to a thin ring after a couple sips, leaving some blobs of lace clinging to the glass.
Aroma is powerfully hoppy, dominated by citric, piney hoppiness. Hops are rich and oily smelling, with some grapefruit and herbal aroma. Solid malt backs up the hops, with a mild toastiness and a slight apple and apricot aroma. Very hoppy, yet balanced.
Flavor is initially surprising, with the hops not quite so dominant. A strong maltiness starts off the sip, some toastiness and a touch of caramel. Very light fruitiness just as the hops enter, with some apple, pear, and a touch of diacetyl buttery flavor. The hops charge in, trampling the malt with an oily citric, piney flavor. The hops seem to gather steam the further into the pint you get, completely overpowering the malt, besides a small band of guerilla malt lingering right up front, trying to hold off the hops for a second. Huge resiny hop finish, leaving an oily hoppiness lingering in your mouth for hours. I could taste it through a sandwich an hour later. Full bodied, with smooth carbonation sliding through the oily hoppiness.
Very hoppy, yet somehow miraculously balanced. Definitely a big beer. I get tired of hops fairly quickly, and at 7%, this isn't really something I could drink much of. Very tasty, well worth a try at least once. One of my favorite IPAs, and definitely my favorite big styled IPA.

UnionMade, Sep 19, 2003
Photo of xgrigorix
4.13/5  rDev +4%

Twentytwo ounce brown bottle, 2003 edition.

Medium gold, glowing, with a chill haze, but otherwise clear. Capped by a perfect 2 fingers of dense off white foam. Head recedes slowly revealing a bit a sticky lace.

Bright citrusy hops fill the nose & are complemented by a sublte bready aroma.

A dull hop attack gives way to biscuit, raw grain, a bit of sweet caramel, & a tiny bit of breadiness. Then a quick hit of bitterness, a bit of citrus, and a slow burning muted hop fire. Finishes quite dry. Hops linger in the aftertaste. Orangey hop flavours become juicier as it warms.

Just shy of full bodied, with prickly carbonation.

An IPA that I can get on board with. The folks at Smuttynose really outdid themselves with this one.

xgrigorix, Sep 15, 2003
Photo of indiapaleale
4.4/5  rDev +10.8%

2008 Vintage ~

My hand almost trembles pouring this beer. Its like ripping off the wrapping paper of a gift you already know is going to be awesome. Fills the glass with a super clean, slightly dark gold liquid. Its actually pretty close to orange in color with a big two-finger foamy head. Ooh-la-la.

Holy f-ing hops batman. The smell of the Big A is like a whole hop bine crammed into a glass. Very strong, fresh hops scents dominate along with the spiciness that accompany them. There is also a faint alcohol scent that lingers in the back. What a great smell, I sure missed this stuff!

Taste is very much like a remember. Sweet, spicy and bitter with that tongue drying hoppiness I've grown to love. What a perfect combo for a beer of this magnitude. Finding balance with a beer this strong and hoppy can be tough, but Smuttynose does a great job and I really don't think its that much of a one sided hop bomb. The malty sweetness balances things out really well.

Oh the hops! The Big A's IBUs are pretty damn high and the hop oils and resins are definitely going to have a big impact on your taste buds. This is hop heaven.

5 years ago I wrote the following (kind of funny since I was rather new to beer reviewing and just getting my feet wet). I've edited my stupidity for a bit of humor.

2003 Vintage ~

This was a nice surprise, Smutty doesn't make an IPA (say what?) usually that I am aware of, so I didn't know what to expect. It was clean and crisp. Nicely hopped and invigerating at 7% (umm, I think its a little higher than that). It had a nice amber color with a head that poured well and than slank away. A nice small batch beer by a fairly well known brewery in New England.

ALSO-The 22 oz. bottle is great, it has a picture of the "Killer Kielbasa" on it, a bare knuckle boxer from the looks of him.

indiapaleale, Sep 11, 2003
Photo of jeffboo
4.08/5  rDev +2.8%

A very nice IPA from the NorthEast.

In the glass, it's a nice orange color with a thick creamy head. It has a Big hop aroma - floral and citric, with a little buttery malt in the backround. The body is medium to full, very drinkable, and it finishes toasted malt and bitter hop bitterness. The flavor is floral hop based with a clover and honey mix with a nice, but basic malt backbone. This one does fit in nicely with Summer of 2003 big IPA'S.

jeffboo, Sep 03, 2003
Photo of GreatPondBrewer
4.22/5  rDev +6.3%

22 oz. bomber

Smuttynose(just that word is cool) has been turning out some top notch beers as of late. The porter was exceptional and this one gets high marks as well. Poured a deep amber color with a white delicate head and plenty of craggy lace.

Smell was full of alcohol esters, maple syrup, plenty of huge floral hops and a fair bit of malts. At this point I was unsure what kind of beer I would be getting. English style or American?

Taste started off with a huge, creamy mouthfeel full of spicy hops, honey like malts huge bitter aftertaste that tsted very fresh and the alcohol tasted almost like the aftertaste of vodka with notes of that kind of medicinal pine. As I poured the remenents into the glass there were some floaties which I did not expect. However, they were a pleasent surprise. They mellowed the vodka flavors and the hops into a more floral rose petal taste.

This has the base of an English IPA with just enough of the west coast hop profile to be its own beer. A very tasty one at that!

GreatPondBrewer, Aug 28, 2003
Photo of kunzbrew
4/5  rDev +0.8%

Well it has been awhile since my last review, damn moving and buying of a new house. I seem lost without my BA. This brew pours a light amber color with a hint of haze. A small head leaves a nice sexy lace behind.

The aroma is very hoppy hence the IPA, I really like IPA's so I really enjoy smelling this beer. The maltiness is over powered by the hops.

Bitter really bitter is the only thing we can say about these hops, but very good. I love the flavor of hops in my beer.

Overall this is a great brew, from a good brewery.


kunzbrew, Aug 28, 2003
Photo of MaineBeerMan
4.55/5  rDev +14.6%

This beer pours a nice peach flesh shade of orange with plenty of long lasting white foam that leaves clumps of sticky lace on the sides of the glass.
The aroma is super deep, full of fruity, piney earthy hops, with subtle hints of malt sweetness around the edges. I must have spent a full minute inhaling the awome aroma of this brew before I ever brought it to my lips for a taste! One of the best smelling brews I have had.
The first thing I can say about the flavor is juicy, almost like a big dose of grapeftuit was tossed into the brew. Oily hop resins with an array of flavors dominate the taste of this beer, citrusy fruits and a great floral quality are most notable. The hops are almost, but not quite balanced out by the nice malt presence, but the malt remains in the background. Make no mistake, this is an IPA that is all about the hops. Lasting hop flavor is all over the finish on every sip of this beer.
This brew has a really slick, smooth mouthfeel, with a thinner than expected mouthfeel that I would rate as a medium body. This contributes heavily to making it a very quaffable beer that begs for another sip immediately after you swallow the last one.
Overall a very tasty brew, I could drink these all day and night although at 7% abv I would probably have a rather short night.

MaineBeerMan, Aug 27, 2003
Photo of rabidawg
3.88/5  rDev -2.3%

Appearance: Hazy orange-yellow with slight carbonation. Small head that did leave a decent lace.

Smell: Malt and hops seemed well balanced; neither truly stood out. Noticeable peppery spiciness. Alcohol well hidden, with ripe fruits providing the backdrop.

Taste: Sweet, almost too sweet, as it hits the tongue. Definitely not as hoppy as I expected at first. Hops kick in after the swallow, providing a drying bitterness without the big hop aromatics I expected. More subdued than most big IPAs, and not very balanced. The malt dominates in an almost cloying sweet way. Tastes like a mix of EKU 28 and an IPA.

rabidawg, Aug 18, 2003
Photo of marc77
3.78/5  rDev -4.8%

Light bronze hue, with a slight murk. Frothy, bushy, persistent ivory white head leaves brambly textured, sparse lace. Acuate waft of crisp and juicy orange citrus upfront in aroma is contrasted by clement light caramel malt and biscuit sweetness. As the beer breathes, citrus like hop oils dissipate, revealing both a static, slightly grassy, herbal hop note as well as faint ethanol heat. Unique, somewhat raw, and enticing aromawise. Transient burst of barbed hop bitterness initially in flavor fades surprisingly quickly, and is superceded by a dominant buttery diacetyl and toffeeish caramel malt combination. Hop flavor surfaces after a deliberation and is expectedly citrusy, albeit of a non descript citrus fruit character due to the pervasive malt sweetness. Base pale malt undertone augments late and becomes lightly toasty, lending a marmalade on toast suggestion characteristic of many American IPAs. Agreeably viscous and creamy in mouthfeel, from perhaps a combination of a low attenuating yeast and ample caramel malt derived dextrins. Finishes with a protracted, but pleasant melange of mellow hop bitterness and fleeting candyish toffee. Big A is an unusual, certainly malt driven brew, with hop character secondary. It's a touch sweet and heavy on the palate for easy drinking, but what else does one expect from a Big A IPA? Very tasty and akin to American IPA / Old Ale hybrid. This could cellar well. Big thanks to Bierman9 for delivering a beer I've wanted to taste for a while.

marc77, Aug 18, 2003
Photo of mikeys01
3.95/5  rDev -0.5%

Served from a 22oz brown bomber, with the scary boxer guy in the front. The Big a poured out a beautiful amber/orange in color with minimal feathery white head that diappears fairly promptly. Decent carbonation, not too fizzy. Aroma is boxer-strength hop power, with a spicy orange background. Taste is very full and characteristically bitter for a big/"imperial" IPA. Hops hit you first along with the citrus, and then you can start to taste a slight maltiness and spice on the sides of your tongue. As the Big A warms up, it sweetens considerably and deepens in flavor. Seems to be surprisingly well balanced overall. Good example of the style from Smuttynose...

mikeys01, Aug 15, 2003
Photo of Bierman9
4.6/5  rDev +15.9%

2003 version of the Big-A! Color is a bit lighter than last year...still a rich golden hue, though. Thin, fine white head w/lace sticking well. Much stronger nose with a definite Cascade lean to it. Toasty malt lurks nearby as well. Real nice, medium-plus body....creamy smooth on the tongue! A real nice, toasty maltiness sets the foundation upon which is built a tower of fresh, West-coast hops. The Cascades really stick ever-so-nicely in the throat and linger....as well as a bit of a caramelly sweetness. This one really hits the spot! I could drink this forever!!
Zum Wohl, Smutty!!

overall: 4.55
appearance: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | mouthfeel: 4.5 | drinkability: 5

*** ***

Finally (14JUL02) found this at my local Shaws market... Poured a medium copper color, sort of bronze-like....and a touch hazy, too... Darker than most IPA's....reminds me of the HopDevil color. Had a fine, creamy, long-lasting head, producing good lace! Had a floral hop nose, but could have been stronger (to match the hop-flavor). Medium bodied, and quite smooth tongue-wise! Has a big malt-sweetness at the tip-off, with lots of floral hoppiness bringing up the rear, but some caramel still lingering in the background. Feel the sweetness gets in the way a bit, though. Still, this one has the biggest hop-bite I can recall from a Smuttynose bier. All-in-all, I like it!!! (4.5/4.0/4.0/4.5/4.0 - 4.15 = 2002 version).


Bierman9, Aug 13, 2003
Photo of far333
3.88/5  rDev -2.3%

Golden honey color with a yellowish white, foamy head, almost like soap bubbles. Head is high, but settles quickly leaving wet lace dripping down the glass. Strong hop aroma with some alcohol smells, and a bit of sweet candy. Flavor is huge. Big hops, with lots of sweet orange. A piney finish, and a warm ring of alcohol swims around the mouth, and even rises up to the back of my nose. Mouthfeel is fresh, crisp, and clean. This one's got some pouch, but I really enjoy it, and could have several.

far333, Aug 06, 2003
Photo of WanderingFool
4.28/5  rDev +7.8%

This beer is packed with hoppy goodness and reminded me of an Arrogant Bastard. It pours a dark amber color and is topped of by a thick creamy white head with very large bubbles. The head fades to a thick ring around the surface. A hoppy aroma of citrus, pine and yeast floats above the beer. Each sip of this medium to full bodied beer is packed with flavor. Hops dominate the taste with its citrus and pine characteristics, but some caramel and toasted malts can be found hiding in the background. In other words, a well balanced beer. It finishes with a flowery hoppy taste on the back of the tongue.

I'd definitely recommend this beer to any hop heads out there or any fans of Arrogant Bastard.

WanderingFool, Aug 03, 2003
Photo of UncleFrank
3.48/5  rDev -12.3%

Aroma is floral and hoppy with some citrus notes.
Look is a clear amber with a thin head.
Taste has lots of hops with malt balance, then hops to clear all malt and anything else out of your mouth. A touch of butterscotch (diacetyl), which I actually like. Chewy EK Goldings type finish with a bit of ABV warmth. I want to rank drinkability higher because its good and smooth, but I cant have too much due to its higher ABV, which is not noted on bottle but I can feel it. Overall a really good IPA that borders of traditional and the new "double" or "extreme" catagories everyone else is doing. Drinkable IPA is the best IPA. (fhf)

UncleFrank, Aug 02, 2003
Photo of nixhecks
4.13/5  rDev +4%

Poured a crystal clear golden straw color with an efervescent head that retained well. The aroma was simply bustin' with hops, nice and cirtusy with a medicinal smell - just like the doctor's office - lingering in the background. The hops waste no time on the palate, going to work as soon as this brew hits the lips. Nice and bitter, with a healthy alcohol kick on the finish and quite a bitter aftertaste. Mouthfeel was nice and full. Definetely a must buy for any hop-head, this beer was not for the faint of heart.

nixhecks, Jul 31, 2003
Photo of jcalabre
3.8/5  rDev -4.3%

Appearance: This pours a slightly hazy burnt orange/amber color
Nose: This greets you will a nose of hops & resin.
Flavor: A nice hoppy flavor up front with some malt to balance it out. This is a well done IPA
This makes a nice session beer; I particularly enjoyed the balanced maltiness

jcalabre, Jul 20, 2003
Photo of bog
3.65/5  rDev -8.1%

This is a decent IPA. When I drink an IPA (especially a strong one), I think of dirtiness, a certain earthy quality. This beer partially fulfills that ideal. The smell is the best part of this beer: very hoppy and "dirty". The taste is good, but I feel that it's a bit weak compared to Dogfish Head's 90 Minute IPA. However, the taste does build for a bit longer than most. Overall, a good IPA, but not the best I've had.

bog, Jul 16, 2003
Photo of Darkale
4.2/5  rDev +5.8%

Cap came off with a very weak pop, and it took some direct and high pouring to create a decent head. Cloudy orange body. Sweet, slightly fruity pale ale aroma.

Bright, sparkly taste. Moderate carbonation. Mellow hop slice across your tongue. Pale ale backbone, lingering slightly bitter aftertaste.

Not as massive as the west coast IPAs, but very refreshing and bright in the mouth. A beer I will enjoy again.

Darkale, Jul 14, 2003
Photo of CharlesRiver
4/5  rDev +0.8%

I have been looking for this beer for awhile now. I know that it isn't that new but I could never seem to find it.

Served in a 22 oz. bottle which I think is the only way that it comes. Golden copper in color with a small head that didn't last that long. Nice hop and malt smell with some other odd notes like metal and flowers? The taste is all hops and gets more intense as the end comes. The aftertaste has a weird hop twang that I am not used to. The beer seems to intensify after you swalllow. Overall a good solid beer that I will buy and try again.

I think for once I finally served a beer at the right temperature. Chilled but not too cold. I will have to remember my combination.

CharlesRiver, Jul 09, 2003
Photo of avylover
3.15/5  rDev -20.7%

Pours a golden honey color. Off white tiny head with large bubbles. The beer itself appears to have very little carbonation. Smell is of pine & grapefruit hoppiness and I detect alot of malt in there too. No alcohol detected in the aroma. This might be an IPA for a non-hop-head to try. Tons of citriousy hop flavors are there...Grapefruit, apricot, and some slightly floral hints [EDIT 2004 saltiness masks all this], but there is no real bitter bite, or at least not what was expected from the aroma. Some might consider this a huge accomplishment. I'd call it a slight letdown. This really is a tasty beer [EDIT - currently too salty], but I prefer more bite in my hops. There is a decent maltiness in the background, but it seems to be overpowered by the hop flavors, and never really gets a chance to poke it's head out. Alcohol is very well masked. Very smooth mouthfeel, almost silky. Really good considering there is next to no carbonation. Pretty drinkable too. A really good beer, but I miss my hop bite.

Edit 2004 edition: INCREDIBLY SALTY!! Last year seemed much better. I have a feeling they had a hard time deciding whether or not to bottle this year's version. Overwhelmingly salty.

avylover, Jul 08, 2003
Photo of Stingray5
2.68/5  rDev -32.5%

22oz bomber featuring Stash Wojciechowski, the "Killer Kielbasa". Who? Pours a hazy golden amber with almost no head. Aromas are fruity, nutty and slighty toasted, more like an English IPA. Thick mouthful is followed by nutty fruity malt and bitter hops. There is a good dose of alcohol in the finish.

I'm trying to avoid saying this, but I found this beer to have a slight aroma and taste of vomit. Needless to say, that's a bad thing.

Stingray5, Jul 03, 2003
Photo of TXHops
4.47/5  rDev +12.6%

One of my better selections from the Boston trip, retrospectively. This Smutty “big beer series” IPA begins life as a hazy, light burnt orange offering with an average head of standard, off-white bubbles. A big, fruity/bready/hoppy aroma oozes from the glass, slowly permeating my olfactory senses with a growing sense of aromatic delight. If I stop to think about what I just smelled, then I realize that this is a wonderfully complex, lovely beer, by the nose alone. The citric hoppiness is showcased, but not in a West Coast way—the beer maintains a lovely balance between the sweet citrus fruit and the doughy backbone. The house Smutty yeast is evident here, and took me instantly back to the Shoal’s Pale Ale, Old Brown Dog and Robust Porter that I tried years ago as part of the beer of the month club that I canceled sometime around early 2001… Now that I think about it, this beer also tastes like the Portsmouth lager, so the house yeast can’t be the only common thread running through these beers… The same honeyed, tropical fruit aroma and subflavor are just as obvious in this one-off IPA as they were in the lager. Is it the maltster Smutty buys from? Is it the process? Is it a specific, unique, signature grain? Interesting…

The beer picks up flavor as it goes—the sweetness grows, reaching honey bun intensity, while the hoppiness takes a comfortable position in front of and behind the maltiness. Again, this IPA is way more about balance than any IPA I’ve had in the last few years, yet somehow, the hoppiness isn’t overlooked. It’s almost as if Smutty brewed an ESB/IPA. The result is truly a fabulous beer. It might not be as assertively hoppy as most BA’s are looking for, but it’s a tremendous example of brewmaster’s skill—so big, yet supple; so sweet, yet so mitigatingly hoppy; so hoppy yet so complexly malty. Wonderful beer. The hops for hops’ sake beers could take a lesson…

TXHops, Jun 10, 2003
Smuttynose Big A IPA from Smuttynose Brewing Company
89 out of 100 based on 1,508 ratings.