Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews

Ballistic IPA

Ale Asylum
Madison, WI

Style: India Pale Ale (IPA)
ABV: 7.5%

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Outstanding within its style.)

It’s American Craft Beer Week and Nigel is going Ballistic …

I’m not referring to the daily tantrum Nigel throws at the office, which involves him frantically pointing and waving his arms at his co-workers while calling Eddie Glick every derogatory name under the sun. This Ballistic is the new IPA from Madison’s Ale Asylum, a brewery that seems to love hops nearly as much as Nigel does. Mix my favorite style, brewed with loads of one of my favorite American hops (Amarillo), from a brewery in my home state, and I can think of no better way to start the week. American Craft Beer Week was created by the Brewers Association, the de facto leaders of craft beer in America, to promote drinking locally produced ales that are crafted with pride.

Ale Asylum is one of many examples of a high quality craft brewer here in the Midwest. My initial impressions of Ale Asylum were lukewarm, but I’ve continued to develop a more favorable view as the months progress. As I stated in my first review for Hopalicious, and later in my Ambergeddon review, I was under the perception, perhaps falsely, that Ale Asylum was the “next big thing” in Midwest craft beer. While there are a number of quality brewers out there that could find themselves in that role, labeling Ale Asylum as such during their fledgling months was flat-out unfair. In retrospect, I’m not sure what I was expecting, but the two initial wide-release brews, Hopalicious and Ambergeddon, were great examples of their styles (American pale ale and amber ale, respectively), and I may consider changing the rating to four mugs rather than three, particularly on the latter. And while I was disappointed with their Contorter Porter, I was very impressed with their unique Mercy Grand Cru, and am extremely impressed with Ballistic. My only remaining beef with Ale Asylum is that their brewery is located in the strangest of locations, in a small, old, strip-mall like building near the airport, out of sight from any and all Madison attractions and passers-by on Stoughton Road.

Hopalicious was extremely hoppy for an APA, which would lead one to believe that Ballistic is going crank up the hop decibels to the point of bursting since it’s an IPA. Amarillo is a prime example of an American hop, as it has boatloads of citrus both in the nose and the flavor, with a mild evergreen tone and clean finish that’s bitter, but still light and refreshing. Much like Cascade and Centennial, Amarillo is a perfect hop for a fine American IPA.

Ballistic pours well, with a frothy off-white head of about an inch that slowly dissipates, leaving a creamy lace at the top throughout and some stickiness on the sides. A translucent coppery hue, this is clearly an unfiltered brew that almost has the appearance of strained apricots. It’s a great pour and a beautiful beer in the glass.

The aroma is phenomenal. Amarillo hops are a touch less piney and a touch more sugary than some of their Northwest counterparts, and that is clearly evident in Ballistic. Initial aromas are heavy on citrus, particularly zesty orange and grapefruit. Secondary aromas of light sugar and barley are present as well, as is the slightest touch of evergreen. Overall, a sweet, sugary citrus scent that’s extremely pleasing and quite strong.

The taste backs up the aroma, and as I alluded to before, I’m extremely impressed. To Ale Asylum’s credit, I can’t really think of anything it resembles, other than perhaps a sweeter version of Founders Centennial IPA. That means they’ve crafted a tasty IPA that is unique, which is always a bonus. The overwhelming flavor is citrus, but more of a grainy citrus, which makes it a bit more complex. Orange zest dominates, with hints of grapefruit and kiwi (no lie … I sensed kiwi, but that may be due to my penchant for Flight of the Conchords). The earthy elements of malt and hops take hold quickly, tempering the initial citrus bite. With the hops, the flavor is a touch of pine, and with the malt, it’s a light sugary sweetness of caramel and toffee. Perhaps the most surprising element is just how thick Ballistic is; for a standard IPA, it’s one of the thickest I’ve experienced. All of the present flavors coat the tongue, giving them an added intensity that I found quite enjoyable. Medium bodied and smooth on the palate, the thickness could be a bit much after awhile, but overall the flavor is wonderfully complex, while remaining light and refreshing.

I must say, I was thrilled with Ballistic IPA and I’m wishing it wasn’t a seasonal. While I can always return to Hopalicious and Ambergeddon, this was truly a hophead’s dream, a true treat that I thoroughly enjoyed. Are there better IPAs out there? Sure … this isn’t the best of the best. But it is extremely good, and a true testament to the brewing capabilities of Ale Asylum. If you’re a Hophead like Nigel, this is a must try. Pick it up should you see it, as it’s sure to be gone soon.


Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on May 12, 2009.
Agree with this review?
Today in 1933, Prohibition was repealed. Have a beer.

Drinkin’ And Thinkin’

Beer Dorks News

Want to know how healthy the craft beer industry is? As always, look to Portland. Craft pioneer Bridgeport announces sudden closure, adding to a growing list of PDX casualties.
Did Anheuser-Busch Chicago offer their shit beer to Cody Parkey before his missed field goal? Because that may explain why he "accidentally" biffed it.
Chicago now has the most breweries of any city in the country. Other things Chicago has the most of: murders, mobsters, and Ditkas.
Trying to spin it positive, BA releases end of year graphic. Only 5% growth in the craft sector when nearly 1000 new breweries opened? That's a collapse waiting to happen.
R.I.P. Tallgrass... another casualty as the regional/national craft beer market continues to get squeezed.
Wait... Constellation Brands cut all of the Ballast Point and Funky Buddha sales staff? They merged it with their Corona/Modelo staff?? We're SHOCKED!!!
Pizza Beer founder crying about failure of company, blames everyone else. Reminder, the beer tasted like vomit. Try having better ideas or making better products so you're not a failure.
It's Bud Light so doesn't really matter, but we expect this beer to be sitting around for awhile.
Indiana brewery to open with controversial beer names to "get the conversation going". Translation: taking advantage of serious issues for free publicity.
Hundreds of amazing beers in Wisconsin and the Cubs took back the one everyone drinks just because it exists and people have heard of it. How fitting...