Most Improved! – Big Ditch Haymaker IPA, Buffalo, NY, USA

When I first reviewed this beer last April, I enjoyed it but didn’t think it was anything overly special or exciting. A return trip to Buffalo earlier this week changed my mind, and a tasting last night from the growler I brought back confirmed it.

From a dense and restrained aroma, this has blossomed into a complex and fruity nose that leads with lemon, floral grapefruit and preserved lemon, but also boasts subtler notes of strawberry, currant and starfruit. On the palate, it’s gone from a resinous body with herbal notes of muddled grapefruit zest, rosemary and thyme, all layered over lingering malty sweetness, to a more integrated balance of malt and hop, with fruity, caramel and floral notes up front leading into a still largely resinous body with well-developed notes of herbs and grapefruit oil. The finish is clean, just off-dry and lingering.

Lovers of hop bombs and citrus assaults will no doubt view Haymaker as just another ‘meh’ IPA. For lovers of complexity and character, however, this is an absolutely top-flight ale that demands attention as one of upstate New York’s finest IPAs.

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