Martin House’s Kafkaesque Is Bizarre, Sure, But Don't Let That Bug You.
Welcome to On Tap! Each week in this recurring feature, we'll take an in-depth look at one of the many beers now available in the suddenly crowded North Texas brew scene. The goal here is to look at these area beers without our local goggles on and to wonder aloud, “Is this beer good or do I just like it because it's local?” Should be a fun experiment, no? Cheers to that!
This week, we sipped on Martin House's Kafkaesque.
Fast Facts on Martin House's Kafkaesque.
ABV: 10.3 percent.
International Bitterness Units (IBUs): 95.
Availability: Cans and draft.
I'll admit it. I'm a week late in wishing you, beer fan, a Happy New Year. But what better way to make it up to you than by kicking off 2016 reviewing a weirdo beer from Martin House? I'm a newcomer to Kafkaesque, but I will not likely forget about it. Part of me wants to think that this beer was born of a series of missteps. Part of me wants to think that Martin House intended to add all these layers of complexity from the start. What I do know is that Martin House has turned the weirdness to 11 with Kafkaesque.
For this review, I have categorized the beer as a specialty IPA. Perhaps we could label it the same way as Lakewood Growler does — as an American Strong Ale. On its site, Martin House states that this beer starts as an imperial IPA. Luck's menu on TapHunter lists this beer as a bizzaro ale. Fun!
For the record, Martin House labeled this beer as an imperial smoked black rye oaked raspberry IPA. It sort of reminds me of overhearing someone's $8 order of something once resembling a coffee-like drink at Starbucks. But, hey, let's not automatically turn to negative-town just because there's a lot of stuff going on with this beer.
Let's give it a chance, OK?
Background on Specialty IPA.
Specialty IPAs live amongst the more traditional IPA styles but, as of 2015, all these hoppy misfit toys have their own sort-of style according to BJCP standards. Specialty IPAs represent an amalgam of roasty, fruity and other players all together. Weird? Yes! Specialty IPAs are supposed to be recognizable as IPAs right off the bat, but this is where I have trouble with Kafkaesque. There's just a lot going on here. Specialty IPAs can have ABV ranges from 4 to 10 percent. Kafkaesque clocks in at the high end of this range.
Kafkaesque pours black with a pillowy, light tan head. As I taste this beer, lacing clings to the glass and sticks around for what seems like forever.
The first aroma I sense from Kafkaesque is dark roasty malt. Then a kick of sharp rye hits me, but certainly not in a bad way. Rounding out the tour or aromas is a wood note, along with a lingering sweetness and berry, cakey sort of aroma. As the beer warms up a bit, the volume of the fruit notes increase. At 95 IBUs, there is a healthy dose of bittering hops in this beer. But I don't get a ton of hop aroma on the nose; the hop notes are obfuscated by the roasty intensity.
The roasty flavors are also the first thing that I sense when tasting. Following the roast note — and not to be outdone — are flavors of smoke, wood and fruit. The smoke and wood help round out the roast notes without making the palate on this beer too bitter. Then, as if to save me from myself, the fruit shows up to help balance out the immense bitterness. The aftertaste hangs around, but it's not a palate-wrecker like I imagined it would be. Overall, the flavor profile is a little bit confusing. I'm left wanting a little less bitterness from the roast and smoke, and a little more balance help from the raspberries.
This beer is huge and weird, and the mouthfeel is delightful. First, I sense a smooth, almost chocolate milk-like coating in my mouth. The carbonation hangs around for a moment while it bites my tongue. If there's a part I like best about this beer, it's the mouthfeel.
Martin House gives the traditional rubric of rigid beer styles a giant middle finger with this beer. Is it a specialty IPA? Sort of. Is it a strong ale? Yeah, kinda. Is it a “bizzaro ale,” maybe? For sure. However, I am trying to stick to the more major styles here. This beer is definitely complex; I'll give it that much. Kafkaesque is all brute force with flavor, and not so much with nuance.
On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd give Martin House's Kafkaesque a 6.
What's happening in the area brew scene?
• Thursday, January 14. Peticolas Beer Dinner w/ Dallas Supper Club.
• Friday, January 15. Release Party for The Caucasian, a white Russian imperial stout, at Texas Ale Project.
• Saturday, January 16. Paws & Pints at Oak Highlands Brewery.
• Monday, January 18. Jester King Beer Dinner at BrainDead Brewing.
• Saturday, January 23. Three-Year Anniversary at Community Beer Co.
• Saturday, January 23. Home Brewing Collaboration Day at Oak Highlands Brewery.
• Saturday, January 31-February 4. Girl Scout Cookie & Beer Pairing at LUCK.
• Friday, April 1-2. Big Texas Beer Fest.
Previous On Tap Reviews:
• Peticolas' Royal Scandal: 10.
• Community's Mosaic IPA: 10.
• Peticolas' Velvet Hammer: 10.
• Community's Barrel-Aged Legion: 10.
• Community's Legion: 10.
• Deep Ellum's Barrel Aged Four Swords: 9.5.
• Lakewood's Saint Dymphna: 9.5.
• Peticolas' Lost Epic: 9.5.
• Community's Ascension Porter: 9.5.
• Lakewood's Temptress: 9.5.
• Lakewood's Goatman: 9.5.
• Community's Public Ale: 9.5.
• Peticolas' Thrilla in Brazilla: 9.5.
• Lakewood's Wild Manimal: 9.
• Revolver's Blood & Honey: 9.
• Martin House's Imperial Texan: 9.
• Community's Trinity Tripel: 9.
• Peticolas' Irish Goodbye: 9.
• Four Corners' Block Party Porter: 9.
• Cedar Creek's Belgian Dubbel: 9.
• Peticolas' Ghost Of Alfred Brown: 8.5.
• Deep Ellum's Easy Peasy IPA: 8.5.
• Deep Ellum's Oak Cliff Coffee Ale: 8.5.
• Lakewood's Rock Ryder: 8.5.
• Rahr's Bourbon Barrel Aged Winter Warmer: 8.5.
• Lakewood's Raspberry Temptress: 8.5.
• Deep Ellum's Play Date: 8.
• Rahr & Sons Brewing Company's 11th Anniversary Russian Imperial Stout: 8.
• Bitter Sisters' Belgian Tripel: 8.
• Noble Rey's SteamPunk: 8.
• 903 Brewers' Citra On Top: 8.
• Bitter Sisters' Hissy Fit: 8.
• BrainDead's Gritz: 8.
• Community's Barrel-Aged Inspiration : 8.
• Cedar Creek's Fisticuffs: 8.
• Lakewood's Punkel: 8.
• Four Corners' El Chingon IPA: 8.
• Martin House's Day Break: 8.
• Deep Ellum's GOURDzilla: 8.
• Peticolas' The Duke (Aged 12 Months): 8.
• Deep Ellum's Pale Ale: 8.
• Revolver's Bock: 8.
• 903 Brewers' Sasquatch: 8.
• Peticolas' Wintervention: 8.
• Armadillo Ale Works' Brunch Money: 8.
• Martin House's Salsa Verde: 8.
• Cedar Creek's Spinning Mule Robust Porter: 8.
• Lakewood's Holiday Bonus: 8.
• Lakewood's Hop Trapp: 8.
• On Rotation Saved By The Belma: 7.5.
• True Vine's Unicorn's Revenge: 7.5.
• Deep Ellum's Hop Seeker: 7.5.
• Four Corners' El Super Bee: 7.5.
• Lakewood's Hopochondria: 7.5.
• Three Nations GPA: 7.5.
• Martin House's Rubberneck Red: 7.5.
• Lakewood's Antigoon's Revenge: 7.5.
• Community's Texas Pils: 7.5.
• Lakewood's Zomer Pils: 7.5.
• Cedar Creek's Dankosaurus: 7.5.
• Martin House's Turtle Power: 7.
• Collective's Petite Golden Sour: 7.
• Shannon's Chocolate Stout: 7.
• BrainDead's Red Ale: 7.
• Community's Razzy Raspberry Witbier: 7.
• Martin House's Gateway Blonde Ale: 7.
• Bearded Eel's Purple Unicorn: 7.
• Shannon Brewing Company's Irish Red: 7.
• Texas Ale Project's Somethin' Shady: 7.
• Deep Ellum IPA: 7.
• Cedar Creek's The Lawn Ranger: 7.
• Martin House Brewing Company's Cellarman's Reserve IPA (Amarillo).: 7.
• Lakewood's Till & Toil: 7.
• 903 Brewers' The Chosen One: 7.
• 903 Brewers' Sugar On Top: 7.
• Martin House's Gateway XPA: 7.
• Armadillo Ale Work's Quakertown Stout: 7.
• Revolver's High Brass: 7.
• Community's Pale Ale: 7.
• Oak Highlands' Chump Change: 7.
• Martin House's River House: 7.
• Grapevine Craft Brewery's Sir William's Brown Ale: 7.
• Community's Funnel Cake Ale: 7.
• Audacity's Boss Raptor IPA: 7.
• Collective Brewing Project's Mom Azacca: 6.5.
• Four Corners' La Lechuza: 6.5.
• Revolver's Ironhead IPA: 6.5.
• 903 Brewers' Trot Line: 6.5.
• Peticolas' Operation Collaboration: 6.5.
• Grapevine Craft Brewery's Nightwatch: 6.5.
• Peticolas' The Duke: 6.5.
• Deep Ellum's Double Brown Stout : 6.5.
• Tupps' Cotton Mill Gold: 6.
• Rabbit Hole's Tweedleyum: 6.
• Rabbit Hole's Off With Your Red: 6.
• Cedar Creek's Elliott's Phoned Home Pale Ale: 6
• Grapevine Craft Brewery's Lakefire: 6
• Armadillo Ale Works' WunderMelon: 6
• Deep Ellum Pale Ale: 6
• Lakewood's La Dame Du Lac: 5.5.
• 903 Brewers' The Land Of Milk And Honey: 5.
• Deep Ellum's Numb Comfort: 5.
• Four Bullets' Black Jack Brown: 4.5.
• Four Corners Heart O' Texas: 4.
• Audacity's Sunset Boulevard: 4.
• Shannon Brewing Company's IPA: 4.
• Grapevine's Monarch: 4.
• Franconia Wheat: 3.
• Miller Lite: 1.