903 Brewers' Sugar On Top Is a Little Top-Heavy With Hops.
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 903 Brewers' Sugar on Top IPA
Fast Facts on 903 Brewers Sugar on Top IPA.
• Style: India Pale Ale.
• ABV: 8.7 percent.
• International Bitterness Units (IBUs): 84.
• Color: Golden Amber.
• Availability: Seasonal release.
Sugar on Top IPA is 903 Brewers’ seasonal IPA offering, so named for its healthy addition of brown sugar to the end of the boil, which is intended to impart a bit of sweet balance to a typically hop-forward beer. Given the general popularity of the IPA and Pale Ale styles, it’s interesting that 903 chooses to relegate its Pale Ale and IPA to seasonal status instead of dedicating some year-round capacity to these beers as many other local breweries do. But, alas, that's how 903 rolls.
Background on India Pale Ales.
For an overview on India Pale Ales, be sure to read this review of Community's Mosiac IPA.
By appearance alone, this certainly looks like an IPA. It's golden amber in color, with a dense, fluffy white head that clings to the glass as it fades.
Sugar on Top is predominantly built around Citra hops, and that's very evident in the aroma. Classic Citra aromas of heavy tropical fruit — pineapple, mango, melon — are all very present here. In addition, sweet caramel and notes of bread can be observed.
This sucker packs a bitter hop punch upfront. It's the kind of IPA that can strip the enamel from your teeth, really. That's then followed by a bit of sweetness on the back end — although not nearly as much as is implied by the addition of the brown sugar. It’s hard to pick out any additional flavors beyond the overpowering hop bitterness.
Sugar on Top IPA boasts a medium to slightly thick mouthfeel with adequate levels of carbonation for the style.
903's Sugar on Top scores major points for its delicious Citra hop aroma, its creative use of brown sugar as a brewing ingredient and, well, just for being a generally well-crafted IPA. There aren't any off flavors or aromas that can be detected here, and, for those who like exploring the upper limits of the IBU perception threshold, this is certainly a beer you might want to try.
That said, beyond the aroma, the beer suffers from being a bit too one-dimensional. Being hop-forward is often a requirement of brewing good IPAs, but there’s a difference between being hop-forward while maintaining flavor balance and complexity and just brewing up a hop bomb.
Sugar on Top falls decidedly under the latter classification.
On a scale of 1 to 10, I'll give 903 Brewers Sugar on Top IPA a 7.
What's happening in the area brew scene? (Powered by Dallas Brew Scene.)
• Thursday, October 23. Hopped Up Cinema at Alamo Drafthouse (Richardson).
• Friday, October 31, through Sunday, November 9. NTX Beer Week.
• Friday, November 7. Inaugural NTX Beer Week Brewer's Ball at the Renaissance Hotel Dallas.
Previous On Tap Reviews:
• Peticolas' Royal Scandal: 10.
• Community's Mosaic IPA: 10.
• Peticolas' Velvet Hammer: 10.
• Community's Ascension Porter: 9.5.
• Lakewood's Temptress: 9.5.
• Lakewood's Goatman: 9.5.
• Community's Public Ale: 9.5.
• Peticolas' Thrillla in Brazilla: 9.5.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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 Hop Trapp: 8.
• 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.
• Deep Ellum IPA: 7.
• Cedar Creek's The Lawn Ranger: 7.
• Lakewood's Till & Toil: 7.
• 903 Brewers' The Chosen One: 7.
• Martin House's Gateway XPA: 7.
• Armadillo Ale Work's Quakertown Stout: 7.
• Revolver's High Brass: 7.
• Community's Pale Ale: 7.
• Martin House's River House: 7.
• Grapevine Craft Brewery's Sir William's Brown Ale: 7.
• Community's Funnel Cake Ale: 7.
• Peticolas' The Duke: 6.5.
• Deep Ellum's Double Brown Stout : 6.5.
• 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.
• Grapevine's Monarch: 4.
• Franconia Wheat: 3.
• Miller Lite: 1.