"This isn't a double IPA," I said the first time I drank More Cowbell from Buffalo Bayou Brewing Co. I've come to know doubles to have a dank (or dirty hop) flavor that wallops you from all angles. You'll probably find some tropical notes, but they're bitter and earthy and muddy. And More Cowbell wasn't very dank or bitter. That turned me off at first.

"I don't know about this," I told my drinking partner, but I kept drinking, and I realized I liked More Cowbell. It's a well-balanced beer with moderate hop flavor. And the booze crept up on me after finishing. It was good. It just wasn't what I expected.

More Cowbell makes me think about what we want out of beer. We place labels on everything—double IPA, New England IPA, brut IPA—and while a select few correspond with a documented, official recipe, like with brut, brewers are open to interpret just about everything. One man's milk stout will differ from another's attempt. Sure, a milk stout should have a few defining characteristics (a malty stout brewed with lactose), there's plenty of variation available within that label. So back to the double IPA: Does it have to be one thing?

When we taste a double IPA, does it have to be dank to meet our approval? Do we need to feel immediately knocked out of the chair, or can we think highly of a more balanced beer that creeps up on us? Can a double have a deeper malt profile? As long as it follows the general rules of an IPA and hits the acceptable range of ABV, isn't that enough?

Of course, personally it comes down to preference. My wife loves dank IPAs and prefers the more popular ideal of a double IPA than something more balanced. She'd reject a More Cowbell in favor of Dogfish 90. And I'd probably agree with her, considering Dogfish played a crucial role in my beer-drinking evolution. Typically what we first encounter and enjoy helps to define that label, and further becomes a point of comparison.

I don't know if this means I'm making a New Year's resolution to be more open to everything, or to stop expecting things from beers before sipping them. I suppose, if anything, it means More Cowbell is a good beer that isn't what you'd expect from a double IPA. And that's totally cool.

Rating: 6.7/10


Explanation of ratings: 9.5-10: as good as the best beer in America; 9-9.4: the best beer in Houston; 8-8.9: among the better beers in Houston; 7-7.9: really good beer; 6-6.9: try this beer at least once; 5-5.9: if you’re stuck, this won’t hurt; 3-4.9: among the lowest-quality beers in Houston; 0-2.9: as bad as the worst beer in America

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