“Half Seas Over,” says brewer Josiah Moody, “is an old slang term from the 20s for being three sheets to the wind.” It’s an apt name for Moody’s Moody Brews debut beer, a big and boastful Imperial IPA that comes in at a relatively high ABV of 8.5%. I caught up with Moody, formerly of Vino’s Brew Pub, at Colonial Wine and Spirits last Friday, and despite the hard work it’s taken to get Half Seas Over to stores — not to mention the newborn Moody has back home — Josiah seemed in the highest of spirits.
There were a couple of reasons I was a bit apprehensive about reviewing this beer. First, Josiah Moody is a friend of mine, and it’s always tough to throw down a review in writing about something a friend has worked so hard on. The second reason is that big beers like Half Seas Over just aren’t my favorite things to drink. A regular IPA wouldn’t normally be my first beer of choice at the bar, and ordering an Imperial probably wouldn’t even enter into my mind. I certainly understand why Moody started off with this style — the hopheads and beer hipsters can’t get enough of these heavily hopped, high ABV brews — something that makes me a touch old-fashioned in my beer tastes.
But like most of Moody’s beer, the Half Seas Over had something for even me. Yes, this is a big beer, and yes, it’s got a high ABV — but there are great subtleties to the flavor beyond just hoppy bitterness, and the beer never hits you over the head with the flavor of booze. In the glass, Half Seas Over is a lovely shade of coppery orange with just the right amount of head that clings lightly to the glass, forming delicate patterns of lace as each sip is taken. What immediately stands out is the pleasantly pungent floral nose, fragrant and slightly citrus and a good sign of things to come.
As for the flavor, I’d like to say one thing: if more IPAs were like Half Seas Over, I would drink them more often. A lot of craft brewers just hop the hell out of their beer for bragging rights about how bitter the beer can get — that’s great and all, but I left the days of needing to prove my manliness at the bar a long time ago. Here, the bitterness is shot through with notes of almond and citrus, and the finish is dry without leaving any aftertaste. It’s a true pleasure to drink — and a great beer to spend some time with, as the complex flavors open up nicely as it warms in the glass. It’s not a beer for chugging after a day mowing the yard, but it’s definitely a brew that any beer lover will find a lot with which to fall in love. A definite “yes” to Half Seas Over, and here’s to the bold start of Arkansas’ newest beer label!