Reviewed: Victory Cloud Walker Hazy Juicy IPA
Official description: This dry-hopped hazy juicy IPA explodes as tropical and fruity elements float through cloudy formations to elevate hops to the highest pedestal. An airdrop of special ingredients and precious cargo give this beer its dreamy orange glow and its pillowy soft mouthfeel. Delight in this one quickly as it bursts with IPA’s finest juicy hops and empties in your glass before you can catch the next flight. Contains lactose. Malt: 2-Row Pale. Hops: Citra, Mosaic. 6.8% ABV
Victory Brewing Co. – Victory Cloud Walker Hazy Juicy IPA – 12oz can served in stemless snifter – 6.8% ABV
Consider this a companion review to Victory’s newest clear IPA, No Brainer, which was jaw-droppingly good. Added to their year-round portfolio last fall, Cloud Walker joins the growing segment of nationally distributed hazy (or New England style) IPAs competing with Sierra Nevada’s Hazy Little Thing, New Belgium’s Voodoo Ranger Juicy Haze, and Firestone Walker’s Mind Haze among others. So let’s see how Cloud Walker stacks up.
Sampled from a paper carton 6-pack of 12oz cans, the first thing I notice is that Cloud Walker actually gives you the packaging date on the bottom of the cans and also on the paper carton itself, though it will take some keen detective work to find the black robotic print hidden away in the top corner of the carton’s small end. This was a major oversight for No Brainer IPA, which decided to only give the consumer an “Enjoy By” date with no reference point.
Into my glass, Cloud Walker looks the part with a hazy straw color and ample, white foam with meringue-like texture. The aroma is a bit odd at first like orange creamsicle, making me do a double take to make sure I wasn’t reviewing the wrong beer. I have, in fact, several orange creamsicle IPAs in the fridge right now. (Don’t ask why.) There’s a vanilla dessert quality that may be a product of this beer’s inclusion of lactose. As it warms up, unripe mango, cantaloupe, and starfruit peek through for a rather subtle but certainly tropical fruit-focused aroma. There’s just a touch of stinkiness to the nose, which is actually a major selling point of this style. Some of the best hazy IPAs out there smell like overripe to almost rotting tropical melons.
Flavors continue the theme of subtlety as Cloud Walker lives up to its name. Sugariness, a hallmark of this style, is dialed back to a 3/10 with very little body left over. The lactose addition seems puzzling, then, as other hazy IPAs utilize lactose to put sweetness overboard to create a thick milkshake texture. Here, the lactose seems to be the only thing making this beer not bone dry like its clear companion, No Brainer IPA. Even with the lactose, the mouthfeel is borderline chalky and mealy, partially a side effect of the style itself being “unfinished” and full of heavy yeast and protein particles in suspension to create that hazy appearance that infatuates us. With the body so light and dry, it’s nice to have bitterness similarly low at a 3/10.
These stats make Cloud Walker immensely drinkable and refreshing. There’s subtle fruitiness like unripe green mango, cantaloupe, and firm pear; but it falls sort of being a juicy, rich fruit bomb that enthusiasts have come to expect for the style. The highlight of this beer, however, is that it hides the nearly 7% ABV very well drinking more like 5% and thus masquerading as a session beer.
My takeaway is that Victory has done a great job at creating an approachable beer that is dry, refreshing, and certainly brings some tropical fruit to the aroma and flavor. It does lack the intense aroma hops of some other hazy IPAs out there and is significantly lighter bodied than most in the segment. The biggest plus is how easy it is to drink. Moreover, bitterness is so low that I think anyone, especially traditional IPA haters, will find it enjoyable. Current competitors like Firestone Walker’s Mind Haze, though, taste better polished to me. Still, it is great to see another regional brewery bring a hazy IPA recipe to national distribution. I’m happy to see my beloved Victory step out of their comfort zone and tackle this polarizing style.
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