Sunday, January 31, 2010

215. Anchor Brewing Christmas Ale 2009

Our second beer from Anchor Brewing; the last one was the ever-classic Anchor Steam.

Christmas Ale 2009 has a rich dark malt nose that is lightly resonant with dark fruit and some sort of conifer aromatics. It is a deep rich clear brown with ruby highlights and a creamy tan head. The beer starts sweet with dark fruit flavors running across the palate, moving into an even sweet middle, and finishes clean and almost lager-like with some dark fruit and evergreen tang along with some light pitch-iness. Christmas Ale has a medium body that is rich and dry on the mouth and a bright, tight, and clean carbonation that bites sharply but freshly in the second third of the beer through the finish. As it warms, the dark fruit expands and dominates in the nose, and some low level cola flavors emerge in the middle. While Elli is not a fan, my holidays are not complete without at least a six pack of this every year—it is the only holiday beer I like drinking on a regular basis—not only is it well crafted, it stays away from giving me a big fat mouthful of potpourri. I mean, if I wanted potpourri, I’d eat a Glade air freshener.

From the beer: “This is the thirty-fifth ‘Our Special Ale’ from the brewers at Anchor. It is sold only from early November to mid-January. The Ale’s recipe is different every year, but the intent with which we offer it remains the same: joy and celebration of the newness of life. Since ancient times, trees have symbolized the winter solstice when the earth, with its seasons, appears born anew.”

From the Anchor website: “The brewers of Anchor Steam Beer are proud to announce the release of our thirty-fith annual Christmas Ale. Every year since 1975 the brewers at Anchor have brewed a distinctive and unique Christmas Ale, which is available from early November to mid-January. The Ale’s recipe is different every year—as is the tree on the label—but the intent with which we offer it remains the same: joy and celebration of the newness of life. Since ancient times, trees have symbolized the winter solstice when the earth, with its seasons, appears born anew. Each year our Christmas Ale gets a unique label and a unique recipe for the Ale itself. Although our recipes must remain a secret, many enthusiasts save a few bottles from year to year—stored in a cool dark place—to taste later and compare with other vintages. Properly refrigerated, the beer remains intriguing and drinkable for years, with different nuances slowly emerging as the flavor mellows slightly.”

ABV: 5.5%


Saturday, January 30, 2010

214. Two Brothers Bitter End

This is our fourth beer from Two Brothers: we’ve enjoyed Heavier-Handed, Moaten (the collabo with Urthel) and Cane & Ebel. We had this on tap at the Trolley Stop, where we got to watch Skilless Villains do a cover of Miley Cyrus. Seriously. Totally awesome and hi-larious.

Damn good beer. Even better on tap. We didn’t take notes. Our bad, but you’ll live. The beer is awesome, however.

Bitter End is a bullseye! (How is that for cheesy?)

From the Two Brothers website: “The Bitter End is a classic American pale ale that has a subtle malt character and noticeable hop flavor and aroma. We use three American hop varieties to add a citrus and floral hop complexity making this an incredibly drinkable beer.”

Villains doing their thang (and yes, my cell phone camera blows)


Friday, January 29, 2010

213. Rogue John John

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that we can’t find any more time to drink any more Rogue beer. Well, I’m here to tell you that you’re wrong—dead wrong (pun intended). Our latest installment from Rogue is John John, which is Dead Guy Ale aged in Dead Guy whiskey barrels. Tell me that didn’t take some planning. We had this out of the bottle at South Park Tavern courtesy of the fine discerning eye of our friend Jeff Fortney. Oh yes, and this makes our ninth beer from Rogue. We’ve hit Mogul Madness, Dirtoir Black Lager, Yellow Snow IPA, Chipotle Ale, First Growth Wet Hop Ale, Juniper Pale Ale, Maierfest and Capt’n Sig’s Northwestern Ale.

John John has a malty nose with tannic oak and vanilla aromas (which come across as a hint of whiskey); the beer is a clear copper with a thin white head that quickly dissipates to a ring. The front is malty and slightly biscuity, which dries out in the middle, the sweetness being replaced with some light bitterness and oaky flavors; the finish is spicy with a lingering tannic bite. The overall flavor profile is rather oaky, which limits the maibock characteristics--the oakiness covers the traditional clean lager ending of a maibock. Not that we're complaining too awful much, as this is a yummy tasty beer. John John has a soft mouthfeel with medium to low carbonation and bite, and is clean and fresh, although there is some dryness created by the oak. Another delicious beer from Rogue; much like with Dead Guy, I still can’t believe that this is a maibock. Or, to put it in more literal terms, Dead Guy and John John strike me as the alcoholic versions of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter.

From the Rogue website: “In a collaboration of crafts, Rogue Brewmaster John Maier and Rogue Spirits Master Distiller John Couchot have joined forces to create a distinct, innovative series of brews called John John Ales. The series will take Rogue Ales legends and age them in Rogue Spirits barrels. A 3,100 gallon batch of John John Ale produces 1357 cases of beer. The first of the John John series is John John Dead Guy Ale, Rogue’s award winning Dead Guy Ale matured in Rogue’s award winning Dead Guy Whiskey barrels.”

Dead Guy Ale and Whiskey are also a candidate for an all Rogue boilermaker, joining Anchor Steam. We could even use John John or Double Dead Guy if we were feeling crazy. There’s a whole realm of possibility when you draw in the whole Dead Guy family.

ABV: 6.4%
OG: 16º P
IBU: 40
Malts: Carastan, Rogue Micro-Barley Farm Dare & Risk
Hops: Saaz, Willamette, Rogue Micro-Farm Hop Yard Revolution


Thursday, January 28, 2010

212. New Glarus Fat Squirrel Brown Ale

“Drink Indigenous”

Fat Squirrel Brown Ale is from New Glarus Brewing Company in New Glarus, WI. This has been one of our most anticipated beers of the year, mostly because Elli loves fat squirrels. When she saw the name of the beer she declared it a must have, which was slightly difficult to accomplish, as they don’t distribute outside of Wisconsin.

Fat Squirrel has a toasted biscuit malt nose, a clear copper color with a prominent orange presence, and an off-white head. The color does seem a bit light for a nut brown—it has something of an Oktoberfest look about it. Beginning with a sweet toasted malt, Fat Squirrel moves into a nutty and something of a flat cola flavor in the middle, and ends clean with some low levels of bitterness. With a light body and a crisp, tight carbonation, Fat Squirrel has a rounded and well balanced body. Not quite as rich as we would expect for a nut brown, although it has good flavor characteristics—it is more akin to a mild brown. Enjoyable and eminently quaffable, Fat Squirrel gets the nod for being a Top 10 Best Label contender.

From the New Glarus website: “One deceptively springlike winter day, Brewmaster Dan walked home from the brewery, sat down to dinner and said, ‘Boy there are some fat squirrels out there. They’re running all over the place. I think I should brew a Fat Squirrel Nut Brown Ale.’ Deb agreed and so another beer legend was born. 100% Wisconsin malt of six different varieties impart the natural toasted color to this bottled conditioned unfiltered ale. Clean hazelnut notes result from these carefully chosen barley malts. Hops chosen from Slovenia, Bavaria and the Pacific Northwest give Fat Squirrel its backbone. When the going gets tough remember to relax a moment and enjoy the ‘Fat Squirrel’ in your neighborhood.”

Our local fat squirrel...

ABV: 5.8%


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

211. Blue Point Toasted Lager

From Blue Point Brewing Company in Patchogue, New York, although the bottle does note that they do some contract brewing in Rochester, NY. Blue Point Lager won a World Beer Cup Gold
Medal in 2006.

Toasted Lager has a grainy malt nose along with something soapy that we couldn’t isolate; it is a golden copper with a creamy ivory head and some lacing. The flavor is rather subdued, and not as toasty as we were expecting—starting with a dryer malt sweetness, Toasted Lager is creamy in the middle before returning to some sweetness at the end, and finishing with low levels of lingering sourness and graininess. The mouthfeel is creamy for a lager—it is bordering on the feel of an Oktoberfest—without the richer malt profile and melanodin flavor. Not as exciting or interesting as we were hoping for—the idea of a toasted lager implies a malt profile with bread and biscuit in the front, or at least something more than grainy sweetness. While not a bad beer, Toasted Lager is probably not worth revisiting, unless we can find some that is newly bottled, and see how toasty it is right out of the gate.

From the Blue Point website: “Copper in color, this unique Lager has a complex character with hints of caramel, malts, and hops.”


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

210. Great Divide Hercules Double IPA

Another day, another Great Divide. This puts the official tally at 10 for Great Divide, including Wild Raspberry Ale, Hibernation, Samurai Rice, Hoss, Oak Aged Yeti, Fresh Hop, Double Wit, 15th Anniversary DIPA, and Denver Pale Ale.

Hercules has a bready and biscuity malt nose with some faint grassy notes in the background. The color is a dusky copper with a creamy ivory head that laces well down the glass. The malt front is big and pronounced, with caramel and bready sweetness that gives way to hop bitterness and some fruitiness—mostly grape and maybe some raisin. There is also some slight metallic hop flavor in the middle bitterness, along with some grassiness and resiny; while that doesn’t quite perfectly describe it, that is as close as we can come in terms of descriptors. Hercules ends with lingering bitterness and caramel flavor; while it is dry, it is not dry enough to cancel out the sweetness. The body is medium to heavy and a little sticky, with a moderate amount of carbonation and bite. There is some astringency from the volume of hops in the beer, which could also be the source of the metallic-like taste in the middle. While the maltiness balances out the hoppiness, there could be a better fit between the two—the two are not integrated together. Hercules has many of the same profile characteristics as the other members of the Great Divide pale ale family (DPA, Titan, and Fresh Hop), but is not as smooth as its relatives—it is the unruly uncle who breaks shit and storms off during holiday gatherings.

From the bottle: “Hercules Double IPA is not for the faint of heart. It is, however, fit for the gods. Hercules delivers a huge amount of hops from start to finish. Its hefty backbone of nutty, malty sweetness balances its aggressive hop profile.”

ABV: 10.0%
IBU: 85


Vagabond Beer Contest

In honor of two of our more recent beers, Drifter Pale Ale and Grifter IPA, I am instituting our second official contest: the best vagabond-themed beer. After the stunning success of our first contest, which absolutely no one even acknowledged, I am officially declaring Crazy Horse Malt Liquor the Worst Beer Label in the History of the Entire Universe. What, you want to dispute that? Too bad. Maybe you should have spoken up earlier. Thank god they finally stopped making it...

For this contest, we want to hear about your best hobo-inspired beers. Feel free to go as far as you’d like to develop your ideas—you want to offer us the advertising prose that goes with your beer? Please do. You want to construct the label that would present your beer to the world? We’d be happy to see it. To start off the contest, Elli has come up with Sterno Can Stout: “Sterno Can Stout has a dark roasted warming flavor with plenty of antiseptic hops to kill off whatever germs your bottle-mates may be carrying. So feel free to share this one—it’s perfect for handing around the barrel-fire on a cold winter night or keeping you warm huddling under a bridge abutment when fire ain’t an option.”

And yes, Hobo Brewing has already been thought of...where do you think I found the photo above?

Winner gets dinner & beer on me at South Park Tavern on a Monday night—their half-price pizza is keeping with the theme of the contest. And while I encourage entries from far and wide, I’m in for dinner, but not for travel. Sorry—what we’re drinking ain’t paying the bills, if you know what I mean.

Monday, January 25, 2010

209. Ichtegem’s Grand Cru Oud Bruin

From the Brouwerij Strubbe in Ichtegem, Belgium. Ichtegem’s Grand Cru has a subtle aged nose—there are hints of dark fruit along with some sherry and port notes to accompany the lightly sour and candy malt nose. It is a rich nut brown color with red highlights—sort of a deep stained cherry wood—with an ivory head that quickly dissipates to a ring. The flavor profile is equally complex and nuanced—the initial taste on the tongue is a brief tartness before moving on to some candy sweetness and low-levels of vinegar sourness with some dark fruit flavors, which then gives way to a brighter, sharper sourness with candy sweetness in the middle, and ending slightly minerally on the tongue along with some darker fruit and rich sherry flavors. Light to medium bodied, there is a rich slickness on the mouth and some low levels of alcohol warmth at the end, but nothing that really jumps out—it is well balanced with the other components of the beer. Carbonation is pretty low, but does help to build and crest into the sharpness of the middle. Ichtegem’s Grand Cru has an exquisite range of flavors—they are layered across the palate, and the nuance and delicacy to be found in this beer rewards those who take the time to work through the beer carefully. We are definitely making this one a Top 10 Best contender.

From the bottle: “Flemish Red Ale matured in oak barrels. Oud Bruin gerijpt in eiken vaten.”

From the Strubbe website: “A red-brown beer of Western Flanders brewed according to the traditional method with different malt types. Hopped till circa 18 bitter units with perennial hop from Poperinge. After the main fermentation at a temperature of 18° Celsius, 80% of the beer goes in bright beer tanks at a temperature of 0° Celsius during circa 2 months. The other 20% of the beer goes to the storing tanks where it experiences a spontaneous lactic fermentation that can last up to 18 months. This natural soured beer is fortified with the younger sweeter beer afterwards.”

ABV: 6.5%
Malts: 75% pilsener malt, 20% amber malt, & 5% dark caramel malt


Sunday, January 24, 2010

208. Dogfish Head Chicory Stout

Dogfish Head says yummy goodness. Or at least that is our claim for today. This is our seventh beer from Sam in Delaware. Our rundown includes Theobroma, 120 Minute IPA, Festina Peche, Squall IPA, Burton Baton Oak Aged Imperial IPA, and Sah’tea. We had this on tap at South Park Tavern; we had pizza and beers while watching the Saints decide that they really did want to win that game, and pull their heads out at the end.

Chicory Stout has a creamy roasted malt nose that is also a bit woody. We think the color was an opaque brown or black—sorry, the bar was dark and also crowded—with a thick tan head. It also started out a bit cold, so we did wait a little for it to warm up to get a better sense of the taste and smell. Chicory Stout starts creamy and roasty, moves into some mild lactose-like sweetness accompanied by light coffee flavors, and finishes with more roastiness mixed with woody, chicory, and herbal notes (well, at least we are taking it to be chicory—there was a taste we weren’t readily able to identify that married well with the roasted malt profile)—it ends rather clean. The mouthfeel is rich, creamy, and smooth; there is very little burnt unmalted barley flavor across the profile of the beer, but still rich and enjoyable. There is also a good bit of dryness across the body, particularly at the end. Chicory Stout is rather subdued for Dogfish Head; they’ve done a nice job here of using a unique ingredient to subtle effect; as a stout, this is well rounded, and also very drinkable. As noted above, the chicory blends well with the rest of the beer, making this a smooth, nuanced, and, more importantly, very enjoyable beer.

From the Dogfish Head website: “A dark beer made with a touch of roasted chicory, organic Mexican coffee, St. John's Wort, and licorice root. Brewed with whole-leaf Cascade and Fuggles hops, the grains include pale, roasted & oatmeal. Chicory is one of the first beers we started brewing when the brewpub opened back in 1995. That’s back when we had a teeny, tiny brewing system and had to brew all day, every day to keep up the bar stocked. Brewing with the same four ingredients got real boring, real fast. That’s when Sam’s ADD kicked in and he started adding some non-traditional brewing ingredeints. Chicory Stout is our winter seasonal and released in bottles each year in the November/December timeframe. We do brew this beer in smaller, draft-only batches for our brewpub throughout the year. It is roasty and delicious. It is also a fantastic food beer and pairs very well with chocolate!”

ABV: 5.2%
IBU: 21


Saturday, January 23, 2010

207. New Belgium Transatlantique Kriek

This is our fifth beer from New Belgium, and another from their Lips of Faith series (our last four were Biere de Mars, Fat Tire, 1554 Enlightened Black Ale and La Folie). Basically, more yumminess for our tumminess. And while my rhyme is lame, it is still not nearly as sad as the trite beer advertising hoo-hah we’ve seen this year (that’s right, I’m talking to you, Grand Teton and Lilja). But this has nothing to do with this beer...

Transatlantique Kriek is a radiant ruby red color, clear and bright with a fine white head. The nose has distinct cherry aroma with a hint of almond in the background; there are also low levels of yeast esters and some sour smell, which may be part of the cherry aroma. TK starts decidedly cherry—it moves from fruity to sour to tart as the beer progresses–and ends dry with some lingering sourness and a touch of mustiness. The body is light and dry with a crisp bite on the tongue, some from the dry tartness at the end and some from the carbonation bite (which is itself dry). Transatlantique Kriek is a exceptionally well balanced and deceptively simple beer, one that hides its 8% ABV very well—I’d call it drinkable, but this is the kind of beer that puts you in the hurt locker after a couple of glasses because the lightness and crispness make you forgot about the punch it carries. You’re all drinking along, lovin’ on this beer, and the next day you’ve trying to figure out where the truck is that ran you over.

From the bottle: “New Belgium Ale blended with Brouwerij Frank Boon Lambic with real cherries. 45% ale with cherries added, 55% ale.”

From the New Belgium website: “In a never-ending quest to create new beers and defy category, New Belgium Brewing and Brewerij Boon of Belgium have partnered together again to create Transatlantique Kriek - a spontaneously fermented lambic ale made with Polish cherries. This authentic kriek beer began life in the oaken vessels at Frank Boon’s brewery in the Lembeek region of Belgium. After more than two years aging, Boon’s offering shipped across the Atlantic and found its way to the intuitive palate of New Belgium’s Brewmaster Peter Bouckaert. After much sampling and internal consultation, Peter and his brew staff created a full-bodied golden lager to round out the light-bodied kriek. The cherry nose gives way to a pleasingly sour flash across the palate that rolls gently into a slightly sweet finish. Crisp, effervescent carbonation keeps the mouthfeel bright and delightfully tingly.”
Beer envy, thy name is dinner...

ABV: 8%


Friday, January 22, 2010

206. Rogue Mogul Madness

Our umpteenth beer from Rogue, and by umpteenth we mean eighth. We had this out of a firkin at Boston’s Bistro. The Rogue rundown for the year includes Dirtoir Black Lager, Yellow Snow IPA, Chipotle Ale, First Growth Wet Hop Ale, Juniper Pale Ale, Maierfest and Capt’n Sig’s Northwestern Ale. In case you hadn’t gathered, we like us some Rogue beer.

Mogul Madness has a chocolate brown color with a creamy & pillowy tan head. It begins with a soft gentle malt sweetness, transitions into chocolate and coffee in the middle with low levels of fruitiness that start emerging towards the end of the middle, and ends roasty and dry. There is not much hoppiness or bitterness across the palate—there is a small amount of bitterness that develops in the end as a lingering flavor. As well, the flavors of this beer get progressively bigger across the profile—it ends big and roasty. The mouthfeel is soft and creamy but also thick and rich; there is a pretty low level of carbonation, consistent with a firkin, and some dryness in the mouth, particularly towards the end, that does get a bit papery (the firkin was tapped a week ago, so it could have begun to oxidize a bit). There is also some lingering fruitiness as it warms. This was very different that the bottle version we had, which was a bit more subdued in terms of the roasted flavors, and also more hoppy and bitter in the middle and the end. This one comes across more like a winter ale with richer and big roasted flavors.

From the Rogue website: “Hoppy, caramel aroma, dark burgundy in color with an off white head. Intense flavors of citrus hops, and complex notes of nuts, berries and mocha. It finishes long and lingers for at least 15 seconds. Small batches of seasonal beers were traditionally brewed in Europe during the 19th century. Breweries made darker brews, brews with high alcohol content and festive taste. Mogul is a strong ale, darker in color than other pale ales and more assertively hopped—the John Maier trademark. First brewed in 1991.”

The man himself.

OG: 16.5º P
IBU: 68
Malts: 2 Row, Munich, C-120, C-150, Kilncoffee, & Carofa’s Special 2 Malt
Hops: Newport, Horizon, Simcoe, Centennial, Crystal 90, Amarillo, & Rogue Farm Willamette


Thursday, January 21, 2010

205. French Broad Wee-Heavy-er Scotch Ale

Our third from French Broad—another stinkin’ beer from Asheville. We’ve previously run through 13 Rebels ESB and Ryehopper.

Wee-Heavy-er has a sweet, biscuity, and slightly smoked malt nose—it smells smoky like the barbeque place down the street, which always smells delicious. It has a nut brown color—it is more or less the exact same color as the bottle—with copper and red highlights, and a tan lacy head. Wee-Heavy-er has a big malty front with dry roasted flavors. The smokiness comes out in the middle, and while the beer does dry out a bit more in the middle, the sweetness comes back at the end with some low levels of bitterness, and there is a bit of lingering smokiness or peatiness. Wee-Heavy-er has a creamy mouthfeel with a medium body that is also dry and flat across the palate, although there are a range of malt flavors. Wee-Heavy-er has a good balance of maltiness and smokiness—the malt complexity is dry enough to let the smokiness marry with the malt nicely across the palate. Elli then reminded me that this entire experiment had only confirmed her desire to drink IPAs.

From the French Broad website: “Our Wee Heavy-er Scotch Ale is based on our Wee Heavy Scotch Ale recipe, but with a little more-er alcohol. This traditional Scotch Lowland ale is one of our most popular brews. Some of you may remember the original Wee-Heavy from the days when North Carolina brewers could not brew beers containing more than 6% ABV. We would like to take a moment and thank the people of Pop-the-Cap for all their hard work. Thanks, Sean!!! ”

ABV: 7%
IBU: 24
OG: 17° P
SRM: 14.5


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

204. New Belgium Biere de Mars

This is our fourth beer from New Belgium; the previous three include Fat Tire, 1554 Enlightened Black Ale and La Folie. Biere de Mars is part of the Lips of Faith series, which is where good dogs go to die.

Biere de Mars has a hazy orange color and a light white head. The nose is pretty clean—there is a slight odor of brett-based funk, but other than that, not much else. In terms of flavor, Biere de Mars starts dry and thin—about the only real malt flavor present is flat and crackery. The middle has some low-level citrus and light mustiness and spice flavor combined with a bit of sourness, and it ends clean in terms of the malt profile; there is some lingering yeast-based sourness and spiciness. Biere de Mars has a very light, thin body and a dry crisp bite from the carbonation—we’re guessing this one has a very low final gravity, which is par for the course for saisons. The funky odor in the nose does increase with warmth, as does the spiciness in the middle. Overall, a lighter and cleaner beer than we expected, but enjoyable and very drinkable.

From the bottle: “A celestial collision of orange-hued ale, citrusy lemon verbena, and unidentified flying brettanomyces.”

From the New Belgium website: “For the first time in three years we are pleased to offer one of our favorite harbingers of spring, Biere de Mars. With earthy tones of ripe mango and lemon verbena, this bottle-conditioned ale reflects the hearty character of the southern Belgian and northern French countrysides. Brewed with barley, oats and wheat malt, Biere de Mars’ celestial orange hue inspired the planetary play on words. Brettanomyces, a wild yeast strain, added for bottle-conditioning creates a refreshingly sour flash across the palate. Lemon peel coupled with the lemon verbena imparts fruitlike character and a citrusy finish.”

ABV: 6.2%


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

203. Ithaca CascaZilla Red Ale

Our second beer from Ithaca Beer Company; the last one was Flower Power IPA. CascaZilla has a rich caramel malt nose with toffee notes and a general hop spiciness, but nothing distinct—certainly not the citrus and grapefruit hop aroma implied by the name—along with a murky orange brown color and an eggshell head. Starting bready with toasted and caramel malt flavors, CascaZilla gets nutty in the middle, followed by some light hop bitterness and minimal amounts of citrus hop flavor. It closes dry, but with caramel and toffee flavors, and possibly some light chocolate. CascaZilla has a medium body with a medium level of carbonation bite running through the second third of the beer. The malt profile is the most distinctive and interesting component of this beer—it tastes slightly like Boulder Brewing’s Flashback minus the hop profile—while it is labeled as a “monstrously hoppy red ale,” it tastes more like a moderately hopped brown ale, although not enough to be an American brown ale. Ultimately, we’re not really sure what this beer is supposed to be; it’s not that bad, but it’s not put together that well. We do like the dragon creature on the label flaming the hops red hot to make it a red ale—we just wish some of those red hops made it into the ale.

From the Ithaca website: “The name CascaZilla is a play on both the name of a gorge in Ithaca called Cascadilla and the monster amounts of Cascade Hops we use to make the beer. The predominant flavor and aroma of this beer comes from fresh American hops. CascaZilla gets its distinctive red color from a healthy portion of caramel malt, which also lends to the beer, a hearty body and sweetness. It is a hoppy red ale!”

ABV: 7.0%
IBU: 50
Malts: 2-row, Crystal, & Black
Hops: Cascade, Chinook, & Crystal
Dry Hops: Cascade & Amarillo


Monday, January 18, 2010

202. Magic Hat Lucky Kat IPA

“Beer kitty, kitty!”

Magic Hat Brewing Company is in South Burlington, VT. I’m still pissed that they stopped making Fat Angel—not only is that a sweet name, it was a sweet beer. I’m not sure Lucky Kat makes up for Fat Angel, but...

Lucky Kat has a flat caramel nose, and not much else in terms of aroma. The color is a cloudy dark copper with an ivory head. Elli’s cantankerous nature was in full swing this evening—her response to “how does this start?” was “well, first, I pick up my glass.” Lucky Kat starts with a big rounded malt sweetness—there are good amounts of caramel and biscuit playing across the palate—before moving into a dry flat malt taste with low levels of bitterness and some slight spicy hop flavor in the middle, and ending with a return of the caramel flavors with a biscuit undertone, but not much in the way of bitterness. Lucky Kat is medium-bodied with a medium-to-low level of carbonation—it doesn’t play a large part in the overall mouthfeel. As a whole, there is a good malt profile—the biscuit and caramel flavors are well developed—but it needs a larger hop presence to justify the IPA label. And how does it finish? “Well, when I’m done, I put my glass down, and decide if I want another.” Smartass.

From the Magic Hat website: “Lucky Kat purrs as he pours with a grin on his mangy face and a grin in his searching eye. He sits on the fence he calls home, dividing up from down. Is he an imperial beast or a pale soul from the east? Only he knows and we know only this: if you reach out to pet him he'll bite back with a big, hoppy kiss.”

Man, forced rhyming AND tedious prose. Everyone knows that those two are two great tastes that taste great together.

ABV: 5.8%
IBU: 60
OG: 14.2° P
Malts: Pale, Munich, Crystal, & Cara
Hops: Amarillo & Crystal


Sunday, January 17, 2010

201. Firestone Walker Union Jack IPA

Firestone Walker is located in Paso Robles, CA. Elli thinks the lion is pretty ripped, and is gonna kick the bear’s ass, but I think she’s totally wrong—that bear’s got a better brawler’s stance, and is gonna drop that lion like nobody’s business.

Union Jack IPA has a soapy toasty caramel malt nose with lower levels of resin and grass hop aroma. The beer is a caramel copper color, very clear, and it has a white head that laces the glass. Beginning with a soft bready malt front, Union Jack IPA’s middle picks up bitterness along with caramel malt and some pine hop flavors, and closes with hop bitterness that lingers on the palate. Medium carbonation bite with a medium-body; there is a bit of astringency that accompanies some of the tongue curling at the end, along with low levels of warmth, although not from alcohol. It does also get a bit sticky in the mouth as it warms. Decent as IPAs go; it doesn’t do anything to really make it stand out, but no real problems with it. Well-balanced, but a bit heavy on the malt side; it is lacking in some of the hop aroma and flavor that defines most West Coast IPAs.

From the Firestone Walker website: “The newest member of the Firestone family, Union Jack is the aggressive IPA that you’ve been searching for. Citrus, pineapple, and a full chewy malt profile finish clean on your palate. Over 70 IBUs and 7.5% alcohol by volume, Union Jack won’t have any problem competing with the big India Pale Ales. A beer true to its origins; deeply hopped and bolstered for a long voyage.”

ABV: 7.5%
IBU: 75
Malts: Metcalf & Kendall 2-Row, Munich, Cara Pils, & Simpson’s Light Crystal
Bittering Hops: Warrior & Simcoe
Late Kettle Hops: Cascade & Centennial
Dry Hops: Amarillo, Cascade, Centennial, Chinook, & Simcoe


Saturday, January 16, 2010

200. Bell’s Hopslam

Lucky number nine from Bell’s: we’ve had Cherry Stout, Sparkling Ale, Winter White, Christmas Ale, Third Coast, Oberon, Octoberfest, and Two Hearted. As well, the release of Hopslam is always a special time of year, and if you don’t know why, then you need to go voluntarily slam your head in a car door for several minutes, and then reconsider the question. If that doesn’t help, maybe you should stick with wine coolers. Or become an accountant. Your call.

Hopslam starts with citrus and pine hop aroma, both in large quantities, with almost no discernable malt aroma. The golden copper color is clear and bright, with an ivory head that laces the glass well. Hopslam begins with a lightly bready malt, but the hoppiness takes over quickly, both in terms of the bitterness and the pine, citrus, and tangerine flavors. All of these linger nicely in the mouth through the end of the beer, with small amounts of sweetness rounding out the profile. Deceptively light bodied for a 10% ABV beer; Bell’s is particularly skilled at hiding their alcohol, due in part in this beer to the honey used to build up the alcohol content. Carbonation is crisp and well-placed, helping round out an extremely well-balanced beer—one of the many strengths of Hopslam is the big hop flavor and aroma punch with a lower level of accompanying bitterness. This is part of what makes Hopslam so eminently quaffable—I’ve hurt myself on more than one occasion with this beer by forgetting about its potency. It is also very bright and light for a supposedly heavy beer. In terms of big beers, this one is at the top of the pile—it drinks far lighter than several of the IPAs we’ve had thus far this year. It’s also another of our Top 10 Best contenders.

From the Bell’s website: “A biting, bitter, tongue bruiser of an ale. With a name like Hopslam, what did you expect?”

ABV: 10%
OG: 1.087


Friday, January 15, 2010

199. St. Bernardus Tripel

“Bringing heavenly nectar within reach”

Brouwerij St. Bernardus is located in Watou, Belgium. St. Bernardus Tripel is a Belgian Abbey Ale. It has a candy sweet, grainy, and estery nose; there are hints of banana, light amounts of clove, and some general fruitiness—all in all, a rather bright and fresh smelling beer. It is a golden straw color with a spritzy white head. St. Bernardus Tripel starts sweet but dry on the front—there is sweetness from the malt but also some either yeast ester or phenolic flavors balancing out the sweetness, including some spiciness and light pepperiness—before moving into a fruity and lightly spicy middle. As well, it does slightly undry for a moment in the middle, allowing the sweetness to emerge again and marry well with the banana and citrus flavors. The dryness returns at the end, opening the palate up for the slight bitterness and remaining fruitiness that closes out the beer. St. Bernardus Tripel has a light body and a lively mouthfeel—it has a very effervescent, crisp bite via the carbonation, and a bright presence overall. Elli thinks this is beer is far far far too Belgian for her liking. Which I can understand, but also categorically dismiss. Belgian beers are supposed to be Belgian. And this one is Belgian in all the right ways—it’s not like this is Blue Moon, or anything like that. The lively, refreshing flavors nicely mask the alcohol content—this in no way tastes like an 8.0% ABV beer—and the body is light, crisp, and complex. Yummy.

From the bottle: “Brewery St. Bernardus was founded in 1946 in Watou, Province of West Flanders in Belgium. These exceptional quality ales are brewed by using only the finest malts, local grown hops, yeast and artesian water pumped from a depth of 500 feet. After the brewing process these traditional ales are matured in tanks for three months before being bottle conditioned. The result is a naturally ‘living ale,’ which can be aged for up to 5 years and will satisfy the taste of even the most discriminating connoisseurs.”

From the St. Bernadus website: “This beer, with high fermentation, has a pale amber colour and a flowery, fruity taste with a harmonious balance between sweet and sour (8% alcohol content). This beer has a thick and vivid froth and strikes by its balanced taste with a delicate bitterness.”

ABV: 8.0%


Thursday, January 14, 2010

198. Hair of Dog Blue Dot Double India Pale Ale

Our second beer from Hair of the Dog—our last was one was Ruth during Thanksgiving with my family. This beer reminds me of why I love the Northwest.

Blue Dot Double India Pale Ale is a tawny gold with a light white head that laces the glass moderately. The nose starts bready with some hop notes—specifically some spicy and grassy aromas. Bitter from the get-go, Blue Dot begins with some dry biscuit malt and quickly moves into a big hoppy middle from both a generous amount of bitterness and from the resin, citrus/grapefruit, and, we think, some pine flavors—there is a big hop presence that makes it difficult to pick everything out. It finishes cleaner than expected—there is an even amount of dry maltiness and bitterness in the end, with some slight grassiness in the bitterness. Medium-bodied with a medium carbonation bite, Blue Dot very drinkable—we wouldn’t have taken this for a DIPA because it goes down so well. The spiciness in the front and the complexity in the middle is also probably due to the rye, although it feels gone by the end. It is also very fresh tasting—the sweetness and the alcohol are held well in abeyance, allowing the large hop profile to shine—it is well balanced without being heavy or cloying. The rye may contribute to the fresh taste, covering over any of the lingering sweetness. All in all, a delicious and very enjoyable beer—we’d love to try this on tap to see how it compares to the bottle, although I’m not sure Hair of the Dog kegs any of their beers. We’re making this a Top 10 Best contender, and hoping to come across it again soon.

From the bottle: “Blue Dot is named after our planet: we are only a pale blue dot in this universe. Made with organic Pilsner malt, Rye malt and a combination of intense hop varieties. Pour slowly to allow the sediment to remain in the bottle. Make every day Earth day. Do something nice for your mother.”

Here’s where to find Hair of the Dog

We’d tell you what the website had to say, but it is woefully out of date. Blue Dot is not even listed, and the updates disappear about 2001. But then again, keeping the focus on good beer matters more, and word of mouth will do perfectly fine for yours truly...

ABV: 7%


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

197. Elysian Loser Pale Ale

This marks our third beer from Elysian; the last two were Avatar Jasmine IPA and The Immortal IPA. Loser was brewed to celebrate 20 years of Sub Pop records—the picture on the label is of Mudhoney. My favorite Sub Pop artist is Steven Jesse Bernstein—he rocked my world back in the day. More Noise Please, Or, Thank You for Making Noise. And if you’ve never heard of Sub Pop, may Nirvana have mercy on your soul. I saw Mudhoney play in the old Crocodile Cafe back in around ’94—it was some sort of birthday party for Mark Arm, and much of the Seattle music crowd was in attendance. Eddie Vedder was there, and spent the whole night looking disgruntled and like he needed a hug, but his 6’ 6” 250 lb. bodyguard said otherwise. Inadvertant kind gesture? I’m sorry, meet Mr. Fist.

Pouring out Loser, we can almost taste the grunge already...

Loser has a toasty sweet malt aroma with low levels of hop spiciness; the hazy aged copper color (it has a fine patina on it) works well with the creamy white head, which laces the glass rather well. Loser starts bready, biscuity, and caramelly; most of the sweetness drops out in the middle, allowing low levels of bitterness to come through along with a slight dry maltiness—almost cracker-like—in the middle before ending dry and clean with low levels of lingering hoppiness. Medium-bodied (not like Tad) with medium carbonation bite, Loser has a dry mouthfeel that is slightly paper-y. Interesting and most certainly for a worthwhile cause, but as beers go, it is not super-exciting (although it does kick the crap out of Avatar Jasmine IPA). We’d both happily drink it again, but we’re not sure we’d search it out, unless we were ready with all of our appropriate Sub Pop references.

From the bottle: “Celebrating 20 years of celebrating Sub Pop Records, with beer. Specifically, this beer: Brewed with Pale, Munich, Crystal and Cara-hell malts. Bittered with Sorachi Ace & finished with Crystal hops.”

ABV: 7.0%

This one might make up for the Jasmine IPA...