Friday, April 2, 2010

276. AleSmith IPA

AleSmith Brewing Company is located in San Diego, along with all the other jealousy-inducing southern California breweries: Stone, Port, Green Flash, the Bruery, Lost Abbey. You get the drift. Apart from the greater Denver and Seattle metropolitan areas, this is about as close to beer heaven as you can get in a single location. And depending upon your tastes, this in fact may be beer heaven.

AleSmith IPA pours a hazy caramel copper with a rocky white head that laces the glass a little, but does stick around all the way through the beer; the nose has a bit of caramel malt sweetness to it, but it also has a fair amount of hop aroma: evergreen, pine, spicy, and earthy. Starting with a soft caramel malt front, AleSmith IPA quickly transitions into hoppiness; there are more of the same pine and spicy aromas found in the nose—only this time in flavor form—and there are also some resin and herbal flavors to help round out the middle. A good dose of bitterness is developing underneath these flavors, making its presence known most explicitly as the beer rounds into the finish; as the hop flavor recedes, the bitterness rises to the forefront of the palate, lingering nicely with some spicy and evergreen flavors at the end. AleSmith IPA has a medium body with some dryness on the mouth as well as a bit of puckering. The carbonation is medium, but still soft on the palate; the tiny bubbles round the flavor with little to no sharpness—the sharpness is saved for the hop bitterness and spicy bite it brings. AleSmith is an exquisite and delicious IPA; the balance between maltiness and hoppiness is excellent, and the complexity of hop flavors is awesome. While it is a big hoppy IPA, it is more balanced than some of the other beers from San Diego—it is more drinkable, and the quality comes from balance and nuance more than bigness. We’re making this one a Top 10 Best contender.

From the bottle: “I Prefer Alesmith. It’s Pretty Awesome. That’s what our People’s Choice Award says to us. Each year at the San Diego Real Ale Festival, everyone is asked to vote for their favorite beer. In 2001, they chose AleSmith IPA over all the others. If you like your beer hoppy, you’re gonna love this one!

AleSmith IPA is brewed using only premium-quality malts, along with pounds and pounds and pounds of the freshest hops and our championship yeast strain. Even the water we use is precisely conditioned to make sure everything is just right for the best possible product. The result is a hoppy, malty hand-forged American-style IPA with a tantalizing aroma and a flavor that’ll have your taste buds in ecstasy.

The brewer’s yeast at the bottom of the bottle is living proof that this is a top-quality bottle-conditioned beer. Conditioning in the bottle gives the beer a lush, velvety texture that you just can’t get with force-carbonating. The bubble are smaller, giving your taste buds a lot more surface area to grab onto, and the difference shows from the first sip to the last.”

From the AleSmith website: “Deep golden to light amber color, and a nice off-white head, with good retention when properly served. Starts off with pleasantly strong hop flavors, balanced by a firm malt backdrop, then fades to a dry finish with a lingering hoppiness.”

ABV: 7.75%
OG: 1.072

Also, I tried New Holland Envious tonight on tap @ Thai 9. Interesting beer that got better as it warmed; the initial chocolate and fruit split across the flavor range mellowed and married much better with warmth. There was nice berry fruit complexity and some sherry-like qualities to the beer—picking it apart and thinking through what it had to offer took most of the glass. When adding comparisons to warmth, well, damn, I might have to start over and try it again. I did expect something more extreme, and was surprised by the subtlety, nuance, and careful balance of the beer. Not sure it would be something I’d drink regularly, but I did like the idea and spirit behind the beer, and would most certainly try it again if it came my way. I’d love a couple of bottles to throw in the cellar to forget about for a couple of years—something tells me that would move this from pretty damn good to exceptionally fantastic. The one downside would be that this is supposed to be a sour beer, and the sour characteristics are pretty much incognito here—drank more like a regular oak-aged beer, not a soured oak-aged beer.


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