Tuesday, November 29, 2011

495. Boulevard 21st Anniversary Fresh Hop Pale Ale

Ah, Boulevard. That there was more of you in my life. Why don’t you come to Ohio, and make my life better? Pretty please? Can I consider that a maybe? This is our fifth Boulevard beer, including Collaboration No. 2 White IPA, Saison, Saison-Brett and Two Jokers Double Wit. Oh, and Happy Birthday, by the way.

21st Anniversary Fresh Hop Pale Ale pours a hazy orange copper—basically, a slightly darker Werther’s caramel color. The head is a yellowish tan, and lasts long and rouses easy, which makes it akin to a drunken Australian. Aromas open with a mixture of spicy resin hop and creamy caramel malt. I don’t perceive any of the citrus the label describes, but I do get the complex peppery components, which are quite alluring—possibly the caramel is masking the lighter and more delicate citrus character. Elli concurs with this assessment, and since her nose is better than mine, I feel better, although she could just be pandering to me. Which is always possible. When she reads this, she will roll her eyes at me, tell me it sounds fine, and send me back to the kitchen. As the beer warms, there are some orange marmalade aromas that emerge to balance the spiciness of the Magnum, which is the only aroma I can definitively pick out. Flavors start with spicy hops and caramel malt that is sweet but clean on the palate; the middle has some light and bright bitterness (again, I’m thinking Magnum) mixed with a touch of nutty and dry biscuit malt that is cleaned off the tongue with the carbonation bite prefacing the final third, closing with dry biscuit and more of the lingering clean bitterness. There is a touch of sweetness there, but more in relation to flavor than mouthfeel; again, the beer sits lightly on the palate, and drinks easier and far cleaner than the 7.4% ABV listed on the bottle—there is the perception of sweetness, but not the corresponding stickiness in the mouthfeel. Overall, an enjoyable fresh hop beer—clean and interesting with subtle yet complex hop flavor. I’d like it better with a little less caramel malt so that the subtlety could shine through more, but according to Jeffrey, that’s my answer for everything. Either that, or age it for longer in the basement, which I vociferously would not recommend for this beer. This is, however, the best of the fresh hop beers I’ve tried this year—well, unless Pig War is a fresh hop, but I don’t think it is. And yes, I just wanted another chance to say Pig War.

From the bottle: “In November 1989, John McDonald loaded his pickup and drove three blocks down the street to deliver the first keg of Boulevard beer. Though significantly more assertive, Boulevard 21st Anniversary Fresh Hop Pale Ale is brewed in loving tribute to that original Pale Ale. English pale malt gives the brew a rich, nutty malt flavor. Munich and Caramel malts add color and body, while a blend of Cascade, Hallertau, Magnum, Styrian Golding, and Centennial hops contribute scintillating citrus aromas and complex peppery notes.”

From the website: “This is a beer that is best enjoyed fresh. It will not be enhanced by cellaring for weeks or months, so there’s no reason to wait. It’s time to celebrate, and—now that we’re old enough to order a beer for ourselves—we plan to raise a glass or two in November to mark the occasion. Please join us! Cheers!”

See, I told you so.

ABV: 7.4%
IBU: 40
OG: 16.5˚ P
FG: 3.8˚ P

And the best jokes are the old ones.


Saturday, November 26, 2011

Mussel Stout Brewday

This is my version of an oyster stout—since I live in Dayton, fresh quality oysters are a little harder to come by, and when they do come around, I’m not sure I can justify boiling them and throwing them into a beer, delicious as it may be. So I scored me a whole mess of mussels: Prince Edward Island mussels to be exact, so there will be a little bit of Canada in each delicious bottle. I will be interested to see if the mineral/brine character carries through in the finished product—I couldn’t taste it in the wort as it went into the carboy, but maybe once the sweetness level drops it will come into play. I could certainly smell it during the mash.

Artwork by Jeremy Fish

105. Mussel Stout (officially, I am going to call this Beefcake Stout)
9 lbs. Muntons Pale Malt
2 lbs. Flaked Barley
1 lb. Franco-Belges Kiln Coffee
1 lb. Crisp Light Chocolate
1 lb. Muntons Roasted Black Barley

Mash @ 150° F for 80 minutes w/ 5 gallons of RO water, 1 tsp. gypsum added (2 ½ of the 5 gallons of RO water were used to cook 3 ½ lbs. of PEI mussels); collected 3 gallons @ 1.076
Batch sparge @ 168° F for 20 minutes w/ 4 gallons RO water, 1 tsp. gypsum added; collected 3 ¾ gallons @ 1.032

Collected 6 ¾ gallons; brought to a boil (70 minutes) and added:

w/60 to go: 2 oz. Sonnet leaf 4.1% AA

w/15 to go: 1 tsp. Irish moss

w/5 to go: ½ lb. PEI mussels

Chilled & racked onto Wyeast 1028 cake from 103. Coffee Mild

Brewed: 11/26/2011 @ 70° F
Secondary: 12/16/2011 @ 1.024
Bottled: 2/2/2012 w/ 2.4 oz. table sugar

OG: 1.062
FG: 1.024

Tasting Notes: (11/26/2011) Not much in the way of mussel/mineral flavor going into the carboy—sweet, roasty, and slightly bitter; we’ll see how it tastes going into the secondary. Not surprisingly, the mussels I cooked in the wort tasted fantastic.

(12/16/2011) Again, not much in the way of mussel/seafood flavor going into the secondary.

(2/2/2012) There might be a touch of something developing, although I’d describe it currently as a mix of mineral and umami.

(4/16/2012) I’ve been a bit remiss on getting to this beer. It was delightful after about two weeks, so I figured that I should hide it so I didn’t roll through it in short order, and my plan worked perfectly as I then forgot about it. While the mussel character was initially pretty much incognito, the beer itself was enjoyable—I envisioned this as a scaled-up dry stout (ala 99. Rockit Cup Dry Stout), and the MFB Kiln Coffee helped build a dry but complex malt character that was more than just roast. So I’ll be interested to see where this beer is at.

Mussel Stout (a.k.a. Beefcake Stout) pours a dark chocolate brown—it is just shy of inky—and has a voluminous cocoa head, although this emerges only once you pour the beer. It is also long-lasting; there is a sizeable cover that refuses to go away, is augmented by the streaming tiny bubbles running up the side of the glass. Or, in other words, methinks it is a wee bit over-carbonated. Once it does finally dissipate, there are some soft garnet highlights visible in the beer. The nose is dry roast, chocolate, and coffee with a slight mineral character lurking in the background. It also has that delicate sour note you find in dry stouts, which I find pleasant. Flavors open with roast and dry chocolate—almost a baker’s chocolate—before turning to coffee and a slight sweetness in the middle. The chocolate also picks up in the middle, but the carbonation bite flattens flavors into the finish, leaving roast and chalkiness lingering on the palater. The mouthfeel starts rounded and chewy—the flaked barley makes its presence felt on the tongue—although the carbonation lightens the body of the beer, specifically in the finish. The beer improves as some of the carbonation gasses off, but the slight carbonic bite remains, along with spritzy effect it creates, whether the beer is actually spritzy or not. There is also a slight slickness on the tongue (not DMS-related) that strikes me as a combination of roast malt and flaked barley in a rounded dry body. I think there are good flavors here, but the overall product is not as satisfying as I hoped for—I should have drank it up before the body fully dried out and the effect of the over-carbonation came into play. Part of the problem might also be the vision of the beer itself—making this a bulked up dry stout didn’t pan out quite as well as I hoped it would. The over-carbonation mixed with the bigger body leaves the beer pulling in two different directions, neither of which work together. The size also drowned out the subtler mussel flavors, although the slight tang of mineral brine does linger in the background. I still like the idea of the beer, but it does need some re-tooling before I try it again.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Rockit Cup Scottish 60 Schilling Brewday

Is it Rockit Cup time again already? Dagnabit! While I may be a bit behind on getting this one out, I’m pretty certain that, with the exception of Jeffrey, I’ll be serving the rest of you sucker MCs, since I doubt anyone else will do it. Maybe Tim will play along. I hope so, because I have a wedding to go to the night of the DRAFT meeting, and I don’t want Jeffrey to have to sit at a table all by his lonesome judging our two beers. Insert sad face here. (Note: the included photo is not Jeffrey’s sad face—it is the handiwork of Photoshop master Jay Gewin, and is appropriately titled “Dream Team.”)

104. Rockit Cup Scottish 60 Schilling
5 ½ lbs. Muntons Pale Malt
½ lb. Breiss Dark Munich
1 lb. Crystal 40° L
½ lb. Gambrinus Honey Malt
¼ lb. Crystal 120° L
¼ lb. Pale Chocolate

Mashed @ 158° F w/3 gallons of RO water for 90 minutes; collected 2 gallons @ 1.064; pulled one quart to boil down and caramelize sugars
Batch sparged @ 168° F w/4 gallons RO water for 20 minutes; collected 3 ¾ gallons @ 1.018

Collected 5 ½ gallons; topped off to 6 gallons; brought to a boil (80 minute) and added:

w/60 to go: ¾ oz. Sonnet leaf 4.1% AA
condensed caramel syrup from quart of first runnings

w/15 to go: 1 tsp. Irish Moss

Chilled, racked to carboy, and pitched White Labs WLP 028 Edinburgh Ale

Brewed: 11/25/2011 @ 68° F
Secondary: 12/3/2011 @ 1.016
Bottled: 12/16/2011 w/ 2 ¼ oz. table sugar

OG: 1.040
FG: 1.016

Tasting Notes: This beer got second place in its flight at the SODZ British Beer Fest. I’d tell you score it got, but I put my score sheets some place very very safe that I can’t find. So my scores are super-safe, it would seem—safe beyond my ability to deduce or locate. We’ll just say I got a good score.

Rockit Cup Scottish 60 Schilling pours a vibrant, clear mahogany infused with a fair share of orange; the head is thin and dirty white, but has solid staying power and even laces the glass a bit. Aromas are malt-focused with caramel and a touch of earthiness, although there is an underlying biscuit creaminess mixed with toast that I find beguiling. Flavors follow the aroma quite closely, although since this is the smallest of the schillings, there is a slight graininess in the front along with the initial caramel, along with toast. The creaminess comes out in the middle, along with the biscuit, and the graininess returns in the finish, along with a touch of earthiness that ends the beer pleasantly. There might be just a touch of diacetyl, but I am notoriously poor at picking this out. The body is chewy and dry, even with the creaminess, while the gentle carbonation rounds the beer on the tongue. I’m pretty sure I didn’t win this Rockit Cup (at this point, I have no memory of what went down), but regardless, this is a fantastic beer. The small, flavorful malt beers are winning me over.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Coffee Mild Brewday

I liked the last version of this I tried, the Chicory Coffee Mild, but I wanted to try it again with (ahem) some better coffee. Enter Press, who serves quality coffee like MF Doom serves sucker MCs. If this was an SAT question, you’d be expected to determine the meaning of “serves” and understand the relationship the simile draws between “quality coffee” and “sucker MCs.” While this blog is obviously not the SAT, it does hope to build your mad language skills. So without further ado, I present the first official what we’re drinking build your mad skills quiz to pay the bills:

In the previous simile, the definition of “serves” that best reflects the actions in the sentence is:
a. To render obedience or homage to, as to a God or a sovereign.
b. To make delivery of a legal process or writ.
c. To treat in a specified manner.
d. To provide with a regular or continuous supply of something.
e. Your mother.

What is the relationship the simile draws between “quality coffee” and “sucker MCs”?
a. The “sucker MCs” aren’t that bad if they are as good as the coffee.
b. Both are used as objects to qualify the quality of “serving” done by the separate subjects, and thus have no real relationship themselves.
c. I like words.
d. The “quality coffee” must not be that good if it tastes like sucky rappers.
e. Your mother.

103. Coffee Mild
6 lbs. Muntons Pale
½ lb. Muntons Crystal 60° L
½ lb. Muntons Dark Crystal 2-row 135-165° L
½ lb. Crisp Chocolate
½ lb. Breiss Flaked Maize

Mashed @ 151° F w/3 gallons of RO water for 60 minutes; collected 2 gallons @ 1.062
Batch sparged @ 170° F w/4 gallons RO water for 20 minutes; collected 3 ¾ gallons @ 1.020

Collected 5 ¾ gallons; topped off to 6 ½ gallons; brought to a boil (70 minute) and added:

w/60 to go: 1.5 oz. Sonnet leaf 4.1% AA

w/15 to go: 1 tsp. Irish Moss

w/5 to go: 10 oz. coffee concentrate from Press

Chilled, racked to carboy, and pitched Wyeast 1028 slurry from 99. Rockit Cup Dry Stout

Brewed: 11/19/2011 @ 73° F; dropped and stabilized @ 66° F for main part of fermentation

Secondary: 11/26/2011@ 1.012
Bottled: 12/3/2011 w/ 2 oz. table sugar

OG: 1.036
FG: 1.010

Tasting Notes (11/26/2011): This tastes fantastic going into the secondary; the sweetness has dropped, allowing the delicate coffee flavors to start peeking through. I’m guessing that this will taste far better than the Chicory Coffee Mild.

(6/3/2012): As with the Chicory Coffee Mild, this beer got consumed quickly and then lost in the shuffle, since I thought I rolled through all of it before I thought to review it. And in fact, I did, but thanks to my obsessive bottling in random extra bottles, and then storing these separately, I found one when I went back to look. Hooray for my neuroses. And we’re already off to a smashing start—unlike its predecessor, this version is not overcarbonated; instead, it pours a crystal clear reddish brown with a wispy tan head that carries decent staying power. The nose is bread crust, chocolate, and watery truck stop coffee—sorry, the truth must be told, even if it only hurts me—although coffee flavor in the beer is both more pronounced and of a better quality. I get a touch of the flat cola in the nose as it warms, tinged with the faint coffee. Flavors start with coffee, chocolate, and a touch of graininess, giving way to caramel sweetness in the middle before returning to coffee in the finish that is mixed with a slight alkaline dryness—it is almost palate cleansing, but not quite, as a touch of dry caramel sneaks in right as the coffee leaves the palate. Residual dextrins are present in the body, but are still a bit thin; coupled with the big coffee flavor, the body is slightly unbalanced, although still very British. Two things to make this a better beer: 1) drop the cold-pressed Press coffee concentrate by between 20-40% (down to 6-8 oz.), and 2) return the mash temperature to 154° F, and maybe even bump it up another 2° to 156° F to give the beer more mouthfeel and body. The aroma and underlying beer flavor is good as currently configured, but the balance and mouthfeel could be fine-tuned. Still, a delicious beer—there is a reason I ran through this beer lickety-split.

Friday, November 18, 2011

494. Deschutes Conflux No. 2 White IPA vs. Boulevard Collaboration No. 2 White IPA

This is what a drink-off should be like: two quality beers, both by quality brewers. Experiment and identify a recipe, then both make a version of the beer. It’s like the Rockit Cup, only at the professional level. And let’s be honest—the results are spectacular. Besides myself and Elli, Jeffrey joined in to enjoy the sweat and toil of this beery labor. This is our eighth beer from Deschutes, including The Abyss, Black Butte Porter XXI, Mirror Pond Pale Ale, Black Butte Porter, Hop Trip, Inversion, and Red Chair IPA, and our fourth from Boulevard: Saison, Saison-Brett and Two Jokers Double Wit. Oh, and here’s a little on the whole collaboration process for all of youse looking to read up and stuff.

The Deschutes version pours a slightly hazy straw with a thin white head; it is a lighter than the Boulevard version, which is closer to gold. The head presence is similar on both—a wafty white ethereal covering that drifts across the glass. The nose on both is similar; Deschutes has a delicate herbal spicy bitter aroma mixed with candy malt and a slight wheat gumminess, while Boulevard is more earthy and spicy. There is still the candy malt, but it borders on caramel. Flavors start with light candy malt and spicy hop bitterness; Boulevard has more mineral bitterness and bready malt caramel, while Deschutes has a herbal bitter character with candy malt. Both beers have a light body that drinks more like a spicy, hoppy saison than an IPA; Deschutes is more floral and delicate, with the sage providing a nice herbal emphasis, and Boulevard features a lingering bitterness that strikes us as more bitter orange than hop derived. However, both are fantastic—the subtlety and nuance in both are very close, but distinctly different. Elli and I both lean towards the Deschutes version, while Jeffrey likes the Boulevard best. Both had critical remarks, however; Elli said she would rather appreciate both beers than have to drink them on a regular basis, while Jeffrey thought that the Deschutes version was based more on the idea of an IPA than actually being an IPA. I can see where they are coming from; both beers strike me as more saison-like than anything else—I would drink them both all day every day for precisely the factors Elli and Jeffrey critique. The delicate flavors and nuance present in each beer are both like and unlike traditional IPAs, yet the subtlety of each is well worth examining on its own merits—the discussions we had while drinking these two beers strike me as the very type of discussion that keeps American beer production interesting and innovative. So keep up the innovation. And the Belgian character. Because in many ways, this is just a new varietal on the Belgian IPA format. While it foregrounds a light wheat malt character in conjunction with the hop flavor as opposed to the yeast and malt character of most Belgian IPAs, the overall effect is not that much different. While I would celebrate both trends, the delicate and subtle nature of these two beers does something more for me than other more aggressive Belgian IPAs—this is the version I would laud and endorse. After all, it bespeaks a certain level or nuance and complexity that a lot of American breweries miss. And for that, I am thankful.

From the Deschutes bottle: “Second in a series, this citrusy, smooth white India pale ale is fortuitous meeting of Deschutes’ hop skills and Boulevard’s deft wheat touch. What’s 1800 miles when a great beer is at stake?”

ABV: 7.3%

From the Boulevard bottle: “Combining the refined body of a Belgian-style witbier with the refreshing bite of a hop-forward IPA, this ale puts a new spin on the idea of collaborative brewing. Working from a single shared recipe, Boulevard and Deschutes have created two separate brews, more than 1600 miles apart. To the traditional witbier spices of coriander seed and orange peel they’ve added sage and lemongrass, giving the ale subtle herbal notes which perfectly complement the pungent hop aroma and full, fruity mouthfeel. Hints of pepper linger in the dry, clean finish.”

ABV: 7.4%


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

493. Hopworks Pig War NW Style Ale

Holy shit. I bought this beer for the name. After all, having grown up in the Northwest, I was privy to the reference—it’s not every day that the shooting of a pig almost leads to an international conflict—and I was always amused by the resulting conflation of neighborly and national aggression. But this beer is much much more than a clever and amusing name. However, I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself. Technically, Pig War is our first beer from Hopworks Urban Brewery in Portland, OR, although we did previously try their IPA (that’s right, keep reading, keep reading—there it is).

Described on the bottle as a “NW style ale” featuring “estate-grown hops,” Pig War pours a rich orange and copper with a pretty minimal tan head. The nose is floral and fruity with a touch of candy malt in the background—it is both delicate and assertive at the same time, with a delicious combination of grape, citrus, orange, and flower-like hints. I’m not sure we get the “herbaceous” aromatics described on the bottle, but I do love their use of the word; there are some faint beguiling dank aromas lingering in the back of the beer, but that is as far as I would go. Flavors open with fruit and citrus followed by a candy sweet malt flavor that is just short of caramel. The initial flavors blossom in the middle, developing into an orange marmalade jamminess that couples with a clean, brisk bitterness carrying touches of resin and hop spiciness. There is a touch of grape and floral brightness in the final third before the flavors give way to a gentle lingering and spicy bitterness. And, as the bottle notes, there is a gentle warmth to the finish that helps round the beer as a whole; mixed with the medium body and the gentle carbonation, the beer provides a subtle, delicate balance that drinks far far easier than the 8% ABV listed on the label—this beer looks to get you in trouble for all the right reasons. Elli calls the malt flavors too sweet for the beer, but I find the candy malt flavors and bitterness in perfect harmony—this beer combines fruity Northwest hop character with candy-sweet Belgian malt sensibilities to create a beer that, well, defies any sort of easy classification. And I mean that in all the good ways. Those who know me know that I’m not inclined to throw around excessive or profuse praise. That said, I would consider calling this beer a revelation to be slightly understating the case. Seriously. Combined with the name, this beer is easily one of the best and most interesting beers of the year. Well done, Hopworks, well done.

Garth Williams illustration from here.

From the bottle: “Our Estate NW Style Ale uses both Willamette and Cascade hops grown exclusively for Hopworks on San Juan Island. These hops impart a fresh, crisp and stunning fruitiness, coupled perfectly with aromatic floral herbaceousness. A rich malt body. And warming finish are followed by a subtle, balancing hop bitterness. The name Pig War commemorates the confrontation in 1859 between American and British authorities over San Juan Island.”

Oh, and I found this Release Party notice on the Hopworks website.

ABV: 8.0%
IBU: 80
OG: 19.8° P


Saturday, November 12, 2011

SODZ Beer for XXXXs Beer Judging

Rant warning: I’m using my official power to censure the name of this contest, as it smacks of casual sexism. Yes, I understand it is for a good cause, but focus on the issue at hand, not your dude-ly need to objectify women. Invoking a desire to help doesn’t get you off the hook, either—well-intentioned casual sexism is still sexism. And don’t even try and pretend that “Pints for Prostates” is somehow in the same category. When I see an actual “DIPA for Dicks” or “Kölsch for Cocks” event, then you can come around plying that sad excuse of a justification. You wanna help? Then help. Don’t make the event into a vehicle for perpetuating the sexism of normative beer culture. End rant.

First beer of the day: 9:41 a.m.

Today’s event took yours truly and Jeffrey to Weasel Boy Brewing in Zanesville, OH. Damn, that was a painful early morning drive. My morning flight was Category 10; there were 28 beers between six judges, and we hit the whole spectrum of beers, from APA to American Brown. My first beer of the day was the best of the beers I sampled in the morning flight—it was an APA that needed more hop aroma and flavor to balance the pleasant malt body and bitterness. The afternoon flight is where I got my come-uppance: Category 21, aka Spice/Herb/Vegetable, which includes pumpkin beers. Let’s just say I certainly served my penance, since there were 22 beers and four judges. Ugh. More balance please. Oh, and another thing: can more people follow directions and actually learn to declare a base style? The best beer I had in this flight was an RIS with vanilla bean. Sadly, the vanilla barely came through at all, but the base beer was phenomenal—subtle cocoa, dark chocolate, and coffee flavors danced across my palate. So good. But no vanilla. Alas.

After enjoying a sampler of Weasel Boy’s beers (go with the stout or the mild—both are excellent), Jeffrey and I hit the road for that long drive back to Dayton. Oh, and before someone gets all smug and clever, and tries to point out that I still participated in the event I’m criticizing, and then uses that to somehow invalidate my comments here, I’ll just note this: stop being 12 and grow up. After all, the event still needed judges, and it’s not like this is the only event pandering to the casual sexism of beer-geek culture. It would be a lot easier if it was. Plus, sexism is much more complex that the simple either/or dichotomy such a response would attempt to draw. Get with the both/and, my man, the both/and. Oh, and results are here.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

492. BridgePort Hop Harvest Ale 2011

More from the brewery that almost started it all here. My, how time flies. While technically we’ve had this beer before in an earlier instantiation, since it is a seasonal offering I’m declaring it a distinct vintage. Take that, social proprieties! Hop Harvest is from BridgePort’s Big Brews series (well, at least according to their label), and is our fourth beer from BridgePort, all of which have been, not surprisingly, hop-focused: Hop Czar, Hop Harvest 2009 and their IPA are the previous beers we’ve, um, sampled.

Hop Harvest pours a cloudy orange gold with a thin white head that reduces quickly to a ring with thin wispy tendrils extending over the brew. The nose features a combination of the slight spiciness and burnt vegetal astringency found in most wet hops beers; most others, however, contain additional hop aromas beyond this. Sadly, Hop Harvest does not. Maybe there is a touch of mineral brightness that emerges, or a hint of the caramel malt, but not much else. The flavor profile follows suit—there is malt sweetness in the front coupled with spicy mineral hop flavor that builds to the assertive hop bitterness of the middle; the caramel sweetness leads into the dry, tacky bitterness of the finish that mostly covers the malt sweetness, but it is a bit sticky—its imperial pedigree comes through here, even at only 6.5%. Carbonation is prickly and bright, and helps lighten the mouthfeel, but there is still a bit too much residual sweetness here—it borders on being a malt-forward Imperial IPA, and that can’t be a good thing. The spicy mineral bitterness is the highlight of the beer; the lack of distinct hop aroma and the imperial malt character are pretty big strikes against it. I did finish my glass, but kinda disappointing coming from BridgePort—the 2009 version did a much better job of showcasing the subtlety of fresh hops.

From the bottle: “This triple hopped, Imperial style ale gets its most important ingredient from Willamette Valley aroma hops. Caramel malt joins forces with a touch of wheat to produce a deep amber color with a cloudy veil. The result is an ale that will turn even the most pretentious hop fans jolly.”

ABV: 6.5%

Um, no offense, but you didn’t make Elli jolly...


Monday, November 7, 2011

491. Laurelwood Gearhead IPA

Let the goodness reign down! Back from the excitement of both my father’s 70th birthday party and a delightful case of food poisoning (nothing says good times like throwing up an only partially digested fancy cheeseburger—thanks, Red Robin), I come bearing a box of the Northwest’s finest offerings. Don’t worry, we’ll get to the Deschutes soon enough. Today’s offering is from Laurelwood, which we sadly haven’t seen in a while, not living in the Northwest and all. We can add this one to our previous encounters with Workhorse IPA and Prevale IPA, and note that Laurelwood is another reason that Portland is better than Dayton. Sure, we could make a list going the other way (let’s see what you’ve got, Jeffrey), but I don’t feel like courting disappointment right now.

Gearhead IPA proclaims its Northwest roots right out of the gate. The nose is pine, evergreen, and resin (it gets almost spicy as it warms) hop aroma up front with a touch of floral and citrus in the background—Elli gets more of the citrus than I do, but she has a better nose. There is also a faint caramel sweetness in the nose, although less in the body. Flavors open with bready malt mixed with pine and citrus hops before dropping into the bitterness of the middle. There is a good dose of evergreen hoppiness in the middle coupled with a touch of biscuit malt that slowly transforms into the resin of the finish. The caramel flavor does make a brief appearance in the final third—almost as a break between the evergreen and resin hop flavors—but mostly it functions to balance the hop flavor, aroma, and bitterness. In the finish, the lingering bitterness is bright and refreshing: it is the evergreen hop equivalent of the feeling you get after you are done brushing your teeth with mint toothpaste—that pleasant tang sitting in the back of your throat that makes orange juice taste so bad (and no, I didn’t try some orange juice to compare). While the body is medium, it is rather dry, in part an effect of the brighter carbonation. The flavors are a bit muddled in the middle of the beer—they are not as sharp and distinct as I could hope for—but that is more a quibble than a real flaw. For Elli, the finish could be cleaner—she wants less of the caramel in the final third and brighter, more distinct hops at the end. At the same time, Gearhead is a still a solid and enjoyable beer; it is bright and easy to drink with a subtle complexity that rewards those who take the time to unpack the pieces. And that fresh hop breath it leaves you with is something worth coming back for.

From the bottle: “Gearhead IPA is brewed in the Northwest tradition of generous amounts of aroma hops, creating layers of citrus and piney aromatics and flavors, while managing to strike a balance with moderate malt body. This crisp and refreshing beer will provide you with complex and resinous aromas.”

ABV: 6.5%
IBU: 60
OG 15° P
Stamp on label, which I am hoping is the bottled date: 9/28/11

Love the awesome mustache...


Friday, November 4, 2011

490. Fremont Harvest Ale

Happy Birthday to me. And since today is my birthday, it means beer. Specifically, this beer, which is our first beer from Fremont Brewing Company, located in Seattle, WA. And, as their label informs us, “Because Beer Matters.” To which we would, of course, agree. And who wouldn’t? While I could go with the all-purpose bad guy, and proclaim Nazis, that’s too easy an answer today. So instead, let’s go with Lolli, because, well, he at least responds with indignation. Maybe not to this, but he’s got plenty of indignation to go around. And general indignation is better than outright apathy. Because Nazis certainly aren’t bringing their A-game.

Harvest Ale pours a hazy dull gold—there are hints of orange and copper, but mainly it is a dirty gold. The head is thin and white, while the nose has bright floral, perfume, and fruit notes, with the fruit the strongest of the three. There are delicate pear and apple aromas along with scent of orange marmalade—it is just short of jammy, but distinctly preserve-like with the candy sweetness to match. Finally, there are also toast and candy malt aromatics and just a touch of hop spiciness to round things out. Flavors start soft, bready, and spicy. The fruitiness of the nose comes out in the middle; along with the candy sweetness, there are floral and fruit hints that lead to a distinct orange mixed with a touch of grapefruit. As the beer warms, the grapefruit flavor takes on a pith character. The finish dries out and features a lingering mineral bitterness—bright, but bitter—that I associate with Magnum hops. There are also lingering orange and grapefruit pith flavors on the tongue as it warms, and the final sensation on the palate is apple bitterness. Harvest feature a lightly chewy but dry body with a bright, prickly carbonation on the tongue; there is a touch of alcohol warmth at the end as it warms, but nothing detracting. The dry saison body is an excellent vehicle for this beer—the yeast esters combined with the hop flavors create a complex set of subtle flavors. Harvest is a delicate, nuanced beer. This was a good call for the birthday beer—I could drink this all day long.

From the bottle: “We are a family-owned microbrewery founded in 2009 to brew small-batch artisan beers made with the best local ingredients we can find. Located in the historic Fremont neighborhood of Seattle, we know why the chicken crossed the road—but we’re not telling. Harvest Ale is our offering for this time between here and there. A fall beer graced with fruit and bread aromas and touched by wine notes reminiscent of apricots and apple. Harvest Ale finishes dry and crisp and is unfettered by spices. Fall into a Harvest Ale today...”

From the website: “Our Fall seasonal. A French farmhouse-style saison brewed with Northwest hops. Harvest Ale is our offering for this time between here and there, a Fall beer with fruit and bread aromas and white wine notes reminiscent of apricots and apple. Harvest Ale finishes dry and crisp. Fall into a Harvest Ale today, you won’t be disappointed. Unfettered by spices.”

ABV: 6.5%
IBU: 40
Malt: 2-row Pale & White Wheat
Hops: Magnum, Cascade, & Goldings