Thursday, January 12, 2012

510. Crow Peak 11th Hour IPA

Today was about making the miles. We pulled out of Missoula, MT early, and rolled for victory. Or, as victory is spelled in these parts, South Dakota. 669 miles later, we hit Spearfish, SD, home to Crow Peak Brewing. Time for a pint and some grub. And, I would like to add, the fireplace shaped like a growler was a nice—and unexpected—touch. Since it was snowing lightly, we let Buddy take a nap in the car. He does so love the snow.

We both went for the 11th Hour IPA, mostly because anything less than that would have been anti-climatic after all those miles. Yes, we needed big and bold and hoppy. The beers came in an Imperial Pint, which started everything on a good note. 11th Hour IPA was crystal clear copper in the glass; the head was thin and white, but had decent staying power. Aromas were mainly pine and resin with a touch of caramel lingering in the background, although there were also citrus hop aromas in the nose. Flavors started with bread crust and pine hop flavor; the malt was sweet but not quite caramel, and flavors shifted toward biscuit in the front as the beer warmed. In the middle, there was caramel and a gentle bitterness, along with herbal and citrus hop flavors. The finish was more aggressive and assertive—the bitterness picked up, and there was a fair share of pine & evergreen hop flavor that lingered in the palate. As well, the bright and cleansing carbonation bit more in the finish; the beer was soft on the palate in the front, and sharper in the final third via carbonation and hop punch. The dry finish left the initial caramel behind. All in all, 11th Hour IPA was a decent beer—nothing spectacular, but still solid. Certainly not the pleasant surprise we found in Flathead Lake Centennial IPA.

After the 11th Hour IPA, we tried the Spearbeer, which was some sort of bitter or ESB, although neither of us were really sure, and we were too worn out to ask anyone and risk conversation—our stranger dyslexia had started to kick in after too many hours in the car. The malt character was a mix of nutty and biscuit, and there was a light lingering bitterness to the beer. We did also have a pizza, which, not to put a mean edge on it, was probably the worst pizza I have ever had in my life. Honestly, I could have MacGyvered a better pizza with Wonder Bread, ketchup, Easy Cheese, and beef jerky. Seriously. That’s how terrible it was. Oh, and after we had our beer and really, really, really bad pizza, we rolled another 320 miles to Mitchell, SD, for a daily total of 989. Not too shabby. Tomorrow: Wisconsin.

From the Crow Peak website: “Hop aroma and flavor dominate this IPA. However, the malt character of this deep amber colored ale nicely balances the hop component thus avoiding a harsh bitterness. Pure hoppiness!”

ABV: 6.5%
IBU: 70


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

509. Flathead Lake Centennial IPA

So we rolled out of Seattle today (well, Edmonds actually, to be more precise) on our way back to Dayton. 492 miles later, we found ourselves seated at Flathead Lake Brewing Company’s Pubhouse in Missoula, MT. While we missed the last call for food (by 5 minutes, dammit!), they did score us some very good chips and salsa as a consolation while we got a beer before heading to the hotel for the evening. We both chose the Centennial IPA—after all, beers made to commemorate National Parks don’t come along every day, and Glacier is one of the gems of our National Park system. But I digress. This beer was awesome, and it certainly hit the spot after all those hours behind the wheel: fresh tasting with excellent bitterness and only a touch of malt. And by awesome, I do mean awesome—to be perfectly honest, it was far, far better than either of us were expecting. It is good to see that quality craft beer is starting to pop up in places we wouldn’t normally expect. My only regret is that I didn’t buy a growler to take to the hotel. But I did have that sixpack of Inversion in the cooler, so not all was lost. Oh, and you’re not getting any more notes on the beer, because we didn’t take any. Snap!

From the website: “This India Pale Ale is entirely hopped with the Centennial variety in honor of the 100-year anniversary of Glacier National Park. You’ll be hooked on the lovely floral and citrusy hop flavor.”

ABV: 7.6%
IBU: 53


Sunday, January 8, 2012

Our New Year’s Tidings

As the holidays wind on down to their inevitable conclusion, I just want all of you out there to know that we’ve been putting in extra special effort to keep it classy round these here parts. And please remember, we do all of this hard hard work for you. And you alone. It ain’t easy working this hard and looking this good, but when it all comes together, then we know we’ve done something special. And so do you. So cheers for keep on keeping on in 2012, and remember that nothing says classy like a pyramid of Oly tall boys. And please, do note the lifted pinky in the picture. Because nothing says classy like the pointy pinky, even when you’re drinking out of a can. That’s how we keep it classy, all year long. No sacrifice is too big nor beer too low for yours truly. I hope I can count as true the same from all of our lovely readers. Word.


Friday, January 6, 2012

508. Two Beers Heart of Darkness CDA

More perambulations in the Seattle region. Two Beers Brewery is located in a light industrial wearhouse district in south Seattle—just south of the West Seattle freeway. We’ve been enjoying as many of their fine canned products as possible during our time here, so we figured a trip to the brewery was in order. Plus, who doesn’t love poking around? Thus, while this is not our first beer from Two Beers, it is the first one we’ve bothered to inform all you lovely readers about. I hope you don’t take it personally—it’s not you, it’s us. Oh, and let’s be honest—straight up awesome name for today’s beer. Even Joseph Conrad would approve.

Since we got there early, we had to sit in the car for five minutes or so before they opened the tasting room for the day—we didn’t want to start out by pushing our luck barging in, and it was raining (Seattle and rain? No way!). We were the first ones in, and after surveying the beer offerings, Elli went with the Echo IPA while I opted for the Heart of Darkness CDA—Cascadian Dark Ale for all of you that don’t know—it’s just a black IPA with a fancier name. Heart of Darkness was a luscious deep chocolate with a tan head; the nose was a mix of spicy resin and evergreen hops coupled with sweet caramel and a touch of roast/oatmeal. Flavors open with malt—light roast and sweetness with accompanying lighter chocolate and coffee hints. The hop flavor comes in after the initial malt rush, with spicy and resin hop flavors and reciprocal bitterness peeking through the darker malts. The finish features a touch of roast with a creamy bitter finish, and lingering flavors of roast and resin on the back of the tongue. There is a little warmth and graininess in the mouthfeel—the spicy hops contribute to the impression of warmth, but it is also 8.4% ABV, so it ain’t all just the hops. The creamy, rounded flavor leads me to suspect oatmeal or rolled barley in the grist, but the underlying beer strikes me closer to a sweet stout than a dry stout—the roast is subdued, allowing the sweet caramel flavors to come to the forefront. Nonetheless, an excellent beer—this is by far the best and most approachable CDA I’ve tried—the fresh flavors and bright, spicy hops make the beer pop, and it is certainly delicious.

In our discussions with the gentleman running the tasting room, we found out that the Echo IPA is a Northwest IPA, while the Evolutionary IPA is closer to a San Diego-style IPA. We tried the Evolutionary in conjunction with the Echo, and both concluded the Echo is far better, which kinda struck us as odd, since Evolutionary is Two Beers’ flagship IPA. We also got to wander around in the back and check out the brew kettle and the conicals, and ask a couple of questions. All in all, an afternoon well spent—we’d happily visit again anytime the opportunity presented itself.

From the Two Beers website: “Whether it’s hiking a moonlit trail or sleeping under the stars, our senses are heightened in the dark. We notice the little things and discover the word anew. This complex Cascadian Dark Ale is our tribute to those moonlit experiences. This hoppy yet smooth ale is an adventure all its own.”

ABV: 8.4%
IBU: 67


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

507. Brasserie Lebbe L’Amalthée

After the last saison debacle, we decided to kick it old school when we found a bottle of Brasserie Lebbe’s L’Amalthée on the shelves. Brasserie Lebbe is located on a self-sustaining goat farm owned by Pierre Lebbe in Villefranque, France in the Southern Haute-Pyrenees region; L’Amalthée is the only beer they produce. Lebbe is originally from Belgium, and, with the exception of the yeast and hops, his beer is brewed with ingredients grown on his farm and hand bottled. Think he’d take on a summer intern?

L’Amalthée pours a hazy golden straw with a white mousse-like head that hangs around, re-rousing easily; the nose is spicy and fruity, with a juicy component that increases as the beer warms. The spiciness is also both earthy and loamy, reminiscent of the “rustic” components fitting the classic examples of the style, and there is some candy sweetness accompanying the earthy bitterness. Flavors start candy sweet but dry—the residual sweetness is in the flavor, not in the body—leading to the clean, spicy bitterness in the middle. Candy comes back in the finish, combining with the spicy, earthy bitterness and the juiciness, to create a delicate mélange of flavors that conclude with a clean bitterness. The body is dry and bitter, while the carbonation is bright but gentle and creamy. You do get a bit of chewiness in the mouthfeel as the beer warms, but the emphasis is still on the dryness. L’Amalthée is a delicious old-world example of a saison—rustic and complex, but light and drinkable at the same time. The spicy hop character is especially pleasant and refreshing—this is not quite Dupont, not quite Belgian, but certainly delicious. And well worth trying if you can find it.

Good luck finding a website; the only real information I could find online is the Charles Neal page quoted above; everything else (including Beer Advocate) pretty much pulls their information from his website.

ABV: 6.0%


Sunday, January 1, 2012

506. New Belgium Prickly Passion Saison

So it finally happened: a New Belgium beer we don’t like. Trust me, we’ve tried our shared, including Vrieden, La Folie Falling Rock Tap House 10th Anniversary, Mighty Arrow Pale Ale, Ranger, Le Fleur, Misseur?, Transatlantique Kriek, Biere de Mars, Fat Tire, 1554 Enlightened Black Ale and La Folie. As well, Prickly Passion is both a saison and from the Lips of Faith series. Dag. Talk about your unexpected turn of events. I don’t think even Negrodamus saw this one coming.

Prickly Passion pours a crystal clear dark gold with moderate head retention. The nose is über-candy sweetness—it comes across as the cloying sweetness found in cheap candy for children—accompanied by floral and fruit notes from both the fruit additions and the yeast, although the fruit aromatics are bordering on over-ripe and spoiled. Since the bottle notes the beer is made with “French saison yeast,” I’m calling 3711, which is why I would ascribe the cloying and over-ripe components to the fruit—I can smell the traditional 3711 esters in conjunction with the others components, so I’m blaming the fruit. Because 3711 would never do this to me. Flavors follow the nose, although they come across in a subtler manner—there is candy and delicate fruit in the front, which I would describe as a mix of apple, pear, and lightly tart fruit, followed by a slight slick creaminess and just a touch of vanilla. The finish starts clean, but gums up quickly; while the bright carbonation tries to clean up the palate sensation, the residual fruit and sugar flavors end up overwhelming everything else. As well, there is a cloying, artificial flavor left in the back of the throat after the final flavors recede—something like the taste and effect that remains when drinking an under-attenuated golden ale (Prickly Passion is 8.5% ABV, which is a bit beyond the 5%-7% range for a saison).There is also absolutely no discernable bitterness in the beer—while I am guessing the decision to minimally hop the beer was intended to preserve the delicate fruit flavors, it also exacerbates the stickier, golden-ale like qualities previously mentioned. This allows the alcohol heat and flavor to fill in the void left by the lack of hop bitterness, which further throws off the balance. Overall, a rather disappointing beer from an otherwise enjoyable brewery—I actually held out on drinking this beer over the last week to savor having a new Lips of Faith beer to try, and because I figured it would be a sure thing. Having finally cracked it, the disappointment hangs palpably in the air. While I applaud the innovation (and I do want to note that Elli does not share these sentiments), I’m not able to applaud this particular beer.

From the bottle: “Peter picked a prickly pear and paired it with a passion fruit. ‘Perfect! Pitch it in!’ he proclaimed. Now we have this pleasing Prickly Passion Saison brewed with fruit juices and French saison yeast to our brewmaster’s picking.”

From the New Belgium website: “Prickly pear and passion fruit mingle together for New Belgium’s return to farmhouse ales. Prickly Passion Saison is truly a beer for Belgian inspiration. The combination of passion fruit and prickly pear juices with the tropical esters of a traditionally earthy Saison yeast create a wonderfully broad and reaching mango-like character. Ostentatiously amber, this Prickly Passion Saison is sure to provoke the palate with a passionate prick, turn that bottle over and take a sip.”

ABV: 8.5%