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The Hop Brief: Bend Brewing’s Hop Head

January 14, 2011 1 comment

Sorry for the weak pic, computer issues...

Enjoyed on 1/11/2011

Brewery: Bend Brewing Co.

Location: Bend, OR

Beer: Hop Head Imperial India Pale Ale

Web: http://www.bendbrewingco.com/

Presentation:  22 oz. – Brown Glass Bottle – Capped

Vintage: 2010

Style: American Style Double India Pale Ale

Barrel: N/A

ABV: 9%

IBU: N/A

Hops: N/A

Malt: N/A

Commercial Description: Unavailable

Beer Advocate: A- (4.17)

Rate Beer: 98 (3.92)

Timperial’s Notes:

Background.

My mother lives in Bend, OR.  Periodically, I visit.  When I do, you better believe that I’m going to makes stops at Deschutes, Cascade Lakes and Bend Brewing.  Ever since I learned that Hop Head won a bronze metal at the 2008 GABF, I knew I had to have it.  Unfortunately, it’s a seasonal for Bend, and every time I’ve gone there, it has been the wrong season.  This year BBC bottled the hoppy wonder, and they still had some left when I was there for Christmas.

Appearance.

This beer fills my pint glass with a very clear, light amber color.  In fact, I’d say that it’s one of the lightest colored IPAs out there.  Though I recently purchased this beer from the brewery, I believe that it’s a summer, or at best fall seasonal for them, so I have a slight fear that the lack of freshness could have negative effects tonight.

I did get a slight hiss when the cap was unhinged, but there wasn’t much of a head on the pour.  There is, however, a respectable rising of bubbles from the depths.  What head is produced on the pour quickly dwindles to a ring and faint wisps, but lacing is evident as I drink.

Odor.

The nose is fairly subtle in volume but with effort, an intensely pungent odor is detected.  There is an earthy, almost skunky nature to it, but that seems to come in waves, where the receding tides allow for a citrusy aroma to bloom.  Tangerine and grapefruit rind stake claim, and a balancing effect is noted with a buried and exhumed malty sweetness.  As the beer warms it’s as though our seemingly endless paddling has finally propelled us beyond the breakers, and a much-needed calm inundates the scene.

Here we find a melding of seas, or, as it were, scents.  At this point I’d say that the grapefruit dominates and that carries enough earthiness with it to legitimize earlier notions.  The malt side is not playing a major role and only really imparts a sugar-coating on top of the hop flavors.  I guess, with that being said, age is more likely than not… not an issue here.

Mouthfeel.

The mouthfeel is nice with this one.  The carbonation is appropriate and the viscosity is within the range that I expect.  It goes down easy and lingers for just the right amount of time.

Flavor.

Unlike the nose, the flavor is better at colder temperatures.  The bitterness seems more subdued, as does the maltiness.  Pine flavors were most prevalent to me, which played as a pleasant contrast to the fruity nose.  At warmer temperatures the bitterness becomes overwhelming.  The flavors shift more toward earthy presenting an almost wood like experience.  It becomes more like chewing on grapefruit peel than simply enjoying the zest’s essence.  Yes, there is a shit ton of hops in this beer, but I don’t know how successful they were blended.

The malts are present early on and accent the experience with powdered sugar dustings, but later, as the beer warms, they become uber-pronounced in their grainy, biscuity nature.  I’m not surprised that there isn’t much of a caramel or candy-coated element to speak of.  The color of the fluid did its part to foreshadow this.  I’d much prefer to see some higher lovibond crystal malt in the grain bill.  To use the word balanced would be accurate, but for my tastes, this is a bitter bomb with too much of the wrong grains.

Aftertaste.

The aftertaste is a well blended bitter and malty existence.  Thankfully, it’s not completely dried out by the IBUs, but they are doing all that they can.  It all lingers for quite some time, reminding you that you just sipped down a pretty bold IPA, but the 9% continues to be mostly hidden, even into near ambient temperatures.

Summary.

This one has its fair share of bumps in the road, but it finishes on a high note, and in the grand scheme of things, I wouldn’t mind having it in my corner to represent just how the Northwest rolls when it comes to hop monsters.

Admittedly, I am giving this beer a pretty low score.  One important thing that I’d like to state, no matter how obvious it may seem, is that I have a fairly unique take on what makes a stellar IPA.  Apperantly, what makes my palate most happy is in stark opposition to what the BJCP says an IPA should be like.  I can only assume that because of the award that was given to BBC at GABF.  It is always healthy to question the authorities that be, but it’s also important to realize that the standards and rules are there for a reason.  I guess my point is that I can respect this beer and the brewers deeply, but Hop Head just isn’t for me.  The question then becomes, is it the one for you?  Let me know at timperial@beerblotter.com

Color/Head/Retention [maximum of 1.00 point possible]: 0.85

Odor [maximum of 2.00 points possible]: 1.78

Carbonation/Mouthfeel [maximum of 1.00 point possible]: 0.95

Hop Flavor [maximum of 3.00 points possible]: 2.58

Malt Flavor/Balance [maximum of 2.00 points possible]: 1.58

Finish/Aftertaste [maximum of 1.00 point possible]: 0.93

Total [maximum of 10.00 points possible]: 8.67

The Hop Brief: Weyerbacher Double Simcoe IPA

<3 <3 <3

Enjoyed on 1/4/2011

Brewery: Weyerbacher Brewing Co.

Location: Easton, PA

Beer:  Double India Pale Ale

Web: http://weyerbacher.com/

Presentation: 750 ml – Brown Glass Bottle – Corked & Caged

Vintage: 2010

Style: American Style Double India Pale Ale

Barrel: N/A

ABV: 9%

IBU: N/A

Hops: 100% Simcoe.

Malt: N/A

Commercial Description:

Double Simcoe IPA, 9.0% abv, is our incredible reward for Hopheads seeking the intense hop flavor in a Double IPA, without the harshness. It is brewed utilizing only the Simcoe hop variety.  This hybrid hop, developed and trademarked by Select Botanicals Group, LLC in the year 2000, was created for its high alpha acid content, maximum aromatic oils, and low cohumulone(harshness) levels so that brewers can really put a lot of ‘em in a beer and not create an overly harsh taste.
Double Simcoe IPA is a full-flavored ale with hints of pineapple and citrus upfront, a good malt backbone in the middle, and a clean finish that doesn’t linger too long. Check it out, and you’ll soon see why everyone’s talking about it.  Double Simcoe is available year-round.

Beer Advocate: A- (4.17)

Rate Beer: 99 (3.92)

Timperial’s Notes:

Background.

I grew up in the Keystone State, home of Weyerbacher.  It’s a really great state for breweries.  Some highlights include Victory, Stoudts, Troegs, Yards, Erie, and the omnipresent Yuengling. Lucky for me, Victory distributes to WA.  If I could have access to just one more of my home state’s breweries out west I’d have to choose Weyerbacher.  They make really good beer.  Just a few months ago my beautiful sister migrated back home from Seattle indefinitely.  This broke my heart, and I know she knows that.  May it be simply out of love or as consolation, the one that knows me best produced a package that soon found my doorstep.  After meticulously removing many a packing peanut and layer upon layer of bubble wrap, my heart skipped at the unveiling of two corked Weyerbacher gems (and one Troegs).  Though the cellar dweller within wishes to extend the pleasure for as long as possible, I know better than to age an IPA, and regardless, I won’t let her get away with a simple one and done shipping policy.  Tonight’s the night.  Lets see how it goes down.

Appearance.

DSIPA is unfiltered and it shows.  Light struggles to pass through the auburn colored liquid, but the cloudiness is fully saturated.  Unlike the last few IPAs I reviewed for this column, there is nary a hop chunk in sight.  The bottle conditioned, cork finish to this bottle does great work in its production of a massive head.  It takes quite a few minutes to fill the glass.  The tan crown is rocky and voluminous and is built on varying sized bubbles.  As it slowly withdraws toward the beer below, a pretty impressive slime trail is produced on the inside of the glass.  It’s a sporadic and unpredictable pattern, but where it comes to rest, it lies with density.

The carbonation is insanely active.  Tiny bubbles appear to rise from every single square nano-meter of the glass floor.  They rise quickly and vigorously.  Of course, bottle conditioned and corked beers are highly evocative of Belgian Ales, and the carbonation levels here bring identical suggestions.

Odor.

If I had to choose two words to describe the nose of this beauty I’d provide “fruity” and “yeasty”.  Are we drinking a Belgian tonight?  Well, no, but there is surely some sort of influence, even if it was unintended by the brewers.  Now, I must clarify that the fruity nature is far different from a yeast induced, high temperature fermentation ester bomb…read: fruity Belgian.  Here, the fruitiness comes from the Simcoe, and it’s simply a natural wonder.  What an amazing profile from just one single variety of hop!

This is why I adore the “single hop” IPA.  As a brewer myself,  this experience refreshes my memory on exactly what Simcoe has the potential to impart in a beer.  It’s really quite majestic.  Though there is an element of herbal and earthy and piney present, the fruitiness takes charge.  There is definitely a bit of mandarin orange there, but most of the scents come across as being of a tropical flora.  The suggestion of pineapple seeps into my psyche, but my senses find more abundance in banana peel and melon.  The malts are there, but the recipe seems to meticulously place them at just the right volume in the mix so that the hops stand above the din.  I’m very fond of the odor here.

Mouthfeel.

Yes, there is a lot of carbonation found in DSIPA, but high carbonation is one of my favorite elements of my beloved Belgian Ales.  I often wish that craft breweries in America would be more heavy-handed with the carb stone.  Of course, in this case, bottle conditioning is responsible, but no matter how you look at it, I’ll give much praise to anyone willing to be generous with those tongue tickling bubbles that play such a crucially role in the way we experience beer.

I’ve read that highly carbonated beverages can act as tongue scrubbers.  If you are tasting foods, especially those that are creamy and high in fats, it is recommended that you drink a bit of bubbly to neutralize the potentiality of clinging flavors.  This will assist you in moving across flavor profiles with minimal pollution from previous samples.  If this is true, DSIPA should quickly cleanse the tongue.  Considering that this beer completely coats the mouth and lingers for some time lends me to believe that if it weren’t so effervescent it would be like drinking melted wax.  The viscosity of the fluid is so intense that the prickling bubbles are nearly nullified.  The balance of the two is sublime.  Because I want to experience this rarity in more beers, I’ll give a perfect score.

Flavor.

I can only assume that there were several bittering additions to DSIPA’s hopping schedule, and though Simcoe is a high alpha hop, it’s roundness, or low cohumulone levels (as described in the commercial description) is highly evident.  The bitterness is very manageable with DSIPA.  I could imagine that the IBU factor is high, though it may not be, but hop flavor clearly dominates.  I’d imagine that those that know me can already begin to see the high score to follow.  This is 100% my kind of IPA.  The flavor is balanced at extremes, sweet, and goes down smooth.  Good gracious I miss you Weyerbacher!

The malt profile is very barleywine like.  It’s complex and possesses an aged like quality.  There is a decent caramelized notion that becomes most obvious with extended periods in the glass (for warmth).  The hops remain highly fruity which brings a lot of uniqueness to this one.  A deep exhale with the beer in my mouth produces a blow gun of pine needles.  How transformative?!?!  What a hop!  What an experience!

It takes considerable warming to bring out the alcohol here.  One word, dangerous.

Aftertaste.

The aftertaste, unlike the actual taste, is mostly dominated by malt.  There is a lot of scorched brown sugar and baked sweet dough.  It’s a mostly sweet finish, but the bittering hops put forth and effort to dry it out.  Without a doubt, this is an intensely balanced finish.  A near perfect end to a near perfect beer.

Summary.

I don’t really know what else to say other than look at the last sentence of the section above…look at the score below…and thank you, thank you, thank you Dana!

Color/Head/Retention [maximum of 1.00 point possible]: 0.94

Odor [maximum of 2.00 points possible]: 1.96

Carbonation/Mouthfeel [maximum of 1.00 point possible]: 1.00

Hop Flavor [maximum of 3.00 points possible]: 2.91

Malt Flavor/Balance [maximum of 2.00 points possible]: 1.96

Finish/Aftertaste [maximum of 1.00 point possible]: 0.99

Total [maximum of 10.00 points possible]: 9.76

Liquid Excursion, Brasserie des Rocs, Part 3

Another combination in luxury.

In case you missed my musings on Brune in Part 1 and Triple Imperiale in Part 2, please be sure to click the links and catch up. Otherwise, you’ll be a bit lost.

It’s become tradition for the beers of Liquid Excursion to be paired with music.  Any good excursion has a soundtrack right?  Since my ultimate goal is to relax when I tipple on immensely bold depressants such as those forged by the goofily skilled brewers of Brasserie des Rocs, it’s only natural that I would strive for an auditory pairing that brings equal parts soothing massage of the inner ear and transcendence of the soul.

Tonight, the vinyl disc that spins beneath the needle is imprinted with And Their Refinement Of The Decline by Stars Of The Lid.  Stars Of The Lid are without a doubt a powerhouse in the world or drone, ambient and neoclassical.  The music of And Their Refinement Of The Decline can often feel austere or placid.  To allow it’s sound waves to pass over and through you is akin to floating adrift a “dopamine cloud”.  Here, when acting as the setting to a tale with such an outlandish protagonist of a beverage, it acts as counterpoint, and grounds me before the flavors have a chance to overwhelm my synapses. As any true soundtrack should, this album simply accentuates, but never urges my thoughts in any particular direction.  That is, solely, a task for Grand Cru this night.

Much like the two BdR beers that I previously reviewed, this beer pours a dark reddish-brown that is outrageously full of floating globs of God knows what.  I’d lean toward yeast, but if that is truly the case, may the man in charge of priming these bottles be quickly and quietly relieved of his duties.  It’s far more solidified whatnot than I’ve ever seen in a beer.  I’m actually beginning to think that I may have something to do with the pollution of this fine fluid.  The moment that I tipped the bottle to empty a portion into my glass there was a slight hesitation and a glunk noise, as if something was obstructing the flow and then freed.  I initially thought that I must have accidentally, partially froze the beer, that the chunks were bits of icy slush.  But then I let it warm most considerably and the goop stayed goop.  What the poop?

I can pretty easily get past the floating oddities though.  The music is relieving my stress and the flavor is just far too opulent to allow for any spoilage of this experience.

The first word that comes to my mind when I smell Grand Cru is “caramelized”.  Like most extremely complex, dark Belgians, I believe that this beer was boiled for much longer than most American ales often are.  The sugars are cooked and browned, and that bit of aroma coupled with the intense fruitiness of the yeast makes for visions of sugarplums…er…more like visions of fruit cordials and rum soaked cake.  In the nose, well…in more than the nose, this beer is like an after dinner snifter of brandy and a bit of freshly baked desert.

I know that all three of these BdR beers share a lot of attributes.  The most distinguishing characteristic of Grand Cru is its undeniable fruitiness and spiciness.  The residual sweetness that this beer possesses makes the fruity esters come across as being much like fruit leather.  There’s notes of cherry, grape/raisin, plum/date, and caramel apple.  Cinnamon seems to powder it at all the hue of the fluid itself.  I’m thinking about eating a cold slice of apple crisp the day after Thanksgiving.  Possible a big old bowl of bread pudding with a shot of Cognac on top.  This is surely the liquid bread of ancient lore.

Despite our unsightly friends that drifted in on the tides, the mouthfeel is divine.  It’s smooth yet not overly cloying.  Yes, the sugars coat the mouth, but it’s never obtrusive.  It all seamlessly leads into the aftertaste, which is the absolute best quality of this beer in my opinion.  I tip back the glass over and over again because it’s a circus in there, but I’d be content for days with what remains post-ingestion.  If I could surgically implant that flavor into the recesses of my trachea I would hastily do so.

The booze is intense with this one.  All 9.5% of Grand Cru are revealed from beneath the chilled cloak of the refrigerant.  Esters and ethanol mingle and burn the nostrils with each exhale.  Brasseries des Rocs may have cunningly removed the “Abbey” from their name, but I still can’t help but envision brown robed men of the cloth finding sustenance in the holy liquid before me.  What strange incantations may befit such a meal?  I’ve got to say, I’m not a man of God, but after a night in the company of Stars Of The Lid And BdR’s Grand Cru, I’m singing psalms that speak of malted barley, hops, yeast and water.

There's Pareidolia in the foam. What do you see?

The Hop Brief: Hale’s Ales Seattle Beer Week 2010 Double IPA

December 24, 2010 Leave a comment

I can't wait till the next SBW!

Enjoyed on 12/21/2010

Brewery: Hale’s Ales LTD.

Location: Seattle, WA

Beer: Seattle Beer Week 2010 Double India Pale Ale

Web: http://www.averybrewing.com/

Presentation: 22 oz. – Brown Glass Bottle – Capped

Vintage: 2010

Style: American Style Double India Pale Ale

Barrel: N/A

ABV: 8.3%

IBU: 100

Hops: Columbus and Magnum in the bittering, Chinook, Cascade and Centennial in the late hop additions, and Centennial, Cascade, Amarillo, Chinook and Simcoe in the dry hop.

Malt: Belgian Aromatic and Munich, oats, likely NW pale or 2 row or Maris Otter…possibly others.

Commercial Description:

Seattle Beer Week II Double IPA We do a couple different IPA’s here at Hale’s Ales, Mongoose, Supergoose, Aftermath, and so we were aiming for an IPA that was outside of these flavors. The big feature of this beer is the hops, so naturally we argued first and last about the malt bill. Our target was a rich orange color based around a couple of light color malts, Belgian Aromatic and Munich. We also were looking for a strong malt backbone to support a pretty aggressive hop bill, so we incorporated oats to allow for a rich body and mouthfeel. On to hops. Our goal was a blend of Northwest Hops emphasizing floral, citrus and pine characteristics. We did a couple of trial batches attempting to dial in the right hop character. We went a little heavy on Columbus in the first batch and ended up with a weird pineapple character. The second batch was dynamite on the flavor, but didn’t quite hit the perfect aroma. Our final batch incorporated Columbus and Magnum in the bittering, Chinook, Cascade and Centennial in the late hop additions, and Centennial, Cascade, Amarillo, Chinook and Simcoe in the dry hop. Late hop additions were 1.6 lbs/bbl. Dry hops were at 1.0 lb/ bbl.

Beer Advocate: A- (4.1)

Rate Beer: 97 (3.68)

Timperial’s Notes:

Background.

Remember Seattle Beer Week 2010?  I do and I don’t, if you know what I mean.  It’s nearly impossible to exercise moderation during said week, and I partied like a rock star.  Err…a beer nerd.  That notion, non-existent moderation that is, seems to hold true when creating the week’s beer as well.  The inaugural brew in 2009 was crafted by Pike Brewing and was also a Double IPA.  When the Seattle Beer Collective gets down, they get down.  They destroy palettes with booze and IBUs.  The dates have already been set for SBW 2011, May 19 – 28, but the official beer’s brewer has yet to be announced.  Who will it be?  I can’t wait to find out, but for now, lets just enjoy my last bottle of the 2010 before the massive hop character becomes…well, less massive.

Appearance.

I’d say, based on looks, that Hale’s was right on with what they were aiming for.  This brew has a rich orange hue that is very inviting.  When the light isn’t quite so direct, the fluid takes on a more amber color, but when held directly to the light, SBW2010DIPA glows a gold flaked orange.  Though the beer is hazy from the dry-hopping, there is barely any sediment to speak of.  The carbonation is visible, but not so strong as to build an out of control head on the pour.  The lacing is worthy of a double thumbs up, and the head sticks around throughout.  Very impressive.

Odor.

There is little doubt that this beer has a solid malt backbone.  It’s possibly odd that I started this section with that statement.  Yes, hops dominate.  Was I supposed to mention that?  I thought it goes without saying.  I’ll get to the lupulin in a moment.

The first thought I had when evaluating the malt essence was Victory malt.  There may or may not be Victory in the grain bill, possibly it’s the Munich, but I got a whiff of peanuts and a dash of popcorn.  Those notes came right after the pour when the effervescence was at its peak.  Now that the beer has calmed a bit, I can’t seem to discern anything other than a faint caramel stickiness draped upon the overpowering hoppy fruitiness.

I smell and smell again, and each time I seem to get a slight nuance from the hops.  At times, it’s all fruit, mostly passion fruit or some soft tropical pleasure.  Other times, it’s completely floral.  Unfortunately, I’m no botanist, and therefore am unable to provide genus,  but I can tell you that the potency is immense.  I think of Elysian Jasmine IPA and its overwhelming ability to transport me to a Japanese tea garden.  A garden, we surely are in.

As the beer warms, some more of the malt is uncovered, and it easily coalesces with the flora to place me directly within the leavened pores of a fruit cake.  If you could take that scene in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids where they stumble upon the Oreo in the front yard and snack time ensues and replace the cookie with a fruit cake…yeah I’m doing a swan dive right into the fluffy cakey goodness right now.

As it warms even more, the booze enters the jaunt, and some slight uninvited vegetal scents pop in.  Try to drink this one cold(er).

Mouthfeel.

The body of this guy is truly lovely.  I can’t say that I would have guessed there were oats in this, but since I do know, I’ll strap on my monocle, clutch my jolly old belly (lavishly draped in a vest of the Queen’s finest textiles) and bellow deeply in an English accent that this beer’s “silky smooth mouthfeel is made possible by the almighty oat”.  The oats effect may also be responsible for the killer head retention, or maybe Cara-Pils could hold a minor percentage in the bill.

The carbonation is rocking well after the pour but never overbearing.  All in all, a great success.

Flavor.

Much like the nose, this element seems to fluctuate, oscillate, ebb and flow.  When the experience is averaged, balance is reached so astutely.  Doubtless, the malts are mighty strong here, standing tall amidst the triple digit bitterness units.  Bitterness… what a challenging topic right now.  With the fear of skipping ahead and spoiling the aftertaste section below, I must reference the moments after the swallow to make any attempt to wrap my mind around the role of bitterness here.

If you’ve read my Hop Briefs in the past, you know that, ultimately, my enjoyment of IPAs rest in the bitter vs. sweet, hop candy battle.  When this beer hits the tongue, the tongue recoils in fear.  On a sensory level, one must then pay close attention to the aftershocks, not the heavy hitting initial blow, to fully appreciate this beer’s nuance and complexity.  The aftershocks, or the aftertaste in this case, is so, so pleasurable.  It’s sweet and hoppy and not at all dry.  The malts are twinkling in the background and everything is right in the world.  How this contradiction holds together in the rolling centrifuge across my tongue, I can’t explain, but allow me to again bellow, “Roll on my intrepid friend, be free!”

When it comes to the actual hop flavor, it still holds a lot of fruitiness, but not so much floraliness (new word discovery, chalk it up!).  I’m actually getting a large dose of spice just at the moment that I swallow.  If beer is liquid bread, this beer is a culinary joy ride.  I’d feed on this one for days and days.  It’s all too hop-laden to realize any specific, legitimate malt characteristic, but the balance is undeniable.

Aftertaste.

It’s glorious.  See above.

Summary.

The absolute best part about this beer is the fact that it seems to be a living organism.  It’s like the sea breaching the shore – it attacks over and over again, but never twice in the same manner.  By this right, this is the most complex IPA I’ve had in recent memory.  Oddly enough though, complexity only goes so far with IPAs as far as I’m concerned.  This one beer may have the aspects of 4 different IPAs, possibly more, but maybe only one of those would be a perfect 10 in my book.  Though I deeply enjoyed the ride, the moments where SBW2010DIPA tasted like something slightly less desirable left a blemish with enough weight to set in scar.  If for nothing other than to deepen my confliction, may it be that this scar lends an endearing quality and in time I regret not distributing the highest of marks.  May time tell the tale.

Color/Head/Retention [maximum of 1.00 point possible]: 0.99

Odor [maximum of 2.00 points possible]: 1.94

Carbonation/Mouthfeel [maximum of 1.00 point possible]: 0.98

Hop Flavor [maximum of 3.00 points possible]: 2.70

Malt Flavor/Balance [maximum of 2.00 points possible]: 1.88

Finish/Aftertaste [maximum of 1.00 point possible]: 0.99

Total [maximum of 10.00 points possible]: 9.48

Liquid Excursion, Brasserie des Rocs, Part 2

December 23, 2010 Leave a comment

Good beer, good tunes, good night.

In case you missed my musings on Brune in Part 1, please be sure to catch up here.  Otherwise, you’ll be a bit lost.

Allow me to apologize that such a long period of time has passed since the initial excursion.  The first edition was produced on a perfect Sunday night.  I was all alone in my cellar dwelling with nowhere to be and no one to distract me.  I was warm and blanketed in glorious sounds, scents, tastes and visions.  I had been craving Belgian ales so deeply, and I needed a calming escape from the rigors of life.  I found it that night, and it felt amazing.  I wanted to recreate the night for Part 2, but the stars really have to align just so for a true recreation.  It took a few weeks, but here I am, blissful as before.

I figured that I should, again, offer a score to the experience.  Last time saw a pairing with an undeniable founder of the long standing shoegaze movement.  Cocteau Twins’ Robin Guthrie is a master of distortion, and some of the world’s most highly revered albums, namely My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless, would not have existed where it not for him.  Tonight, I again attempt to pair my mind meltingly complex Belgian ale with equally profound sounds.  Though The Campfire Headphase is no Music Has the Right to Children, it’s never-the-less a pillar in the world of IDM, ambient, and downtempo.  It pairs perfectly well with relaxation, and even better with transcendence of mind and palate.

Triple Imperiale fills the glass with aquarium like wonderment. To gaze upon this brown, highly carbonated, viscous mess in my glass is much like what it would be to open your eyes beneath the goopy confines of a hot bayou.  The waters are muddy brown, but life thrives.  Bubbles rise from the depths… something stirs on the floor of this slimy hotbed.  Amidst the uncomfortable submersion, to see only briefly is unmasking evidence that there swims near endless translucent organisms, weaving in and out of every nook and cranny of the body.  Are these wiggling jellyfish with stingers at the ready, or may they be amoeba like microorganisms, mutated far from any micro precursor?

We need not contemplate these things, for a blind man would surely find endless delight here.  May the scents, sounds and flavors guide us tonight.

Triple Imperiale has all the complexity of nose that the world’s greatest ales possess.  It’s staggering.  It’s challenging… to the writer part of my brain, but completely delightful to the rest.  This beer is not too different from the Brune that I last reviewed in odor.  I wouldn’t say that it has a cherry tartness to it, but the esters power through the brown sugar and caramel and deep, slightly browned pie crust fumes at the forefront.  There’s more of a prune and date and robust red wine scent.  It smells wood aged in many ways.  There is a mustiness deep within, vanilla notes, caramelized, charing, with subtly bubblegum, taffy and cotton candy.  Good gracious!  Again, there must be a crucially long boil with this brew to cook the sugars so fully, and a yeast strain that could go toe to toe with the very best of them.  Brilliant.

Amoebas? Jellyfish? Flavor nuggets?

I feared that the flavor could never rival the scent, and that’s mostly true, but the music and the candle light in my room and the ominous crackling of the needle against the vinyl and the Belgian masterpiece before me… this is just all too much for me right now.  What a night!

The flavor is very wine like in it’s fruitiness and heat.  With the glaring exception of a malty-er-than-thou finish, this is a seriously vinous, estery, fruitscapade of a beer.  But beer it is.  The malty, baker’s chocolatey dry finish is profound, but long before the aftertaste, all that fruit lies upon breads and cookies and pie crusts and cakes…all slightly overcooked and crusted.  But like Momma used to say, the crust is the best part.  All the sugars are crystallized at the edge.   The peripheral is often the most exciting place to be.

This shit is super sweet, and I’m not speaking in colloquialism, but I could be.  The typical Belgian candy sugar meets Belgian yeast reaction in bubblegum is present, but it’s possibly closer to creme brulee, as was Brune.  Blue hot scorching of soft sugars.  Male vs. female.  Power vs. subtlety.  Pro-fun-dity.

I'm spinning...reeling in delight.

The Hop Brief: Hopworks Urban Brewery Ace of Spades Imperial IPA

December 10, 2010 4 comments

This may be in the royal flush of IIPAs

Enjoyed on 12/09/2010

Brewery: Hopworks Urban Brewery aka HUB

Location: Portland, OR

Beer: Ace of Spades Imperial IPA

Web: http://www.hopworksbeer.com/

Presentation: 22 oz. – Brown Glass Bottle – Capped

Vintage: 2010

Style: American Style Imperial India Pale Ale

Barrel: N/A

ABV: 9.5%

IBU: 100+

Hops: Amarillo, Cascade, Centennial

Malt: N/A

Commercial Description:

This hopped out beast had Amarillo, Cascade and Centennial hops, added at every point; mash tun, first wort, kettle, and dry hop. All the green goodness results in a beer with a huge citrus hop aroma, flavor and deep clean bitterness.

Beer Advocate: A- (4.06)

Rate Beer: 98 (3.94)

Timperial’s Notes:

Background.

For me, HUB Ace of Spades was first experienced on tap at Brouwer’s.  It blew my mind.  When I heard that it would be available in a limited runn bottling, I had to get on board.  I found one, and the cellar dweller in me begged it to be layed away, but my better judgment spoke forth, and may the hops still dominate…

Appearance.

Fresh out the box, or bottle, this gem pours a very cloudy yellowish-orange tinted amber.  It’s not only a thick translucent syrupy joy in the glass, but it harbors many suspended bits of hop injection.  The head rose just as it should on a medium pour, and it displayed a very voluptuous crown of varying sized bubbles.  That head diminished at the center and outer reaches first, leaving a rocky lather that begged to be scooped and smeared on Chris Ellis’ (my roommate, closest human to me currently, recent author of a marvelous 52 Weeks article) face, in a gesture of prank, humor, and mostly love.  But I can already tell that this will be too darn tasty to violate with these unholy digits.  I display self control…for once.

The head is just off white and built with (clearly visible amidst the mirk) quickly rising bubbles.  Every so often they strike a bit of dry-hopped excrement and change coarse.  I feel like I’m gazing into an aquarium or something.  Far too entertaining to just look at.  I need to snap out of it and move on, there’s drinking to do!

Odor.

A deep inhale of this one tells a lengthy tale.  The malts come through with grace, and for that, you know, I’m very thankful.  There is a sweet, caramel coated, deserty goodness in there.  Based on color and depth of flavor, I’m thinking crystal 120 may play a role.  Maybe 90.   There is also a biscuit flavor that I adore.  I’m thinking flat out biscuit malt or victory, maybe a sprinkle of cara-pils.  I’m trying to reverse engineer beers, tune my palate…hey HUB, what grains do you use?

The first adjective that I think of when assessing the hop profile is spicy, but it’s full of pine and citrus as well.  The combination that they used is well rounded.  It’s very northwest of them.  Allow me to tip my proverbial cap.

Mouthfeel.

The MF is perfectly pleasant.  Possibly just a hair thin for an imperial, but by no means under-viscous.  The carbonation is most receptive with a swishing in the mouth, but on a simple suckle, it’s deathly accurate.  In my experience carbonating beers at Lazy Boy, I found it to be a bit persnickety.  There would always be a moment where I thought, “just a few more minutes with the carb stone and it will be perfect”, and then it was too much.  It’s surely an art, and HUB got it right with this batch.

Flavor.

The colder the beer, the less attractive I found the flavor.  There may or may not be a similar progression in my intoxication levels, but shut up right now!  Actually, I’ll say that the flavor of this beer, when it’s cooler, is probably 100% perfect to the tastes of a vast majority of IIPA drinkers.  It’s mostly balanced, but it’s bitterness stands tall and proud.  Mash and first wort hop addition, as noted on the bottle, will absolutely bring respect and profundity to this attribute.  I can’t help but offer props.

As it warms, the malts play more of a role.  Piping-hot-out-of-the-oven, hop spiced rolls have been served tonight, and I feel they may sustain me for life.  The ethanol is finally distinguishable, and I’ll tell you, it’s more than welcome in my home right now.  The entire experience of this beer has vastly improved in the last 15 minutes.

Aftertaste.

At the moment, I can’t think of a better example of a perfect finish in an IPA.  I seriously don’t think I’ve used the word balanced as a descriptor of an aftertaste before.  It’s 50% bittering dry and 50% sweet, mouthwatering candy.  The interplay is a joy to perceive.

Summary.

I probably should have ate dinner tonight, but sometimes the starving artist picks alcohol over food.  You know…liquid sustenance.  Be like monk, tilt glass, be nourished…repeat.  This beer tastes fucking awesome right now.  The balance is notable.  The blend of hops was mighty successful, enough so that I’ll utilize this knowledge in future homebrews.  Yet another note to self, biscuit and dark crystal live in syncopation.  Clone brew to follow.

Color/Head/Retention [maximum of 1.00 point possible]: 0.87

Odor [maximum of 2.00 points possible]: 1.9

Carbonation/Mouthfeel [maximum of 1.00 point possible]: 0.97

Hop Flavor [maximum of 3.00 points possible]: 2.79

Malt Flavor/Balance [maximum of 2.00 points possible]: 1.88

Finish/Aftertaste [maximum of 1.00 point possible]: 1.00

Total [maximum of 10.00 points possible]: 9.41

Archives of a Beer Nerd – Sixth Installment

December 9, 2010 3 comments

Just keep cruisin'

Yup, we plod on. The journey continues, down the beautiful path of beerdom, through the expansive pages of Timperial’s beer journal.

Introduction: Just in case you are new to the blotter, here is the link to follow if you need an explanation of what in the hell this column is all about. In a nutshell, the archive is a time machine that takes us back a few years to the initial days of my beer journaling. I’ve drank a lot of good beers through the years, and I’d like to share my thoughts on how they tasted. Hopefully I’ll whet your appetite and you will give these beers a try for yourself. If I’m lucky enough to make that happen for you, please tell us about your experience and how it tasted in your words.

The last installment left us near the end of January, 2008.  I had just tried my first ever Abyss.  Let’s see what new and exciting things I tasted next.

Photo credit: Hallam

Do you still exist?

1/23/08

North Coast Brewing (Fort Bragg, CA) – Cru d’Or

8%.  Belgian style through and through.  There is not much head present (bottle cap fitted).  When cold, it is very bland, but as it warms…flavors burst forth!  It has a light brown color and great clarity.  The odor is of yeast, plums, an almost medicinal alcohol, but very pleasant.  Nice sweetness…the maltiness comes through, drying the palate.  I find this to be a nice Belgian, though it could use more carbonation.

Timperial Commentary: Does this beer still exist?  I completely forgot about it until I read this in my journal.  I do remember really liking this beer and getting it again in 2009.  It’s a seasonal, I remember that, but what season?  You got me.  I also remember someone telling me that this beer did very well cellared for a few years.  I clearly don’t have any down there.

I was able to find the beer on NCB’s website, but only by searching specifically for the beer by name.  If you scroll through all of their beers listed on the main “beers” page, it is not listed.  Maybe it has been retired.  That would be sad.

Photo credit: shyzaboy

1/26/08

Victory Brewing Co. (Downingtown, PA) – Golden Monkey

9.5%.  This beer pours with a clear, golden color and a minimal head.  It’s a tripel Belgian style ale brewed with spices, and that is exactly what it tastes like.  It smells like a white ale with nutmeg added.  It has a strong alcohol effervencence…very sweet and spicy, though a bit drying a few moments after the sip.  The flavors really linger.  This beer provides major memories of home.  What a great winter beer…warming and tasting of Christmas.

Timperial Commentary: Oh man…Golden Monkey really does remind me of home in PA.  It especially reminds me of For Whom The Beer Toales (our Chicago correspondent), who absolutely loves getting the “monkey on her back”.  I am reminded of having beers at Johnny Brenda’s in Fishtown, which was just a few blocks from where I lived once upon a time.  That’s a must visit in Philly if you ask me.  Great beer, food and live music.

I totally neglect this beer!  I think I’m going to have to race out to the bottle shop right now and get some, crack it open, inhale, and enjoy the roller coaster of emotion.

Check out beeraday.net for some amazing beer photos.

2/1/08

Kiuchi Brewery/Hitachino Nest (Ibaraki, Japan) – XH

7% Strong ale matured in oak casks used for Shocyu (distilled sake).  It pours a very cloudy, effervescent amber, brownish color.  There is a lot of sediment on the bottom of the glass.  The head is thin and wispy, with slight retention.  The nose is full of sour yeast, probably a result of the oak.  There is an odd, soapy aroma present as well.  Earth and sour in the flavor.  Maybe it’s power of suggestion, but I get a cherry cough drop after taste.  Kiuchi’s ingenuity and uniqueness continues to amaze me.

Timperial Commentary: Kiuchi is one of those breweries that can do no wrong in my mind.  The only beer that I have ever tried by them that I wasn’t highly impressed with was the Nipponia, but I can surely respect it for its historical nod.  Sorachi Ace hops are the big fad right now, and Nipponia surely plays a role in that.  In reading my review, XH sort of comes off as being spoiled or infected or just plain gross.  I mean, a sour, earthy, soapy, cough medicine beer…that sounds terrible.  Oddly though, I’ve had this beer several times since my initial review and I really like it.  It’s powerfully unique.  I’d love to see more breweries attempting to use sake barrels to age beer.

P.S. XH stands for Extra High.  Impress your friends.

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