Enjoyed on 2/28/2011
Brewery: 7 Seas Brewing
Location: Gig Harbor, WA
Beer: Ballz Deep Double India Pale Ale
Presentation: 16 oz. – Can
Style: American Style Double India Pale Ale
A mash tun packed mostly with Pale Ale Malt and several different varieties of Crystal malt provide a firm, slightly sweet malt flavor while copious amounts of resiny Yakima Valley hops go berserk on bitterness, flavor and aroma.
Beer Advocate: B- (3.45)
Rate Beer: 79 (3.37)
Clearly, the canning trend is blowing up around the country. It would take far too long for me to name them all, but I think we all know that when highly respected breweries such as Oskar Blues, New Belgium, Surley, Maui, Anderson Valley, and Big Sky are doing it, everyone wants a piece. Not to mention the fact that it creates less waste, it easier to transport, and it is completely impenetrable to UV light. I would be surprised if there was a brewery out there today that wouldn’t admit that they would love to can if they could.
To my knowledge, 7 Seas was the first WA brewery to can with any regularity, and they went straight for 16 ouncers. Bad-ass fellas! Bad-ass! With any luck, the contents of said bad-ass pounder will be equally wicked.
This big Northwest IPA pours from the tall boy can (!) a clear, dark reddish amber color that is very much on the darker end of the SRM scale for IPAs. The glugging pour that is inevitable from the opening in a can produced a surprisingly small head of just off-white bubbles. The crown quickly subsided and left a few splotches of lace on the glass.
When held to the light, this brew is very clearly filtered and in the all too common way of the Northwest, very lightly carbonated.
The nose is pretty subtle and by no means screams double IPA. I find it to be quite fruity, both from the hops and the malt. I get a sense that there might be some wheat in the mash, but that could just be a sensory connection with the banana notes that I perceive.
There is definitely a tropical fruit wafting off of this unique brew. I pick up some papaya and pineapple and citrus rind, as well as a bit of plum and red grape that could come from the darker crystal and munich malts that I’d assume lend the reddish hue.
Grains are very prominent in the nose as well and come across with a fruitiness that prompts Belgian thoughts. I always revert to thought of Special B when I sense this attribute, which is really just a Euro crystal malt.
The mouthfeel is very smooth and full. Overall the body is impressive and seems to benefit from the minimal carbonation. With that being said, I think there is enough depth in body to withstand quite a bit more effervescence and not lose points. I strongly feel that more carbonation would assist the drinker in perceiving the flavor nuances here. I feel the bubbles really awaken the taste buds. I would make this suggestion to any lightly carbonated beer.
Am I drinking an IPA? Yes, it’s pretty bitter but this is a much more malt forward beer that I expected. I’d call it more of an Imperial Red. There is little to no hop flavor to this beer. There is a fruitiness, no doubt, which could be from the hops, but for me it comes across as being a product of a specialty grain heavy mash with a slightly higher than normal fermentation temperature for an IPA.
I hesitate to use the word “estery” because it’s not a wine-like fruitiness. It’s more of a barleywine like experience. In fact, this could easily turn into a barleywine with a fairly minimal increase to the grain bill. This is a very well brewed beer in my opinion, it’s just not a double IPA.
The finish is super dried out by the bitterness and what I would imagine is a fairly low final gravity. The corners of my mouth and the bottom of my tongue are actually being constricted by the dryness, which is distracting. Once I get past that I find that the malty depth lingers for some time and is, again, very barleywine like and pleasant.
Overall, this recipe has a lot of potential but seems to be slightly misguided. It kind of breaks my heart because I want this beer to be so much better. It has a bad ass name, it’s packaged in a tall boy can which houses some pretty killer artwork, and it’s a high IBU beer of the Northwest. There is so much potential there for this to be a beer that us Pacific Northwesterners are wicked proud of. I’ve had plenty of other 7 Seas beers that I thoroughly enjoyed, so who knows, maybe this beer I’m searching for will still come from the boys in Gig Harbor.
Color/Head/Retention [maximum of 1.00 point possible]: 0.79
Odor [maximum of 2.00 points possible]: 1.84
Carbonation/Mouthfeel [maximum of 1.00 point possible]: 0.83
Hop Flavor [maximum of 3.00 points possible]: 2.10
Malt Flavor/Balance [maximum of 2.00 points possible]: 1.90
Finish/Aftertaste [maximum of 1.00 point possible]: 0.81
Total [maximum of 10.00 points possible]: 8.27
Last weekend we embarked on what might be the greatest “hike-in” beach camp spot in all of the Northwest. Our trip to Shi Shi Beach in the Makah Indian Reservation (Neah Bay, WA) was beyond epic. Many a new terms were coined, wooden implements fashioned, pasty foods consumed, ocean plunges taken, driftwood bonfires lit and even a few articles of clothes smoked for that take home campfire flavor (see SmokedJorts.com).
But like many of you, I was stumped by how to perfectly plan for 50+ hours in no man’s land, sans cooler and additional space for my brethren – beer. Food was a stumble, but doable. Equipment seemed to fit without excess weight. Even multi-weather clothing seemed to be a cinch. But Beer – not exactly.
The Dilemmas of Beerpacking
Here are some of the dilemmas:
- (1) Weight - The ratio for alcohol to weight in beer is grossly disproportional. For most of us, its part of the reason we love it so very much. It allows us to consume various types and flavors over a long period of time. But for the camper (not you, car campers!) its a pain in the ass.
- (2) Shape & Proportion - Our common vessels are the bottle, growler, keg, party pig and can. Lets toss kegs, growlers and party pigs pretty quickly. Unless you have constructed some amazing carriage that allows multiple people to share the weight, a three mile hike up and down cliffs will not facilitate these receptacles. That leaves us with smaller vessels, such as cans and bottles. Of course, bottles are glass and would need to be separated or wrapped to prevent breakage. Not enticing. This leaves the common can – but many of you are still weenies about drinking from a can. Get over it. I’ll discuss more below.
- (3) Cooling - I bet you aren’t going to carry your cooler three miles down the trail eh? Excited to have ice last for about 2 hours? There is no great solution to the cooling challenge. Ice packs add unnecessary weight for the duration that they last. Soft pack coolers are a decent try, if they fit in your pack.
A Good Set of Rules to Live By
So, I thought long and hard about these things. We did some things right – and some wrong. Lets discuss the goals:
- (1) Cut Weight & Volume Usage With Cans - We all want to drink beer when camping. Liquor just can’t satisfy the mountain man inside. Here’s the solution: Get cans. Unless you have been living in a cave, you probably know that many of our nation’s finest brewers can their beer. Here are a few of the best: Oskar Blues, Big Sky, 21st Amendment, Anderson Valley, New Belgium, 7 Seas, and soon to be – Fremont Brewing. Canned beer is great! Newer cans keep beer fresher, reduce transit costs and are better for the environment. Its the easiest to pack in and to pack out, reducing in size to easily recycle. This one is a no-brainer. Get yourself a few sixers of canned beer.
- (2) Forget the Chilling Vessel – Use Nature - I realize that this one might apply only us in the high north. In Washington state, all of our water is cold! Whether you are by the sea or in the mountains, a fresh supply of frigid water will await you. Hauling around any type of chilling device, whether it be an ice pack or a soft cooler is probably a waste of space. It will not protect your treasured ale from the sun and humidity. Find a water source early in the trip and something to lodge your beer beneath the water’s surface to keep it from the sun’s heat and light. A good choice is that good old bear canister that you are most likely required to have in order to camp in the vast NW. Once the sun retreats, pull your canister, drink up, seal off food for the night and repeat the next day.
- (3) Pace Yourself & Conserve - Unfortunately, you need to leave your Saturday city drinking behind. Do not expect to have the same epic consumption schedule you typically fly through each weekend. Be a grown up and consume at a reasonable pace. Remember, nothing is worse than spending some time on an amazing beach and knowing that you are out of ale. Always keep a few in the cooler and educate your friends on properly preparing. Otherwise, they’ll be hounding you to pass one over.
Suggestions From Beer Blotter
If you decided to go can and on-site cool – here are some pointers:
- (1) ABV is King – Think about ABV when you are planning. In our instance we wanted the best ABV to price ratio. The golden rule in my opinion was a perfect 1 : 1 of ABV % to 6 Pack price (i.e. 8% for $8). This led us directly to Oskar Blues Old Chub, which rings in right at the sacred 1 : 1 ratio (actually I paid $8.99, but close enough). While you might be tempted to go for that Oskar Blues Ten Fidy, Gordon or Gubna, remember that a 6 pack might take you into the $20-$24.00 range. Yikes! Look for the 7%-8% grogs; they seem to have the best value.
- (2) Flavor Should Match Your Surroundings - Here is where I admit my first error. Beach camping requires a specific type of beer. Old Chub, a scotch ale with complete caramel maltiness was not our best choice. Instead, 21st Amendment’s Brew Free or Die was our best selection. The IPA matched all weather conditions, was refreshing, and still maintained an acceptable flavor at air temperature. Unfortunately, we had a small 6 pack supply. Remember to look out for Fremont Brewing’s potential IPA release soon in the future. Another great choice would absolutely be 7 Seas Ballz Deep Double IPA, which comes in 16oz cans at 8.4%!!!! Wish we could have found a few of those for the trip.
- (3) Suffer the Weight, Not the Beer-less Moments - Nothing is worse then getting to your site and knowing that you could have handled another 6 pack in your pack. You will want that 72oz of greatness! Pack as much as you can possibly muster without injuring yourself. Remember that the trek back will be a heck of a lot lighter!
From all of us at BeerBlotter.com – Have a hell of summer!