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The Hop Brief: Alpine Beer Co. Pure Hoppiness

Pure Brilliance

Enjoyed on 3/22/2011

Brewery: Alpine Beer Company

Location: Alpine, CA

Beer: Pure Hoppiness

Web: http://www.alpinebeerco.com/

Presentation: 22 oz. Brown Glass Bottle, Capped.

Vintage: 2010

Style: American Style Double India Pale Ale

Barrel: N/A

ABV: 8.0%

IBU: “Classified”

Hops: N/A

Malt: N/A

Commercial Description:

A West Coast Double IPA
So mega-hopped it will take you to hop heaven. We’ve used hops in the boil, more hops in the giant hopback, and added to that, an incredible amount of dry-hopping for that cutting-edge “hop bite.” Once you’ve tasted this unique beer, all others pale in comparison. 1.072 OG Classified IBU 8%ABV

Beer Advocate: A (4.33)

Rate Beer: 100 (3.94)

Timperial’s Notes:

Background.

Jess & DSR got to go to San Diego Beer Week late last year. They wanted me to join them.  A bb.com trip.  I couldn’t swing it.  I may forever regret it.

Yes, there will come a day.  I will one day make it to America’s true hop haven.  In the mean time, tonight, I (finally) enjoy my Christmas gift from the better 2/3 of your blotter.  Can’t fucking wait!

Appearance.

Pure Hoppiness is pure gorgeousness in the glass.  The color is a bright, polished bronze topped with an impressive, rocky head of pure white.  The clarity is very strong but if you look closely you will see tiny little bits of hop, most likely from a generous dry-hopping after fermentation.

The crown begins proud and tall, then settles a bit around the edges.  This provokes the “rocky” moniker, creating a plateau like mound of foam that sits like a dollop of whipped cream on top.  After several minutes most of the bubbles have deflated and a very thin froth is all that remains on the surface.  The sides of the glass…riddled with sticky lace.  A constant reminder of what once was.

The carbonation appears strong to me, but considering that most PNW beers are horribly lacking in this area, maybe it’s average.

If I were to describe the appearance of my perfect IPA, this would be it to the t.  Perfect score.

Odor.

This beer definitely solicits a verbal “oh my god!” when brought to the nose.  If one could see odor, like cartoon characters can (picture a ravenously hungry wolf following the scent trails of a baking pie right up to the window of a warm, forest cottage), this would be absolutely steaming with perfume. It’s dense and sappy.  I feel like I’m wearing a hop flower as a mask.  My cilia is crowded with lupulin.  I could sneeze in a pilsner right now and it would instantly become an IPA.

The hops are well conceived and expertly blended.  Pine and flowers may be said to dominate, but pretty much every standard hop scent is present.  Admittedly, I’d be hard pressed to place tropical fruits amongst the cornucopia, but would you call that standard?  I don’t think that I would.  I digress.  Pine, flowers, citrus, bitter rind…fantastic!

The malts are able to make their presence known with only the slightest bit of warming.  They come across a bit nondescript, but they’re there.  It’s mostly a sweetness that can’t conceivably come from the other 3 ingredients in beer.  I must say that, after that initial inhale, I’m fully flabbergasted that there is any balance to this beer.  Absolutely a perfect score.

Mouthfeel.

This beer feels like it should feel across the tongue for a double IPA.  It has density.  The sugars are dissolved into solution and create a syrup without being too cloying or heavy.  Perfect in viscosity.

The carbonation calms with time, like almost every beer, and there’s not many bubbles that could penetrate the massive body anyway, but I’d still prefer there to be more of an effort.  I’d be happier with more prickle on my tongue when I swish it around a little in my mouth.  Carbonation always enhances the experience.

Flavor.

The thing here is that, after everything that has preceded this section, it almost seems unfathomable that the flavor could compete.  I can sadly say that it really doesn’t, but I feel ever so strongly about offering the disclaimer.  This IPA may just have the best nose in the world.  A well thought out usage of hopback and dry-hopping has the potential to do that.  The flavor simply can’t compare.

BUT…if I approach it with an open mind, all IPAs created equal, it’s remarkably drinkable.  The balance is sound and the bitterness is minimal.  The hops taste earthy and highly floral, the malts taste pale with a soft caramel undertone.

Sweetness and bitterness seem to converge together in a moonlit dance.  The mouthfeel, again, allows for it all to be experienced in upstanding class.  We are living in a world of hop usage nobility right now and I feel under-dressed.

Aftertaste.

I feel that the lion’s share of the flavors burn brightest at the very end of the sip.  I struggle to pinpoint the specifics of the hop and malt components as the fluid dances about my taste buds, but just moments after the swallow, a hearty smack of grapefruit strikes me.  Then, just following, I get a mouthful of dry, grainy biscuit.  At no other point in the journey does the word “dry” seem appropriate, save for the very end.  Just in time for another quenching gulp.

Summary.

Have you noticed that the opening track of almost every album that has been released over the past 10 years, if not for much longer before that, is one of the best songs on the album?  It’s important from a marketing standpoint.  You need to entice the listener immediately or they will move along.  That’s the kind of world we live in.  There is just so much out there that artists have to wow you early and often to stand out.  far too often, what follows is a bunch of filler.  One or two good singles and then a bunch of crap.  Yet another digression.  My disdain for overproduced pop music could easily lead me astray.

Let me be clear, this beer is absolutely not a one hit wonder, but it kind of reminds me of a good album that has a flawless opener and then…a bevy of solid songs that never quite live up to the standard that was set at the beginning.  At first smell, this beer is hop heaven. The moment the beer enters the mouth, it pops with sappy hop burn.  Then, it plods along as a good double IPA with impressive balance.  Will I give this beer a bad score?  Fuck no!  It’s god damn excellent.  But…it does pain me a little that it failed to sustain the early high.  Ever so close to perfection.  Perhaps they had to leave room for Exponential Hoppiness.  Need!

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

Odor [maximum of 2.00 points possible]: 2.00

Carbonation/Mouthfeel [maximum of 1.00 point possible]: 0.92

Hop Flavor [maximum of 3.00 points possible]: 2.61

Malt Flavor/Balance [maximum of 2.00 points possible]: 1.86

Finish/Aftertaste [maximum of 1.00 point possible]: 0.96

Total [maximum of 10.00 points possible]: 9.35

The Hop Brief: Hair of the Dog Blue Dot Double IPA

Spicy

Enjoyed on 3/7/2011

Brewery: Hair of the Dog Brewing Co.

Location: Portland, OR

Beer: Blue Dot Double India Pale Ale (Winter)

Web: http://www.hairofthedog.com/

Presentation: 22 oz. Brown Glass Bottle, Capped.

Vintage: 2011

Style: American Style Double India Pale Ale

Barrel: N/A

ABV: 7.0%

IBU: 80

Hops: N/A

Malt: Organic Pilsner, Rye

Commercial Description:

Blue Dot is named after our planet: we are only a pale blue dot in this universe. A Double India Pale Ale made with Organic Pilsner, Rye malt and a combination of intense northwest hop varieties.

Beer Advocate: A- (4.12)

Rate Beer: 99 (3.81)

Timperial’s Notes:

Background.

Alan Sprints of HoD is a chef.  It’s not uncommon to see him in the kitchen when you visit their new (and amazing) tasting room.  He is also a master brewer – one of the best on this great blue dot we call Earth if you ask me.  When he creates a recipe, be it for a hearty meal or a complex brew, he puts years of experience and know-how (and heart) into it.  In the mighty Northwest, nothing moves us quite like an IPA.  Alan isn’t particularly known for profundity in alpha usage, but he is a legend with malt.  Let’s see what balance he can bring to the most hoppy of styles.

Appearance.

Blue Dot flows from its glass chamber and fills my tulip with a muddy straw-colored liquid.  When held to the light it glows a cloudy, translucent pale orange. If I didn’t know better I’d think this a Belgian Wit before me.

The head is very minimal and stark white.  Carbonation bubbles can be seen rising but, overall, the effervescence is minimal.  The crown completely dissipates and the lacing is very minimal.

Odor.

My initial reflections on the scent are of an Earthiness and a graininess. I sometimes think that I’m hyper-sensitive to pilsner malt.  It’s always obvious to me when it is used.  There is a slight spiciness in the nose but I wouldn’t have assumed that it came from rye had I not known it was a part of the grain bill.

A second waft brings thoughts of a tropical forest.  Bitter citrus and pineapple are most prevalent, but a sappy, resinous, pine-like greenness cannot be overlooked.  It’s somewhat floral as well.  “Orange blossoms” seems to be most appropriate, killing two birds with one stone.

Mouthfeel.

Blue Dot slips gracefully across my tongue and goes down silky smooth.  The carbonation, though pretty minimal here, plays in tune with the alcohol to bring a mild sting to the tongue and rear corners of the mouth.  The bitterness is so intense that it’s almost corrosive, which is more impressive than detrimental.

Maybe it’s the spicy rye.  Who knows what it is exactly, but it really stings, though mostly after the swallow.  Still, I kind of like it.  It’s similar to the effect that ginger has on the mouth, which I love.

Flavor.

First and foremost, this beer is a bitter bomb.  At 7% abv and with such subtle grains employed, the 80 IBUs are mightily magnified.  Once you’re able to reanimate your imploded face, the strongest palates amongst us may be able to detect the citrus and graininess that was prefaced in the nose.

Grapefruit juice and bitter orange peel are all over this one.  What mild pilsen character climbs through can claim a doughy, biscuity essence.   The rye is somewhat challenging to segregate due to the huge hop profile.  One must ask whom imparts the huge spice element.  I guess it’s huge enough to award to both parties.

[I feel I must offer a disproportionately high mark for the malt flavor, mostly due to its uniqueness.  Is this beer balanced in the traditional way?  Hell no! But...how could I not respect innovation and against-the-grain...ed...ness...  Puntastic!]

Aftertaste.

The aftertaste is very dry with bitterness but by no means one-dimensional.  An exhale stirs up pleasant thoughts of freshly baked rolls.  A peppery heat can most likely be attributed to the rye malt and the alcohol.  Spicy hop bitterness only further asserts the notion.

It’s quite clear that this brew was formulated deliberately to excite the spiciest amongst us.  If I were in the business of pairing beer with food I would never miss an opportunity to place this beside a warm plate of spicy something-or-other with peppercorns.  Sorry, I’m no chef.

Summary.

I think Frank Herbert would be proud of what Alan has created with Blue Dot.  In his utterly epic sci-fi series Dune, lives, cultures, planets…everything revolves (figuratively) around “the spice”.  The Spice Melange.  It’s oddly ironic that this beer is named after the planet Earth when such a comparison about a fictional work steeped in interstellar politics can be made.  Perhaps this would be the defining beverage of choice on the desert planet Arrakis, of course, where it not so (seemingly…?) bereft of water.

As you see, my nerdiness is vast and covers many more planes than just craft beer.  I’ll attempt to stick with just the one in this particular forum.  The point to it all is that this beer is spicy as shit.  The malts and hops coincide to form a perfect storm and it all whips around so fast that it’s nearly impossible to distinguish the origins on what the tongue perceives.  It’s sci-fi beer and it’s delicious.

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

Odor [maximum of 2.00 points possible]: 1.90

Carbonation/Mouthfeel [maximum of 1.00 point possible]: 0.92

Hop Flavor [maximum of 3.00 points possible]: 2.46

Malt Flavor/Balance [maximum of 2.00 points possible]: 1.98

Finish/Aftertaste [maximum of 1.00 point possible]: 0.90

Total [maximum of 10.00 points possible]: 9.01

The Hop Brief: 7 Seas Ballz Deep Double IPA

Yeah, going deep.

Enjoyed on 2/28/2011

Brewery: 7 Seas Brewing

Location: Gig Harbor, WA

Beer: Ballz Deep Double India Pale Ale

Web: http://www.7seasbrewing.com/

Presentation: 16 oz. – Can

Vintage: 2011

Style: American Style Double India Pale Ale

Barrel: N/A

ABV: 8.4%

IBU: 84

Hops: N/A

Malt: N/A

Commercial Description:

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)

Timperial’s Notes:

Background.

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.

Appearance.

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.

Odor.

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.

Mouthfeel.

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.

Flavor.

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.

Aftertaste.

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.

Summary.

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

Weekend Column: Introducing….Archives of a Beer Nerd

The mighty archive.

By: Timperial Stout

On August 31, 2007 I started a beer review journal.  It’s a college ruled, 100 sheet marble composition book.  I figured that, since I was more often than not drinking a lot of really exciting beers, I should document some of the flavors (or lack thereof) and my enjoyment of them (or lack thereof).

Having a really bad memory is one thing, but when there are nearly infinite amounts of beers out there to be tried (when you consider seasonals, new releases, etc.), there’s no way that anyone could keep their opinions on all of them in their accessible brain bank.  Thus, the beer journal, and it has indeed proved valuable on many occasions, and continues to do so.

In fact, I often will write my tasting notes in the journal for beers that I end up turning into Notes of a Beer Nerd.  It not only serves as a rough draft, but it remains my hand written archive.

How many reviews are contained in this archive so far?  I chose to only estimate.  I’ve only written on one side of the sheet, so 100 pages total, and I’ve completed roughly 2/3 of the notebook.  Some of the earlier entries have brevity.  The same goes for entries on days where I was tasting many beers back to back and had limited time to deliberate.  I’ll estimate 2.5 entries peer sheet.  That’s approximately 165 reviews.

I’ve found that the journal is actually quite fun to read, not solely for historical sake, but for pleasure as well.  I often find it interesting to observe how my palate has matured.  It’s also quite exciting to read some of the reviews that were entered after a few to many drinks, especially when I knew that no one else was reading.

Like I said, there have definitely been a number of brief reviews, as well as some that are…well… quite boring.  I’ll spare you those.  The rest, if I deem them worthy, will be periodically published in this column for your reading pleasure.

A few notes before we begin – Right from the start I decided that every entry would have the date the sample was enjoyed, the name of the brewery, the name of the beer, the location of the brewery, and tasting notes.  As the journal evolved I added bottle size and abv.  I have chosen to not make any changes to the wording, so expect fragments and the like, after all, I wasn’t expecting anyone other than myself to ever see these.  Lastly, since this was all hand written in a notebook, I do not have pictures, so I’ll try to find labels online for the visuals.

First ever entry (why not?):

Goes down like a Katana to the abdomen.

8/31/07

Great Divide Brewing Co. (Denver, CO) – Samurai Ale

Brewed with rice.  Very light yellow color, light drinking.  Supposedly unfiltered.  I can taste the rice but much more subtle than Hitachino.  Less bite, very east to drink.  I have never seen this beer before, must be new or a seasonal.  Very little carbonation.  Half way through, the rice taste begins to be lost, and the beer becomes a bit boring.  I respect Great Divide for making a rice beer, don’t know any other American brewer that does, but not the quality I have come to expect from them.

What a gem!

De Dolle Brouwers (Esen, Belgium) – Special Reserva

10/4/07

Brewed in 2006.  13% abv.  Apparently very rare, only 20 cases in Washington.  The epitome of complex.  Dark, reddish color, above average, though not really consuming carbonation.  Smells and tastes much like Three Philosopher, though with a Flemish red edge, more than a lambic one.  Sour initially and more dark depths at the end of the sip.  Dried fruit caramel maltiness.  So much going on and so good.  Don’t get any alcohol burn at all which is surprising with the high abv.  Would like another though I couldn’t drink a bunch.  Definitely worth the $9 for 12oz.

That’s all for now, but many, many more to come.  Feel free to post a comment and let us know what you think about the new column idea.

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