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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

The Hop Brief: Speakeasy’s Double Daddy Imperial IPA

February 10, 2011 Leave a comment

WA contraband

Enjoyed on 2/7/2011

Brewery: Speakeasy Ales and Lagers

Location: San Francisco, CA

Beer: Double Daddy Imperial IPA

Web: http://www.goodbeer.com/

Presentation: 22 oz. – Brown Glass Bottle – Capped

Vintage: 2010

Style: American Style Double India Pale Ale

Barrel: N/A

ABV: 9.5%

IBU: N/A

Hops: N/A

Malt: N/A

Commercial Description:

Doubling down on malt & hops, DOUBLE DADDY raises the stakes. With it’s good looks & No-Limit style,DD takes the pot every time.

Beer Advocate: B (3.65)

Rate Beer: 96 (3.61)

Timperial’s Notes:

Background.

This shit is contraband yo!

It’s rare that a brewery exits a market, but that’s just what Speakeasy did to Seattle about a year ago.  Obviously it sucks to lose the distribution of a great brewery, but I think I took it extra hard.  I have a lot of wonderful memories that revolve around this brewery.  This very beer was a long-standing number 1 favorite IPA of mine.  Speakeasy is one of the first breweries that I discovered in which I really liked every beer that they made.  They are one of the first breweries outside of the North Atlantic that I visited and toured.  Every time that I fantasize about my future brewery, I think of the aura, the people, the tunes, the beers, the setup of the Speakeasy brewery in San Fran.  I want mine to be like theirs.

I stumbled across this bottle at John’s Marketplace in Portland and I had a mini freak-out.  God, I really hope that they send their outstanding wares to Seattle again in the near future.

Appearance.

DD is much lighter in color than most IPAs.  I’d call it gold or pale orange.  Based solely on the color, if I didn’t know better, I’d think it was a lager.  It’s maybe just one shade darker than most lagers.  It’s also very clear and displays a fairly soft carbonation rising from the bottom of the glass.  The head is full on white and is pretty subdued on the pour.  It fades quickly down to a thin sheet on top of the liquid but manages to leave a fairly dense lacing on the inside of the glass.  It is this lacing that is really the only impressive element to the appearance.

Odor.

The odor kicks ass!  It’s so perfectly balanced that I want to lift my glass high and toast the brewers of Speakeasy.  It has become all too common lately for the hops to completely dominate imperial IPAs.  Often, it seems the hops are used to cover up what would otherwise be a highly mediocre beer.  Here, with DD, you know that you have a quality crafted beer before you, prior to even tasting it.  That’s impressive.

I’d tend to concede that the grainy element of the scent is most prevalent here and that the hops are actually just slightly positioned in the background rather than the much more likely foreground.  The malty element seems very natural and almost uncooked.  It’s a bit confusing because I’d estimate that the boil would be, at least, in the 90 minute range to allow for various hop additions but there is little caramelization noted.  Clearly the crystal used, if at all, is very low in intensity.  It’s like sticking your head in a freshly opened sack of 2-row.  Pure, unadulterated malted barley.

At first, the hops lend a sappy, pine like earthiness with a little bit of grapefruit tang.  The malts are very round and soft within the nose, but the hops are sharp, as is the booze’s heat.  It’s a contrasting experience that might just be a text-book worthy anecdote for “balance” in beer.  As the beverage warms, the pine bite seems to fade a bit and bitter orange peel is all that I can think about.

Mouthfeel.

This beer feels like 100% silk in my mouth.  The low carbonation and heavy body cause the liquid to glide down my pipes with ease.  Dare I say too much ease.  There is nothing negative to speak of here.  I’d say that this is well on the more viscous side of the scale, which can be read as a higher score for me, at least when it comes to impy IPAs.

Flavor.

The flavor of DD is all about balance.  Do we sense a theme?  Probably the best theme possible when reviewing an imperial IPA.  The interesting thing about this one is that the “imperial” element is only really found in the abv.  I can understand them not choosing to use the word “double” because that may be misconstrued as double the hops.  Don’t get me wrong, I do not doubt that DD has more hops per barrel than Speakeasy’s standard IPA, Big Daddy (named after the owner of Toronado in San Fran), but hops really do not dominate this beer in any way.

The whole experience of this beer is soft, mellow and soothing.  The bitterness is dampened by the hefty grain presence (there’s your imperial).  The alcohol isn’t fucking around, but it’s not harsh, simply warming.  The hops are all sorts of bitter orange and grapefruit, which kind of brings thoughts of a cool breeze on a hot summer day.  With each sip, I wonder… if a thirsty bee may have fell into good graces, only to be awakened when slurped and bring a foul sting to my tongue, awakening me from this much-needed fantasy escape from the chilled clutches of winter.

The malts continue to exist in a very unencumbered fashion.  This is beer in its purest sense, and that gives me goose bumps.  How a brewer is able to encapsulate that within such an extreme style category is highly impressive.  I feel like the recipe is probably built on a lager platform.  The grains were magnified, the yeast was shifted to that of an ale, and it was all intensely hopped.  Pretty simple and wildly successful.  Why didn’t I think of that?

Aftertaste.

The aftertaste is most hot with booze and lingers for quite some time.  Both graininess and bitterness can easily be perceived.  It all blends itself so pristinely that details fail to manifest.  It just exists as a brilliantly developed beer that had sadly departed from the pleasure sensors.  Each and every sip tragically leads to a swallow and each passing swallow tragically leads to an empty glass.

Summary.

Lately, few beers have transported me to far away places like DD has tonight.  I feel stimulated, provoked, inspired.  It’s amazing!  If I could give extra credit I would.  The oddest part about this review is that I have given very high scores to almost every area except for the area with the most weight, hop flavor.  That’s pretty rare.  Though I fucking love this beer, it probably deserves to be punished for that fact.  This is The Hop Brief.  Or, maybe my scoring system is flawed and an exemplary beer deserves an exemplary score.  I’ll mull over this existential question and happily field your thoughts on the matter.  Email me or comment below.

Thank you Speakeasy, and please, come back to WA.  You are missed.

Color/Head/Retention [maximum of 1.00 point possible]: 0.80

Odor [maximum of 2.00 points possible]: 1.98

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

Hop Flavor [maximum of 3.00 points possible]: 2.52

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

Finish/Aftertaste [maximum of 1.00 point possible]: 0.98

Total [maximum of 10.00 points possible]: 9.26

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

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

The Hop Brief: Avery Brewing Maharaja

November 26, 2010 Leave a comment

Caramel dipped hop nuggets.

Enjoyed on 11/23/2010

Brewery: Avery Brewing Co.

Location: Boulder, CO

Beer: The Maharaja

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

Presentation: 22 oz. – Brown Glass Bottle – Capped

Vintage: 2010

Style: American Style Imperial India Pale Ale

Barrel: N/A

ABV: 10.24%

IBU: 102

Hops: Simcoe, Columbus, Centennial and Chinook

Malt: Two-row barley, caramel 120L, victory

Commercial Description:

Maharaja is derived from the sanskrit words mahat, – “great” and rajan – “king”. Much like its namesake, this imperial IPA is regal, intense and mighty. With hops and malts as his servants, he rules both with a heavy hand. The Maharaja flaunts his authority over a deranged amount of hops: tangy, vibrant and pungent along with an insane amount of malted barley – fashioning a dark amber hue and exquisite malt essence.

Beer Advocate: A- (4.2)

Rate Beer: 100 (3.95)

Timperial’s Notes:

Background.

The Maharaja is no. 3 on ratebeer.com‘s top 50 summer seasonals for a reason… it’s an amazing IIPA.  As part of Avery’s Dictator’s Series, along with The Kaiser (Imperial Oktoberfest) and The Czar (Russian Imperial Stout), this beer demands respect and admiration, and you’d be silly not to dole it out.  Before I moved out west, this was my number 1 favorite impy IPA.  I haven’t had it in about a year and a half so I’m really excited to sit down with it tonight.

Appearance.

This stately beverage pours into my pint glass with a pretty regal, cream-colored head that, as it slowly recedes, proves to be very sticky.  The edges of the lofty crown pull down, leaving a rocky dollop of bubbles on the center of the surface.  The lacing is so thick, I think I could write “Tim was here” on the inside of my glass.  The liquid itself glows with an opulent radiance, much brighter than I expected, taking into account the high lovibond crystal used in the mash.  I’d say there is a bit of an orange hue to the amber-colored fluid.

I could be wrong, but my guess is that this beer was filtered after fermentation and then dry-hopped in the bright tank.  The beer is not cloudy, per say, but there is a lot of floaters in there.  It actually looks slightly similar to the Green Flash IPA that I most recently reviewed.  It’s less cloudy but still noticeably permeated with minuscule bits of hop love.  Suspended hop chunks pretty much exude sex in every way if you ask me.  Uhh…in beer that is.

Odor.

Well, the odor is a perfect fucking 10.  It’s enough to make me just shout “OH MY GOD!” I’m weak in the knees.  I’ve already dropped in praise of the righteous Maharaja, without a single sip drank.  I’ve just been body slammed from the height of, I dunno, Mars, with a pure hop-tipped warhead, while simultaneously being lifted from the soil by the most maliciously rising volcanic peak of molten malt madness.  I’ve been pressed so intensely hard together at the impact that I’ve formed into diamond.  In fact, a five diamond score of perfection.

The hops are being poured from a dump-truck, directly into my nostrils.  The collaboration of hops used seem to meld into a cocktail of your most notable lupulin attributes.  Pine, herbal, woody, floral, citrus…you name it, it’s there.  Most notably, the caramel maltiness.  This is the biggest hop bomb that I can think of that is righteously balanced with malt.  Just plain silly!

Mouthfeel.

The MF (don’t hate) is, yet again, obnoxiously dead-balls accurate.  It’s syrupy, slick, sweet, cloying.  The body is stout like Schwarzenegger at his prime.  It dominates my moth like Conan the Barbarian, or wait…sorry your highness, like the great dictator Maharaja.  So far, this is the best rated IPA I’ve ever reviewed.

Flavor.

The flavor is layered like my famous dip.  Each sip is like being wiped about beneath the unrelenting seas at high tide, but here, fear shifts to joy as a slight lack of oxygen mingles with a sudden realization of the underwater beauty.  It’s an (only slightly) unnatural high.  Semantics…

Initially, there is a bitter firecracker explosion on the back of tongue, and then, the sound catches up with a mighty **CRACK** of sweet, caramely maltiness.  The inspirational soundtrack floats on in full orchestration when the finish brings boozed fruit and baked deserts.  When fully blended, the celebration is majestic, befitting of a king.  The perfection continues.

Might I add, in plain English, that this beer is the epitome of balance, as in, pushing extremes of both bitter hops and sweet malts in equal parts.  I’m awestruck.

I don’t find the hops to be too bitter, I don’t find the sweetness too overwhelming, I don’t find the heat to be overbearing.  I’m in a good mood, yes, but I’m seriously searching for flaws, in a devil’s advocate sort of way, and I’ve got nothing.

Aftertaste.

I’m a discriminating IPA drinker.  I realize that.  My best friend in the world, DSR, fellow BBB (beerblotter brethren), fellow homebrewer, fellow IPA lover, finds great comfort in bitterness.  A dry finish is a part of that game, and I know that many PNW beer drinkers play on that field, but it’s not my bag.  I like hop FLAVOR and minimal bitterness.  This beer’s aftertaste is precisely where I tread.  I’m happy to continue to tread there, that is, until there is no more sips to take.

Summary.

I was recently asked, by someone in the beer community whom I respect for his knowledge, what, other than the obvious ones (Pliny, Double Jack, Wisdom Seeker, etc.) was amongst my favorite IPAs/Double IPAs.  I responded with Avery Maharaja.  I paused, as I often do after stating such a revealing answer, for the resulting reaction.  I was greeted with apathy.  Indifference.  He was unimpressed.  I was embarrassed.  Maybe too much time had passed since I had last tried it.  Had it changed?  Had my respect for it need be diminished due to the current market of boldness?  Tonight, my stance has been solidified with complete and utter surety.  Avery Brewing has always been up there for me when it comes to the best breweries in the world, and tonight is just one more weight-bearing brick in the mortar for the dynasty that Adam Avery had born.  Respect!  

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

Odor [maximum of 2.00 points possible]: 2.00

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]: 2.00

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

Total [maximum of 10.00 points possible]: 9.89

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