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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

Notes of a Beer Nerd: Cigar City Brewing Bolita Brown

February 23, 2011 Leave a comment

Who's down for a game of Bolita?

***Notes of a Beer Nerd is a column written by resident cellar dwelling mammal, Timperial Stout. Feel free to e-mail him at timperial@beerblotter.com with any questions, concerns or comments***

Enjoyed on 2/22/2011

Brewery: Cigar City Brewing LLC

Location: Tampa, FL

Beer: Bolita Brown Double Nut Brown Ale

Web: http://www.cigarcitybrewing.com/

Presentation: 750 ml – Blown Glass Bottle – Capped

Vintage: 2009

Style: Double Nut Brown Ale

Barrel: N/A

ABV: 9.0%

IBU: N/A

Hops: N/A

Malt: N/A

Vessel: Snifter

Recommended Serving Temp: 45 degrees

Commercial Description:

Bolita was a type of lottery popular with the working class citizens of the Ybor City district of Tampa. Bolita means, ’little ball’ but profits from the illegal (and often rigged) game were anything but little. In the 1920’s Tampa native Charlie Wall was the undisputed kingpin of the Bolita racket.

Our Bolita is a Double Northern English-style brown ale that has a complex malt forward character with notes of chocolate, toffee and hints of roasted nuts in the finish. Bolita pairs well with Baklava, Big Band Music, Cool Evenings and robust cigars.

Food Pairings: Pork, brownies

Cheese Pairings: Camembert, Asiago

Music Pairing: Sun Ra

Beer Advocate: A- (4.09)

Rate Beer: 98 (3.76)

Timperialstout’s Notes:

Background.

I have been saying for a while now that The Bruery and Cigar City are the two most exciting new breweries to open in the past 5 years.  In the case of The Bruery, I have relatively strong access to their beers and can speak with experience.  With CCB, I am forced to go completely by word of mouth, publications and ratebeer/beeradvocate ratings…until now.  Thanks to the overwhelming kindness and social grace of Jess and DSR, the better 2/3 of Beer Blotter, I was gifted with this bottle after they toured NYC in 2009.  I had been waiting for a special occasion to open it.  When I received a god-awful bill from a recent ER visit I made, I decided that I’d substitute “special occasion” with “extreme desire to escape reality”.  Let’s see if they live up to the hype.

Appearance.

Just after opening the bottle, at a very cold temperature mind you, a bit of foam formed and began to slowly creep over the rim of the bottle.  Out of fear of losing some of this rare brew to the table top, I quickly filled my snifter.  A lively head rose up but I was able to get a good pour and not overflow the vessel.  Bottle-conditioning success!

The fluid itself is a gorgeous mahogany color, and when held directly to the light it appears slightly toward a very dark, murky amber.  Light does not pass through and though it is evident that the carbonation is strong, it is nearly impossible to see any rising effervescence.

The head is tan in color and fairly light in density.  It falls somewhat quickly from its initial heights but leaves behind immense globs of lace, eventually settling into a soft, brownish-tan wisp.  As I revel in the appearance, from a top view, I’m reminded of being on a beach, right at the point in which the crashing waves dwindle and recede.  A froth of salty water resting upon dark, drenched sand, awaiting the next gravity fed barrage of the mighty sea.  If I could shrink myself down and anxiously submerge my feet in these cool sands, I would not hesitate.

Odor.

The scent is surprisingly vinous and estery…almost tart.  It takes a deep waft and some searching to find the nuts and malts beneath, but they are there.  The full experience in the nose – that being the combination of the before mentioned attributes – is actually really enjoyable, though my first impression is that this was not intended by the brewers.  Though, upon further reflection, this is a Cigar City beer and there is no doubt that, in its current state, this would pair effortlessly with a cigar.  Even still, as this is my first and only experience with this beer, I ponder the role that travel and age may play here.  It may require a trip to the Southeast to truly know.

Had the label come out and told me that this beer was aged in wood I would feel much better about everything, but really, if it isn’t, and this isn’t the intended scent, maybe it should be because it’s amazing!  It’s full of cherry notes and brown sugar, strawberries and rhubarb, pie crust and sugar cookies filled with jam.

Nuts and chocolate, again, can be found, but much deeper than the rest.  The moment that they are found, it all comes together in a holiday-like harmony that really sends me to another place and time.  It’s a magical experience.  Very, very much unlike most brown ales, there is no subtlety to the nose.  It bursts out of the glass like an overly perfumed grandmother.  In this case, I want to rest my shoulder on granny all evening long.

Mouthfeel.

The MF is on the high side with respect to carbonation, which slightly inhibits my ability to gauge anything in this category.  Through many sips I determine that it’s above average in body but not overly cloying or oily.  It’s spot on for a double brown ale.

Flavor.

It’s in the flavor that the nuts and chocolatey, roasted malt characteristics truly shine, but that only really holds true when the beer is colder.  In that stage the flavor is much reminiscent of Nutella.  When you couple that with the fruity nose, well, quite literally… it’s like enjoying a Nutella dipped strawberry, which, let me tell you, is simply stupendous!

The grains do not present any acridity or chalkiness and it all goes down smooth and sweet.  As the beer warms the experience has much less of a yin and yang effect and the flavors seems to devolve more into what was experienced with the surface scents.  The maltiness is pressed to the aftertaste and it all transitions into something very Belgian in nature.  If there was ever a time that I’d bet wood was involved in the production of this beer it would be now.  Strawberry bubblegum screams the loudest, but a woody, earthy flavor rests below.  That may be my palate misinterpreting the nuts since they are rare in this context.  The booze really brightens up here and plays yet another role in my (spiked?) barrel theory.

Amidst all this seeming mayhem, there is not an ounce of me that is disenchanted by any of it.  In fact, I can’t get enough.  It’s a chameleon of a beer.  What strange shade will I see the next time I blink?

Aftertaste.

The aftertaste is an afterthought for most of my time with this beer.  It’s all sweet and just slightly acidic, but with warmth there is a lasting, cocoa powder graininess that gives the impression of a chalky dryness that isn’t actually there.  This is probably the worst part of the entire experience of Bolita Brown but that is a bit of a misnomer because the whole experience is grande.  There is no doubt that I want to continue to the next sip.

Summation.

It’s been a long time coming, this foray into the realm of Cigar City, and whether I “compromised” the product or not, I really enjoyed my time with it.  I have great hopes that the time will soon come that I have full access to CCB’s product line.

If you like Cigar City Bolita Brown, you should try…

Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale; Smuttynose Brewing’s Old Brown Dog Ale; Lazy Magnolia Brewing’s Southern Pecan

Disclaimer: This beer was purchased by Beer Blotter with our own hard-earned money, and aged to perfection by yours truly.

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

Notes of a Beer Nerd: Unita Brewing Labyrinth Black Ale

February 4, 2011 1 comment

I've become lost in this labyrinthine world.

***Notes of a Beer Nerd is a column written by resident cellar dwelling mammal, Timperial Stout. Feel free to e-mail him at timperial@beerblotter.com with any questions, concerns or comments***

Enjoyed on 2/3/2011

Brewery: Uinta Brewing Co.

Location: Salt Lake City, UT

Beer: Labyrinth Black Ale

Web:http://www.uintabrewing.com/

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

Vintage: 2010

Style: Imperial Stout

Barrel: Oak

ABV: 13.2%

IBU: 56

Hops: N/A

Malt: N/A

Vessel: Snifter

Recommended Serving Temp: 45 degrees

Commercial Description:

Enter the Labyrinth, a multi-dimensional black ale. Discover the complex intermingling of black licorice and toasted oak. Seek the subtle hints of bittersweet chocolate. Explore pairing Labyrinth with flavorful cheeses and rich desserts.

Food Pairings: Game, Gelato, Chocolate Cake

Cheese Pairings: Brie, Gouda

Music Pairing: David Bowie

Beer Advocate: A- (4.08)

Rate Beer: 99 (3.78)

Timperialstout’s Notes:

Background.

I’ve explained this many times before in this column, so I’ll make it brief.  Uinta, by sending their Crooked Line to Seattle before any of their standard beers, is playing a hand that has become very familiar to us beer geeks.  Send the trendy, extreme beers first when attempting to enter a new market and build up a reputation.  Then, slip in the standards and lay down more of a foundation.  Labyrinth is one of four beers in the Crooked Line and it’s an imperial stout.  You know full well that Timperial Stout had to try it.  Here we go!

Appearance.

They should call this a black ale.  Oh, wait…  Yeah, this is black alright.  It’s about as devoid of transparency as a brick wall.  I think I could ignite a fist sized chunk of magnesium behind the glass and not even know that anything was different in the room.   I held it up to the light and the room went black.  I think you get it.  Labyrinth is impossibly black.

The head rose up on the pour with just the vigor that I would expect from a high gravity stout that has been bottle conditioned.  Actually, now that I think about it, that expectation took a bit of subconscious calculation.  I’d expect a high gravity stout to have a very minimal head and a bottle conditioned beer to have quite a large head, so I figured it would about split the difference, and it did.  As it somewhat quickly receded, some thin lacing layed in its wake.

That head is very much the color that you would expect from a beer so jet black.  It’s espresso colored.  It’s a very dark tan, near brown with auburn highlights.  I just described my ideal head on a beer.  It’s so beautiful and inviting I can’t wait to sip!

Odor.

A deep inhale at the mouth of the glass forces a massive smile to my face.  The odor speaks of an amazing imperial stout.  It’s so deep and roasted and complex and sweet…  The first thing that comes to mind is a very high cocoa content chocolate bar put into convection and sweetened generously.  A flourless chocolate torte perhaps?  Definitely something baked and dry.  Brownies might be too sweet to apply here.  The licorice is faint but detectable and works magnificently.  Vanilla bean seems to be involved as well.

The oak combines with the base grain and the hops to form the scent’s backbone and bring realization to the experience – this is in fact a beer and not a melted desert.  There is some earthiness, some damp wood and a little bitter coffee.  The whole experience is a bit frantic as the sweets and the not-so-sweets are constantly struggling for supremacy.

Mouthfeel.

Oh how silky smooth it is!  It’s not the most viscous impy stout I’ve ever had but it’s close.  Labyrinth coats every corner of the mouth with its essence and has absolutely no reservations about it.  This beer is a big, bold bully and any lingering flavor that may have existed in my mouth prior to it’s arrival has been sent packing, tail between its legs.  I slight swishing of the liquid stimulates enough carbonation frothing to sting my cheeks, or maybe that’s the booze.  It’s a pleasure to be drinking this tonight.

Flavor.

Upon my very first taste of Labyrinth I felt I had a serious winner.  It’s thick and robust.  It has a bitterness, but it’s mostly sweet.  It’s a beast of an ale, not doubt.  But, after subsequent sips, and as the beer warms, I’m becoming less and less attracted to it.  It’s highly astringent and the booze is somewhat painful.  I do very much like the chocolate cake notes and the oak has infused itself marvelously.  Those two elements are not to be overlooked.  I think that the licorice is somewhat harsh and the overall grain bill may be too heavily weighted toward black.

The label on the bottle does suggest that Labyrinth is better at cooler temperatures.  I don’t know why I always ignore these precautions.  I guess, ultimately, I don’t think that a beer should be hiding in the foggy, fault-hiding chills.  Let that shit breath.  Let my taste buds work in their ideal temperature zone.

As I push deeper and deeper into the bottle I begin to think that I won’t be able to finish it.  I couldn’t tell you the last time that that happened.  There continues to be flashes of the greatness that this beer has to offer (chocolate, oak) but they are fleeting at best.  A medicinal quality begins to appear, but it’s mostly just this weird earthiness and some metallic, off flavors.  I feel somewhat like I’m eating a piece of rain-soaked bark with a rubbing alcohol chaser.

Aftertaste.

This area is two parted.  In the forefront, there is a booze laces acidity that is really burning the inside of my mouth.  Just as it sounds, it’s uncomfortable.  The second part is a chalky bittersweet chocolate dusting that isn’t exactly bad but I’d much prefer a sweeter finish.  It’s all pretty acrid and it lingers for some time.

Summation.

I feel terrible because I probably shouldn’t have reviewed this beer but I needed to get a review in and based on the beeradvocate.com and ratebeer.com ratings I figured this would be a treat. Maybe I’m just a bit off today.  I’m going to give this beer one more try someday soon.  Maybe I just got a bad bottle or bad batch or something.  Uinta deserves better treatment from me than this.

If you like Uinta Labyrinth Black Ale, you should try…

Full Sail Brewing’s Imperial Porter; Deschutes Brewing’s Abyss; Goose Island Brewing’s Bourbon County Stout

Disclaimer: This beer was purchased on my own with my own hard-earned money at a local bottle shop, and aged to perfection by yours truly.

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

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