If you are following me on Twitter (@timperialstout), I’m sure that you have noticed that I have been blowing up your timeline with beer check-ins via Untappd. Sorry about that. Hopefully, you’re just a little jealous that I get to have an entire week of unencumbered liver destruction at the hands of many Eastern and Southern beers that I either very rarely get to drink or have never had before. Needless to say, I’m having a blast!
I’m pretty sure that I could be happy living in Asheville solely thanks to two establishments. First, Thirsty Monk. Thirsty Monk is one of the best beer bars I have ever been to. The owner actually lived in Seattle for a while and is a huge fan of The Stumbling Monk in Cap Hill, as well as Brouwer’s and Hale’s Ales. The Thirsty fella is much larger than the Stumbling one, and I’d venture to say that it’s more true to form in its Belgian authenticity. The layout and minimal food offerings (cheese, soft pretzels, humus plate) bring much reminiscing to my time in the true home of the Belgian Beer Bar Experience. Though, the top floor is home to all American beer taps, many of which are local. It’s the bottom floor that is the real lair of the monk. All taps in the depths are of Belgian style, though not all are imports. During my visit there were several Belgian styles on tap from American brewers such as The Bruery, North Coast and Allagash.
The best part about Thirsty Monk, other than the decor and great taplist, is that they offer taster trays (four samples) and half pints. No beer is excluded. This is very similar awesomeness to Uber Tavern’s relatively new service upgrade in allowing tasters of any beer on tap. When you order a taster tray at TM you are also given a tasting notes card and a pencil so that you can, of course, write tasting notes and have something to take home with you so that you can remember what you had and if you enjoyed it. This is especially helpful for me in my current situation…drinking beers that I very rarely if ever have, that is.
That brings us to the second establishment that would make it easy for me to permanently reside in Asheville, Bruisin’ Ales. Before I made it here I had stopped into a few local markets, wine shops and the other bottle shop in town, Hops & Vines. No one seems to compare to Bruisin’ Ales in selection, and really, that’s what you want in a bottle shop. BA has an exceptional selection of locals, regionals and Belgians (lots and lots of Belgians). They also have a great collection of glassware available and sell t-shirts with their logo on them.
The location is prime, right in the mix of it all downtown. It’s actually on the same road as Barley’s Taproom and Mellow Mushroom, two great beer bars. I found the staff to be very kind and knowledgeable. As is always the case when I’m in a new place with a huge collection of beers that are unavailable in Seattle, I was wildly overwhelmed. I decided that I should hold off on purchasing the final bounty of bottles that I will smuggle back to Seattle until later in the trip when I have a better idea of what’s good, rare, etc. I grabbed a few bottles to take back to the dwelling for late night options. These included Terrapin So Fresh & So Green fresh hop IPA, Terrapin Gamma Ray wheatwine, New Holland Blue Sunday Sour, Weyerbacher Riverva 2010 and Ska Nefarious Ten Pin imperial porter. Good times.
Enjoyed on 1/4/2011
Brewery: Weyerbacher Brewing Co.
Location: Easton, PA
Beer: Double India Pale Ale
Presentation: 750 ml – Brown Glass Bottle – Corked & Caged
Style: American Style Double India Pale Ale
Hops: 100% Simcoe.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
When we last left off I had 15 more breweries to chose in my top 25. If you missed the intro and the first 10, check this out. Remember, these are in no particular order. No sense in delaying any further… here is my next 8.
Weyerbacher Brewing Co. – If I where to say that these guys are the best production brewers in my home state of PA, I’d be telling you that they are better than Stoudts, Troegs, and Victory. That would be a very bold statement, so I’m not going to make it, but they are the only one of the four that I’m putting on this list. I miss their brews severly. Double Simcoe IPA is outstanding, as is pretty much anything they attempt in the Belgian realm. Oh, and Blithering Idiot Barleywine…what I wouldn’t give to have one of those in hand right now…
Hoppin’ Frog Brewing Company – You have heard our OH contingent gush about these Akron brewers for a while now. HFB makes some seriously extreme stouts and IPAs. It seems as though they have an endless supply of recipes for both. Or maybe they just take one and let it manifest in as many ways as possible. Either way, it’s very exciting to follow, and I know I’m not alone on that. We all know what styles the beer nerds like the most – stouts and IPAs. Good game plan boys. Keep it up.
Captain Lawrence Brewing Company – Over the past few years this NY brewery has been getting loads of praise from media sources of all kinds. I’m sure being based just north of the Big City doesn’t hurt on that front, but they do have 20 beers with scores of 90 or greater on ratebeer.com. From what I have read, they have a passion for sours and they do them very well. Stroll up to their booth, ask about Flemish influence and see where it leads you. I don’t think you will regret it.
Portsmouth Brewery – There is this little beer that comes out of a little New England brewery called Kate the Great. Ever heard of it? Talk about outlandish hype. No matter what feelings you may harbor about wildly hyped beers, you know full well that, given the chance, you would want to taste and build your own opinion. That’s where I’m at and that’s why I want to visit their booth. Even if they aren’t pouring Kate, are they a one hit wonder?
Short’s Brewing Co. – My knowledge of Short’s is actually quite, well…short. Since I have plans to go to MI for the first time this Christmas, I have been doing extensive research about breweries and bars to visit. MI has to be one of the best states in the entire union to visit for beer purposes. There are so many fantastic breweries there, it’s kind of absurd. I’ve already mentioned Kuhnhenn, and will follow this addition with Founders. I’ve decided to leave off Bell’s because, though I love them, they simply aren’t in the top 25 for me. This is not to mention Jolly Pumpkin, Arcadia, Dark Horse, Dragonmead, New Holland, good god… so many to chose from. Alas, I can’t chose them all. Of those that I have never tasted, Short’s seems to have the most community support behind them at the moment, and thus, they make my list. Oddly enough, I received a tweet from Short’s very recently announcing the beer that they will be pouring at GABF. Instead of just posting the link here, in fear of you not taking my word for it and following said link and reading what they are bringing, I’m going to just paste it in below. This is insanity to the nth degree.
In true Short’s fashion, and keeping with the tradition of past Great American Beer Festivals (GABF), this years list of beers to be poured at the 2010 GABF certainly does not disappoint. Short’s will be pouring everything from cult favorites, to popular concept beers, and will even be including a highly rumored yet rarely seen barley wine behemoth!
Blood Orange Wheat Wine
Estimated ABV- 9.6%
Estimated IBU’s- 76
Hops- lots, Simcoe
Malts- lots (from Briess in WI)
Notes- Blood orange puree fermented w/ a super hopped wheat wine, dry hopped and spice w/ blood orange zest and green peppercorns. The blood oranges lend a wonderful purple hue to this amazingly sessionable monster of a beer.
Barley Wine aged in Bourbon barrels for 10 months
Estimated ABV- 12%
Estimated IBU’s- 50+
Malts- 6 different varieties
Notes- This beer had a boil time of 6hrs and 66mins, and was batch number 666 brewed on devils night 2008. It was also fermented w/ 30 lbs of raisins. Big sweet toffee flavors complimented by the sweetness of the raisins. The bourbon barrels add some subtle vanilla tones and slight oak qualities. A very session worthy barley wine.
Black Licorice Lager
Black Lager spiced w/ Vanilla bean, chocolate mint, and anise
Estimated IBU’s- 24
Notes- Sweet chocolate and roasted malt characteristics compliment the additions of vanilla bean, anise, and chocolate mint. The vanilla aromas are found in the nose and in the initial flavors up front, followed quickly by the anise. The finish (especially when it warms a bit) contains the chocolate mint, preventing the anise from becoming too overwhelming.
Key Lime Pie
Golden Ale made w/ fresh limes, milk sugar, graham cracker, and marshmallow fluff
Estimated ABV- 5.5%
Estimated IBU’s- 21
Hops- Cascade, Simcoe
Malts- Pilsen, Munich, Vicotry
Notes- This beer sounds too good to believe, but it’s exactly that. Attempted last year as a new concept beer, it has already been remade twice, and there are plans to distribute a limited amount in six packs. Made w/ fresh limes, milk sugar, graham cracker, and marshmallow fluff we were able to recreate this popular dessert into a heavenly drinkable version.
Imperial Spruce India Pilsner
Imperial Pilsner hopped as an IPA and spice w/ Blue Spruce needles
Estimated ABV- 7.2%
Estimated IBU’s- 90
Malts- Pilsen and maze from Briess Malt in WI
Other Notes- fermented w/ tons of N. Michigan blue spruce tips. The spruce presence is enormous giving the beer a refreshing “gin like” quality when it is cold, that almost becomes “sap like” as it warms up. Surprisingly light bodied considering the big flavors of spruce and complimentary summit hops
Founders Brewing Company – Everyone that I know that has ever tried the product of Founders considers them to be one of the best breweries in America. I have tried their product and I think they are one of the best breweries in America. If you go to their website and take a look at their 5 year round beers, 3 seasonals and 7 specialty releases, you will most likely be impressed. What they do, they do extremely well. This is one of those breweries that you could blindly approach their booth, outstretch a finger, and no matter what ends up in your glass, you will not be disappointed.
Clipper City Brewing Co. – You may know these guys as Heavy Seas. Not at all unlike Founders above, each and every beer that CCB makes is outstanding. I’m a beer geek, and light pilsners are generally boring and worthless to me. Hand me a Small Craft Warning Pils and I’d thank you twice. The thing that would most excite me about visiting the CCB booth at GABF is the fact that, when I lived and drank in PA, the Pyrate Fleet (see brewery website) was all there was. I want some of that Mutiny Fleet so bad!
Three Floyds Brewing Co. – I just laughed to myself. You know, of all of the breweries I have listed so far, for some reason this one seems the most obvious. It’s Three Floyds people, it’s Three Floyds. Ok, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t make such assumptions. TFB makes a beer called Dark Lord. It’s an imperial stout. It’s amongst the most sought after beers in the world. TFB also makes an imperial IPA called Dreadnaught. If Dark Lord didn’t exist, Dreadnaught would easily take it’s place as one of the most sought after beers in the world. Oh yeah, and everything else that they make is delicious. Another note – they host the best brewery tour that I have ever experienced.
Sorry folks, but you are going to have to wait just a bit longer for the remainder of my choices. Don’t fret, you’ll get them before your plane leaves for rocky mountian high…