Posts Tagged ‘Double IPA’

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


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:


Jess & DSR got to go to San Diego Beer Week late last year. They wanted me to join them.  A 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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


Enjoyed on 3/7/2011

Brewery: Hair of the Dog Brewing Co.

Location: Portland, OR

Beer: Blue Dot Double India Pale Ale (Winter)


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:


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!]


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.


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


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:


Clearly, the canning trend is blowing up around the country.  It would take far too long for me to name them all, but I think we all know that when highly respected breweries such as Oskar Blues, New Belgium, Surley, Maui, Anderson Valley, and Big Sky are doing it, everyone wants a piece.  Not to mention the fact that it creates less waste, it easier to transport, and it is completely impenetrable to UV light.  I would be surprised if there was a brewery out there today that wouldn’t admit that they would love to can if they could.

To my knowledge, 7 Seas was the first WA brewery to can with any regularity, and they went straight for 16 ouncers.  Bad-ass fellas!  Bad-ass!  With any luck, the contents of said bad-ass pounder will be equally wicked.


This big Northwest IPA pours from the tall boy can (!) a clear, dark reddish amber color that is very much on the darker end of the SRM scale for IPAs.  The glugging pour that is inevitable from the opening in a can produced a surprisingly small head of just off-white bubbles.  The crown quickly subsided and left a few splotches of lace on the glass.

When held to the light, this brew is very clearly filtered and in the all too common way of the Northwest, very lightly carbonated.


The nose is pretty subtle and by no means screams double IPA.  I find it to be quite fruity, both from the hops and the malt.  I get a sense that there might be some wheat in the mash, but that could just be a sensory connection with the banana notes that I perceive.

There is definitely a tropical fruit wafting off of this unique brew.  I pick up some papaya and pineapple and citrus rind, as well as a bit of plum and red grape that could come from the darker crystal and munich malts that I’d assume lend the reddish hue.

Grains are very prominent in the nose as well and come across with a fruitiness that prompts Belgian thoughts.  I always revert to thought of Special B when I sense this attribute, which is really just a Euro crystal malt.


The mouthfeel is very smooth and full.  Overall the body is impressive and seems to benefit from the minimal carbonation.  With that being said, I think there is enough depth in body to withstand quite a bit more effervescence and not lose points.  I strongly feel that more carbonation would assist the drinker in perceiving the flavor nuances here.  I feel the bubbles really awaken the taste buds.  I would make this suggestion to any lightly carbonated beer.


Am I drinking an IPA?  Yes, it’s pretty bitter but this is a much more malt forward beer that I expected.  I’d call it more of an Imperial Red.  There is little to no hop flavor to this beer.  There is a fruitiness, no doubt, which could be from the hops, but for me it comes across as being a product of a specialty grain heavy mash with a slightly higher than normal fermentation temperature for an IPA.

I hesitate to use the word “estery” because it’s not a wine-like fruitiness.  It’s more of a barleywine like experience.  In fact, this could easily turn into a barleywine with a fairly minimal increase to the grain bill.  This is a very well brewed beer in my opinion, it’s just not a double IPA.


The finish is super dried out by the bitterness and what I would imagine is a fairly low final gravity.  The corners of my mouth and the bottom of my tongue are actually being constricted by the dryness, which is distracting.  Once I get past that I find that the malty depth lingers for some time and is, again, very barleywine like and pleasant.


Overall, this recipe has a lot of potential but seems to be slightly misguided.  It kind of breaks my heart because I want this beer to be so much better.  It has a bad ass name, it’s packaged in a tall boy can which houses some pretty killer artwork, and it’s a high IBU beer of the Northwest.  There is so much potential there for this to be a beer that us Pacific Northwesterners are wicked proud of.  I’ve had plenty of other 7 Seas beers that I thoroughly enjoyed, so who knows, maybe this beer I’m searching for will still come from the boys in Gig Harbor.

Color/Head/Retention [maximum of 1.00 point possible]: 0.79

Odor [maximum of 2.00 points possible]: 1.84

Carbonation/Mouthfeel [maximum of 1.00 point possible]: 0.83

Hop Flavor [maximum of 3.00 points possible]: 2.10

Malt Flavor/Balance [maximum of 2.00 points possible]: 1.90

Finish/Aftertaste [maximum of 1.00 point possible]: 0.81

Total [maximum of 10.00 points possible]: 8.27

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


Presentation:  22 oz. – Brown Glass Bottle – Capped

Vintage: 2010

Style: American Style Double India Pale Ale

Barrel: N/A

ABV: 9%


Hops: N/A

Malt: N/A

Commercial Description: Unavailable

Beer Advocate: A- (4.17)

Rate Beer: 98 (3.92)

Timperial’s Notes:


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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

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

The Hop Brief: Hale’s Ales Seattle Beer Week 2010 Double IPA

December 24, 2010 Leave a comment

I can't wait till the next SBW!

Enjoyed on 12/21/2010

Brewery: Hale’s Ales LTD.

Location: Seattle, WA

Beer: Seattle Beer Week 2010 Double India Pale Ale


Presentation: 22 oz. – Brown Glass Bottle – Capped

Vintage: 2010

Style: American Style Double India Pale Ale

Barrel: N/A

ABV: 8.3%

IBU: 100

Hops: Columbus and Magnum in the bittering, Chinook, Cascade and Centennial in the late hop additions, and Centennial, Cascade, Amarillo, Chinook and Simcoe in the dry hop.

Malt: Belgian Aromatic and Munich, oats, likely NW pale or 2 row or Maris Otter…possibly others.

Commercial Description:

Seattle Beer Week II Double IPA We do a couple different IPA’s here at Hale’s Ales, Mongoose, Supergoose, Aftermath, and so we were aiming for an IPA that was outside of these flavors. The big feature of this beer is the hops, so naturally we argued first and last about the malt bill. Our target was a rich orange color based around a couple of light color malts, Belgian Aromatic and Munich. We also were looking for a strong malt backbone to support a pretty aggressive hop bill, so we incorporated oats to allow for a rich body and mouthfeel. On to hops. Our goal was a blend of Northwest Hops emphasizing floral, citrus and pine characteristics. We did a couple of trial batches attempting to dial in the right hop character. We went a little heavy on Columbus in the first batch and ended up with a weird pineapple character. The second batch was dynamite on the flavor, but didn’t quite hit the perfect aroma. Our final batch incorporated Columbus and Magnum in the bittering, Chinook, Cascade and Centennial in the late hop additions, and Centennial, Cascade, Amarillo, Chinook and Simcoe in the dry hop. Late hop additions were 1.6 lbs/bbl. Dry hops were at 1.0 lb/ bbl.

Beer Advocate: A- (4.1)

Rate Beer: 97 (3.68)

Timperial’s Notes:


Remember Seattle Beer Week 2010?  I do and I don’t, if you know what I mean.  It’s nearly impossible to exercise moderation during said week, and I partied like a rock star.  Err…a beer nerd.  That notion, non-existent moderation that is, seems to hold true when creating the week’s beer as well.  The inaugural brew in 2009 was crafted by Pike Brewing and was also a Double IPA.  When the Seattle Beer Collective gets down, they get down.  They destroy palettes with booze and IBUs.  The dates have already been set for SBW 2011, May 19 – 28, but the official beer’s brewer has yet to be announced.  Who will it be?  I can’t wait to find out, but for now, lets just enjoy my last bottle of the 2010 before the massive hop character becomes…well, less massive.


I’d say, based on looks, that Hale’s was right on with what they were aiming for.  This brew has a rich orange hue that is very inviting.  When the light isn’t quite so direct, the fluid takes on a more amber color, but when held directly to the light, SBW2010DIPA glows a gold flaked orange.  Though the beer is hazy from the dry-hopping, there is barely any sediment to speak of.  The carbonation is visible, but not so strong as to build an out of control head on the pour.  The lacing is worthy of a double thumbs up, and the head sticks around throughout.  Very impressive.


There is little doubt that this beer has a solid malt backbone.  It’s possibly odd that I started this section with that statement.  Yes, hops dominate.  Was I supposed to mention that?  I thought it goes without saying.  I’ll get to the lupulin in a moment.

The first thought I had when evaluating the malt essence was Victory malt.  There may or may not be Victory in the grain bill, possibly it’s the Munich, but I got a whiff of peanuts and a dash of popcorn.  Those notes came right after the pour when the effervescence was at its peak.  Now that the beer has calmed a bit, I can’t seem to discern anything other than a faint caramel stickiness draped upon the overpowering hoppy fruitiness.

I smell and smell again, and each time I seem to get a slight nuance from the hops.  At times, it’s all fruit, mostly passion fruit or some soft tropical pleasure.  Other times, it’s completely floral.  Unfortunately, I’m no botanist, and therefore am unable to provide genus,  but I can tell you that the potency is immense.  I think of Elysian Jasmine IPA and its overwhelming ability to transport me to a Japanese tea garden.  A garden, we surely are in.

As the beer warms, some more of the malt is uncovered, and it easily coalesces with the flora to place me directly within the leavened pores of a fruit cake.  If you could take that scene in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids where they stumble upon the Oreo in the front yard and snack time ensues and replace the cookie with a fruit cake…yeah I’m doing a swan dive right into the fluffy cakey goodness right now.

As it warms even more, the booze enters the jaunt, and some slight uninvited vegetal scents pop in.  Try to drink this one cold(er).


The body of this guy is truly lovely.  I can’t say that I would have guessed there were oats in this, but since I do know, I’ll strap on my monocle, clutch my jolly old belly (lavishly draped in a vest of the Queen’s finest textiles) and bellow deeply in an English accent that this beer’s “silky smooth mouthfeel is made possible by the almighty oat”.  The oats effect may also be responsible for the killer head retention, or maybe Cara-Pils could hold a minor percentage in the bill.

The carbonation is rocking well after the pour but never overbearing.  All in all, a great success.


Much like the nose, this element seems to fluctuate, oscillate, ebb and flow.  When the experience is averaged, balance is reached so astutely.  Doubtless, the malts are mighty strong here, standing tall amidst the triple digit bitterness units.  Bitterness… what a challenging topic right now.  With the fear of skipping ahead and spoiling the aftertaste section below, I must reference the moments after the swallow to make any attempt to wrap my mind around the role of bitterness here.

If you’ve read my Hop Briefs in the past, you know that, ultimately, my enjoyment of IPAs rest in the bitter vs. sweet, hop candy battle.  When this beer hits the tongue, the tongue recoils in fear.  On a sensory level, one must then pay close attention to the aftershocks, not the heavy hitting initial blow, to fully appreciate this beer’s nuance and complexity.  The aftershocks, or the aftertaste in this case, is so, so pleasurable.  It’s sweet and hoppy and not at all dry.  The malts are twinkling in the background and everything is right in the world.  How this contradiction holds together in the rolling centrifuge across my tongue, I can’t explain, but allow me to again bellow, “Roll on my intrepid friend, be free!”

When it comes to the actual hop flavor, it still holds a lot of fruitiness, but not so much floraliness (new word discovery, chalk it up!).  I’m actually getting a large dose of spice just at the moment that I swallow.  If beer is liquid bread, this beer is a culinary joy ride.  I’d feed on this one for days and days.  It’s all too hop-laden to realize any specific, legitimate malt characteristic, but the balance is undeniable.


It’s glorious.  See above.


The absolute best part about this beer is the fact that it seems to be a living organism.  It’s like the sea breaching the shore – it attacks over and over again, but never twice in the same manner.  By this right, this is the most complex IPA I’ve had in recent memory.  Oddly enough though, complexity only goes so far with IPAs as far as I’m concerned.  This one beer may have the aspects of 4 different IPAs, possibly more, but maybe only one of those would be a perfect 10 in my book.  Though I deeply enjoyed the ride, the moments where SBW2010DIPA tasted like something slightly less desirable left a blemish with enough weight to set in scar.  If for nothing other than to deepen my confliction, may it be that this scar lends an endearing quality and in time I regret not distributing the highest of marks.  May time tell the tale.

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

Odor [maximum of 2.00 points possible]: 1.94

Carbonation/Mouthfeel [maximum of 1.00 point possible]: 0.98

Hop Flavor [maximum of 3.00 points possible]: 2.70

Malt Flavor/Balance [maximum of 2.00 points possible]: 1.88

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

Total [maximum of 10.00 points possible]: 9.48

Airways Brewing Releases Sky Hag IPA

I am afraid of her, yet strangely allured...

This just in: one of beerblotter’s favorite new WA brewery upstarts has really exciting news to share.  The following press release pretty much tells you everything that you need to know, so I won’t blabber on to extensively, but it’s worth noting that, if you saw our 52 Weeks article about the taproom, you know what we really enjoy all of their offerings, and clearly, we love double IPAs, so this is going to be more than worth a trip down to Kent.  Do it!

Kent, WA (10/25/10) – Celebrating the bitter women of the air who refuse to retire, Airways Brewing Company, Kent’s Microbrewery, is proud to announce the official release of Sky Hag IPA™ as the newest addition to its regular roster of beers. This is the first Double / Imperial IPA to come from the brewery and the first change in its standard lineup since opening in March of this year.

“With this beer, we set out to celebrate a true American icon of aviation. One that I feel we’re all united in knowing, the Sky Hag,” says Airways Brewing Company founder and brewer, Alex Dittmar. “With a 7.8% alcohol level and bitterness of over 99 IBUs, this beer is definitely as bitter as she is.”

Sky Hag IPA is made with Pacific Northwest grown malted barley and all Columbus Hops from start to finish. A generous dose of “dry hops” give the beer its distinctive citrus aroma.

“We released this beer as a test batch during the summer in our tap room, and our customers loved it,” says Dittmar. “I’m thrilled to be able to add Sky Hag IPA to our regular tap room lineup, and to be able to distribute it as well.”

To celebrate the beer’s release, the Airways tap room in Kent will feature Sky Hag IPA on tap, on cask, and a special oaked version Thursday, October 28, 2010.

Founded in spring of 2010, Airways Brewing Company is Kent, Washington’s microbrewery. The brewery produces five standard beers, Starliner Stout, First Class IPA, Jet City ESB, Sky Hag IPA, and T-Tail Blonde, and features casks and special-edition beers in its Kent tap room. Airways distributes its beer to fine microbrew specialty bars and taverns in the greater Seattle/Tacoma area.

Introducing: The Hop Brief

Hop Leaf

In just a few short months I’ll have been writing my Notes of a Beer Nerd (NBN) column for an entire year.  In that time I have not reviewed a single pale ale, IPA, or imperial/double IPA.

Why is that?  Is it because I don’t like hoppy beers or that I don’t feel that they are worthy of a review? GOOD GOD NO!  I love all things humulus lupulus!

Now I wouldn’t say that the larger classification of “pale” ales includes any single style that I would consider my number #1, most favorite style of all (I am Timperial Stout for a reason), but there is no other style that I crave more on a regular basis.

IPA is, without a doubt,  my go-to style.  After a long day of work, I most often want to sit down and relax with something herbal, piney, citusy… you know, something with some serious IBUs.  Anytime I’m at a “yellow beer bar”, I’m looking for a beer, any beer, with a respectable portion on alpha acids.

I think you get the point.  Despite what you may think, I really do heart hops.

The main reason why I don’t write about hop forward beers is that I find it to be very difficult to expand on the experience with any worthwhile composition.  When I write NBN, I try to fully express the various waves of perception that my senses experience amidst my enjoyment of a highly complex beer.

In my view, hoppy beers are very rarely complex, or rarely complex in a way that I am able to deconstruct and adroitly verbalize.  Content escapes me.  Most often I feel as though I’ve reverted back to a time when my beer knowledge was fledgling at best.  “This tastes…hoppy…and lacks balance.”  End of review.

The most unfortunate part about it is, as I said earlier, I heart hops.  I drink IPA’s all the time.  I really enjoy hoppy beers.  Shouldn’t I be able to share these experiences?  Perhaps I should view it as a challenge.

The Hop Brief will be dedicated to this aspiration.  It may be painfully curt in the inception, but here’s hoping for growth, both as a writer in general and as a beer reviewer.

As always, Beer Blotter desires your thoughts.  Taste something different?  An adjective strike you that would be more appropriate?  Think that my taste buds are straight up worthless? Shoot us a line.

Look out soon for The Hop Brief.

Arcadia Brewing Co: A Perspective on Michigan Beer

The spread, Michigan style

The beers of Arcadia Ales out of Battle Creek, MI are not available in the Seattle market, or anywhere west of the Rockies for that manner, but that doesn’t mean they are unattainable.  The internet is an amazing tool my friends.

Though they were available at select locations in PA back when I resided there, my experience with the ales of Arcadia has been limited.  After an intimate night with the four beauties in the picture above, I am very hopeful that Arcadia quickly expands its distribution.  There were two of us tasting this night, so my notes on each are a bit of a collaboration of taste buds.  All the better for you to gain knowledge of what these brews have to offer.  If you like the way that one, two, three, or all of them sound, seek them out, and remember, if you are reading and outside of the Arcadia distribution network, you can always say that you are being shipped “yeast cultures suspended in solution”.  Works every time. *wink*

The "double" may be reserved for abv alone.

Hopmouth Double IPA

Rate Beer – 96

ABV – 8.1%

Presentation – 12oz brown glass bottle, capped

Vintage -2009

Commercial Description:

The first in our Brew Crew Big Beer Series, Arcadia Hopmouth Double IPA should be finding its way to a store near you. Huge Maris Otter malt and a generous amount of fresh hops combine to make this extremely balanced ale remarkable.


The beer pours a light amber color with an extremely contrasting, off-white head that barely rises on the pour and settles to an almost iced tea like whisp with large bubbles along the circumference of the surface.  I seem to be able to smell the flatness of carbonation, or it is simply sensed in some way or another.  The nose is very balanced.  It doesn’t seem like a double IPA at this point.  The hop presence is very soft.

This beer appears to have been released back in 2009, early in the year. Knowing that, the beer has been aging for close to a year. This means that the abundance of hop aroma has dissipated and it has lost its bitterness. Over time, the maltiness has developed into something attractive, but it just does not match the intended flavor of the beer. Unfortunately, this one was probably really good – and we let it die.

The flavor is very earthy, like a forest after a rainstorm.  Woody and piney.  Though the malts are very present, the sweetness seems minimal.  I sense biscuit malts were used.  The 8.1% does come out in the flavor as it warms, and with everything else going on, or the lack there of, this isn’t attractive.  There is bitterness at play, but is isn’t pleasant.  We will have to give this one another chance when we can get our hands on a fresh bottle.

3...2...1...hop lift off.

Hop Rocket 11th Anniversary

Rate Beer – 98

ABV – 9.0%

Presentation – 12oz brown glass bottle, capped

Vintage – 2010

Commercial Description:

Anniversaries are meant to be celebrated, and as we looked back on 11 years of “balance in beer,” we decided to take a walk on the wild side with this year’s Anniversary Ale. Our brewers were finally turned loose to craft a beer that’s focused on the hops, and the result is Hop Rocket… Arcadia’s 11th Anniversary Ale.

Hop Rocket is a veritable constellation of hops… including some varieties that we haven’t used in other beers, and it’s delivered by the same booster of worldclass malt that our loyal fans have come to know and love with all Arcadia Ales. We appreciate the opportunity to share with you this “launch” of our 12th years, and we hope you’ll enjoy the ride with Arcadia Hop Rocket!


After checking with the Arcadia website, we discovered that this beer is now brewed and released quarterly. We received the beer in April and believe that it was from the January 2010 release – so it’s still fresh.

This one pours a light amber color with great clarity.  There is not much head to speak of but a small white ring does persist where the glass, beer and air meet.  Our suspicions of this being a fresh batch are confirmed as soon as our noses detect the odor.  This stuff is teeming with hops and its pungency is powerfully apparent.   It’s like taking a direct blow to the nostril with a club made of hops.  It stings and tingles deep within the olfactory.  Grapefruit, pine and booze are all in attendance.

The flavor is crazy bitter and full of those spunky, biting hops.  We are reminded of Oscar Blues’ Gubna, or vice versa I guess, since Hop Rocket is the predecessor. Unlike Gubna, this beer is drinkable, but still, the hops leave a bad taste in our mouths, literally.  We love our hops, but which are used here?  Is it Summit like Gubna?  Odd.  The pungent citric blast cools once it hits the back of your throat and then dissipates as it is swallowed.  The malts make their presence know here in the aftertaste, which is the redeeming quality.  Booze is strong as well.  This is an assault!

This stout perplexed Timperial Stout so intensely that he forgot to photograph it.

Imperial Stout

Rate Beer – 96

ABV – 8.4%

Presentation – 12oz brown glass bottle, capped

Vintage – 2007

Commercial Description:

Black as coal in color, this bottle conditioned Stout has a velvety rich and sweet malt aroma. After pouring, a dense brown head gives way to a big, full-bodied and creamy texture that has flavors of roasted coffee and black currants, blending perfectly with the malt. A generous amount of hops add balance and complexity to this extraordinary stout that will continue to improve with age. A worthy beer to cellar and enjoy throughout the year.


Oil black in color with just a hair of light passing through at the edges creating a gorgeous rust hue reminiscent of the thin head, which, fairly quickly, is lost entirely.

The scent…well, I am at a barbecue.  Tonight we are maple wood smoking some nice venison.  Adding to that, we have whipped up a molasses coffee marinade to slather across this hunk of game.  I awake.  I’m simply drinking beer.  That is what this grog resembles, the corpus of a large BBQ party.  The beer is intense, packing a massive punch of smokey grain and fats.

The flavors are literally of a BBQ, it’s astounding.  Mesquite, burning wood, bacon, maple syrup, even baked beans come to mind.  This beer sends your places.  So unique, and incredibly lovable!  The tail end brings a coffee like bitterness and slight dry finish.  Alcohol only appears deep into the swallow.  The mouthfeel is very slick, slightly vinous, not super thick, but juicy.  If you told me there were carcinogens in this beer I’d believe you.

Well-Endowed Ale

Pappy’s Big Dick Bourbon Barrel Olde Ale

Rate Beer – 82

ABV – 8.0%

Presentation – 12oz brown glass bottle, capped

Vintage – 2009

Commercial Description:

Somewhat of a cousin to Barleywine, Big Dick’s is a classic English-style Olde Ale. Sweet and full-bodied malt flavors are complemented by a fragrant but mild hop bitterness. Sweet, bready malt aromas combine with rich flavors of dark fruit, brown sugar, caramel, and sweet nuts. A beer for keeping, Big Dick’s Olde Ale will age gracefully, while fruity flavors continue to develop and bitterness will subside.

This is not only a BIG beer, it is a Well-Endowed Ale! We took a traditional English-style Ale and made it our own. Delightful on its own or as a digestif with a full-bodied cigar, Big Dick’s is also big enough to stand up to many boldly-flavored foods.


An auburn hue fills our glass with an almost yellow, off-white head.  A thin whisp and ring prevails upon settling.  The fluid is quite foggy, as an old ale should be.  Packed full of flavor?  Let’s see.

Nose to glass speaks of caramelized sugars, banana, and dare I say, wet paint (how you mock me).  A nice, smooth mouthfeel is enjoyable.  This one is complex and unique; words to live by.  A bit boozy as it warms, but never too much.

The flavors are full of strawberry, more paint, some bitterness, and a lot of sweetness.  A cloying, long-lasting aftertaste of sweet maltiness is enough to meditate on.  I’d pack my cellar with this one if I had better access to it.

Northwest IPA Night with Beer Blotter

Northwest IPA Night!

After ringing in 2010 with style, we sat down to a quiet evening of movies, homemade buffalo wings and three Northwest IPAs.  Our line up included the following breweries, Lucky Labrador out of Portland, Oregon; Philips Brewing Co. out of Victoria, British Columbia; and Oakshire Brewing Co. out of Eugene, Oregon.  Each IPA provided distinct flavors, ranged between 7% and 8% ABV  and went perfectly with the wings!

Now, lets get down to business…

Lucky Labrador Brewing Co.: Portland, Oregon

We visited Lucky Labrador Brewing Co.’s one of three locations during September ’09.  As we sat in the large warehouse space with hops growing down the side of the building, the summer sun, hypnotizing scent of the hops and the warm breeze instantly put us in a great beer drinking mood. We ordered a sampler of six different beers, one of which was Super Dog, the brewery’s single IPA.  Floral, crisp, refreshing and sightly bitter, this beer was/is reminiscent of Pliny the Elder (although not a double).  Much to our dismay, they did not have any bottles to take home, instead we were presented with their double IPA, Super Duper Dog.  Super Duper Dog is very complex and full IPA that has the complexity of a fruit juice.  Extremely sweet and malty in flavor, there was no bitterness to be found. Highly recommended for those warms summer days and quiet winter nights.

Phillips Brewing Co.: Victoria, British Columbia

Phillips Brewing Co. was first discovered on a trip to Vancouver, Canada during a very cold, very rainy weekend in November ’09. We trudged through the streets in the Gastown neighborhood destined and determined to find Alibi Room, a local beer bar.  It’s funny how a dark, dreary, rainy winter’s afternoon will put one in the mood to drink beer just as much, if not more than a warm, blissful summer’s day (maybe its just a personal trend….). Anyway, Phillips Brewing Co. had their Longboat Chocolate Porter on tap. As we began to dry out, a sweet, thick porter sounded perfect.  We were not disappointed as every sip was rich with chocolaty flavor, thick in body and crisp in finish.  Later that day, we stumbled upon a beer and wine shop that presented a very interesting Canadian beer selection.  We quickly grabbed a bottle of Phillips Longboat Chocolate Porter and a bottle of their Amensiac Double IPA, which was enjoyed last night. With a copious amount of hops, this is a “big beer” with a punch in herbal, hop goodness. A very bitter double IPA and not as smooth as we would have hopped.  Refreshing, but lacks a smooth finish.

Oakshire Brewing Co.: Eugene, Oregon

A new brewery on the block (18 months give or take in the making), Oakshire Brewing Company released two beers during 2009, the Watershed IPA and the Overcast Espresso Stout. No complaints here on the choice of styles!  Although this brewery or beer was not discovered at a local beer bar, it came highly recommended.  A quick stop in the Whole Foods in Portland’s Pearl District graces every trip to the city.  We find that the staff members that are “stationed” in the beer aisle are very knowledgeable and happy to discuss their likes and dislikes.  This time, we were in the market for an Oregon IPA that we had yet to try.  This particular staff member enjoys bitter IPAs and said that Watershed IPA was his favorite local beer.   The IPA is available all year round and as far as IPA’s go, has a full malt balance. The hoppy bitter taste combined with the malt flavors creates a very “tasty” beer.  We recommend this recommendation.

Just another Saturday night with Beer Blotter, as we celebrate a great beginning to 2010 and great local beer!  Please leave a comment or email us at if you have any comments on the beers in this post or have any Northwest IPA recommendations!