Tuesday, August 21, 2012

What Happens When A German Hefe-Weisse Meets an American IPA

One of my favorite things about craft beer is the experimentation that brewers do. Brewing style guidelines are fine, but why limit yourself? To a craft brewer, nothing is off limits, and it often creates some interesting hybrid style beers.

Some of these experiments are hits and spawn un-godly, prolonged trends, like the current, and hopefully done with, Black IPA trend.

Others miss the mark, like say, bacon flavored beer.

Today's IPA month beer is just this type of experiment, and its a hit.

Big time.

Weiss Principal Ale
Peak Organic Brewing Company, 
Portland, ME
8.6% ABV

This beer is so new its not even listed on the brewers web site. Luckily, I subscribe to their emails, so I got the inside tip that it was coming. Here is what the email annoncement said about this brew:

  "It’s the international love child of a Hefe-Weiss and an American Double IPA.  This 8.7% unfiltered wheat beer employs a traditional German Weiss yeast, providing engaging banana and clove notes.  A stern dry–hopping of pungent American hops provide pronounced citrus, pine and fruit notes.  It’s so tasty, it may be punishable"

(Unbeknownst to me, the use of the word "punishable" was a hint as to what was about to happen to my taste buds.)

This beer pours a light orange yellow, hazy, with only a thin lacing of head on the surface. Be careful when pouring, as this is an unfiltered wheat style, and sediment can end up in the glass. (this is really harmless and tasteless, but it looks bad)

Smell is intense- alcohol, cloves, bananas, hops. The aroma presents like a wheat beer on steroids. Its absolutely pungent.

Mouthfeel is light and airy, which is a huge surprise given the punch in the face the aroma presents. Its texturally very light, but active, with lots of bubbles.

Taste is as intense as the smell, but even more complex. Initially a wash of pure alcohol drowns the taste buds, and is followed by spice, cloves, then an intense, super bitter, resinous piney hop flavor overtakes everything. Finish is dry, with a super subtle fruit taste.

This is one assertive, intense, bad-ass brew. The intense flavor and smell are impressive. A very unique take on the IPA style. I don't know if the two styles- German Heffe-Weiss and American IPA- compliment or fight each other, but the result is a potent, flavorful brew.

Recommended, but be warned- this is one aggressive, assertive brew. Anything that is 8.6% abv, yet actually taste higher, should be consumed in moderation.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Continuing IPA Month With the Best IPA I've Ever Had.....

Today's IPA month entry is simply the best IPA I've ever had in my life.

It's a local Massachusetts product- Meadowlark IPA from the Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project.

We've discussed Pretty Things in this space in the past, and I've had an additional beer or two from these talented brewers that I didn't write about because, well, beer stops being fun if you write about every beer you drink. So while I had high expectations for this IPA, what I got was so, so much more...let me try to put it into words...

Meadowlark IPA
The Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project
Somerville, MA
7% ABV, 60 IBUs

Meadowlark pours a beautiful clear golden with a huge head of tight white foam. It collapses just a bit, but retains a several inches.

You can identify this as an American IPA immediately by the wonderful smell- citrus bright and hoppy, with subtle notes of biscuits and fresh bread.

Mouthfeel is moderate and wet. Absolutely perfect body and weight.

Taste is....WOW....how to put this into words? Citrusy hops up front, but not overwhelming like many American IPAs. The Galaxy and Citra hops greet the nose and the taste buds very politely but assertively, but with minimal bitterness. Notes of orange and grapefruit peel are complimented and balanced very nicely by a healthy malt profile.

Finish is wet and refreshing, with just a touch of bitter to remind you that this is an American IPA.

A superb beer. This is what an IPA should be- tasty, hoppy, with some bitter, but not an absurd amount. Incredibly tasty and thirst quenching. Whats more, this beer is absolutely sessionable, something I would not normally say about a 7% ABV brew. Highly recommended. An awesome beer.

I am beginning to form the opinion that Dann and Martha Paquette, the brewers behind Pretty Things, are to beer what Bill Belichick is to football. Seriously, neither can do any wrong in their field.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Clown Shoes "Tramp Stamp" Belgian-style IPA

We last visited with the talented brewers at Clown Shoes back in the winter, when I reviewed their excellent Russian Imperial Stout, Blaecorn Unidragon.

For IPA month, I decided to see how these fine brewers approached the IPA.

"Tramp Stamp" 
Belgian-style India Pale Ale
Clown Shoes, Mercury Brewing, Ipswich MA
7% ABV

First, I gotta say I love the bottle art. Clown Shoes took some heat last year for the depictions of woman on the labels.

 I'm not going to rehash that here. I think their bottle art is great, and tastefully done. After all, its a beer bottle, not a NY Times Op-ed piece. Lets all relax.

As for the beer in that bottle here is what the Clown Shoes web site says about it:

"Like a stamp on a tramp, this beer is about not so subtle seduction.  Soft but complex malts, Chambly yeast, sweet orange peel, Columbus, Amarillo, and Centennial hops have merged to create a bodacious Belgian IPA."

Pouring a nice cloudy, deep, dark orange with two fingers of foam, this beer looks beautiful in the glass. The off white head refuses to collapse. Ever. Tremendous head retention. 

The nose presents mildly yeasty, and there's not much else. A few swirls of the glass to try to free some more scent from that thick head doesn't release any.

Mouthfeel is thick and full. Heavy for an IPA, a stagnant and ominous presence on the pallette.

Taste presents with citrus notes and grapefruit like bitterness up front, but only mildly. As it moves down the tongue, there there is a slight spike in bitterness before a dry, almost sour, yeasty finish.

Not a bad beer to be sure, but also not overly exciting. I expected bolder flavors here. I didn't register the spices used at all, and that was disappointing. Belgian styles usually have a nice marriage of spices and citrusy brightness, and that distinctive Belgian yeast brings a nice finish. For me, that was all lacking in this brew.

Accordingly,  I don't recommend this brew, not because its bad, but because I feel there are better IPA's available.

Diasgree with my opinion? Let me hear about it! Leave a comment.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Yellow Snow IPA- Rogue Brewing

Our celebration of IPAs continues with a beer that was sent to me in the same package as the infamous Voodoo Doughnut Maple Bacon Ale.

Todays IPA- Yellow Snow IPA, from Rogue Ales- was sent courtesy of Allison O'Neil, who also happens to be the wife of my buddy Brendan, who sent me the above mentioned alcoholic bacon brew.

Now, the idea of drinking a beer called "Yellow Snow", knowing it was sent to me by the same dude who sent me bacon beer, made me a bit wary, to say the least. So I researched this "Yellow Snow" beer thoroughly before I dared to take a sip.

Turns out this Yellow Snow has some serious beer stats:

2011 World Beer Championships - Gold
2010 Australian International Beer Awards—Silver
2010 Northwest Conference (Thirsty Beagle)—3rd
2010 World Beer Championships—Gold (Best of 2010)
2009 World Beer Championships—Gold (Best of 2009)
2008 New Zealand Intl. Beer Awards —Silver

So it doesn't have quite as many gold medals as Michael Phelps, but three golds at the World Beer Championships is pretty darn impressive. 

Yellow Snow IPA
Rogue Brewing, Newport, OR
70 IBU's, 7% ABV

7 Ingredients:
Cara Foam, Melanoiden & Great Western 2-Row Malts; Amarillo & Perle Hops, Free Range Coastal Water & Pacman Yeast.

This beer pours a clear, bright yellow orange, with a tight two fingers of slightly off white head that collapses to a solid and consistent half inch dense foam.

Smell is piney hops, strong, but not overwhelming.

Mouthfeel is full and active, almost chewy.

Taste is super, mouthpuckering bitter hops. How bitter? Bitter like "let me tell you about my ex-girlfriend from 10 years ago" bitter. The immense Grapefruit peel bite then gives way to a more piney hop taste that also punishes the palette. Finish is very dry, and- surprise!- bitter.

Overall, a very good IPA. The initial nice strong hoppy aroma doesn't at all give any hint of the abuse that your taste buds are about receive, but I didn't mind. The bitterness presents overwhelmingly clean, a real celebration of  hops.  Not sessionable by any means, as 70 IBU's are insane.

Recommended to those who really love IPAs.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Celebrating IPA Day With Green Flash Brewing's West Coast IPA

Hoppy IPA Day all!

IPA Month here at MDB continues with an excellent west coast style IPA from Green Flash Brewing in San Diego.

I've been trying to think up ways to frame IPA Month that better presents the many different variations and interpretations of the India Pale Ale Style. An IPA, after all, is fairly simple to define:

(from about.com) IPA Definition: A hoppier version of pale ale. Originally brewed in England with extra hops to survive the journey to British troops stationed in India.

When someone says "IPA", we tend to think of pale ales that are yellow in color and bitter in taste, but they are so much more! IPA's can be black and thick, like a stout or porter (Black IPAs are a huge trend right now). They can be conditioned longer to create an India Pale Lager (Yes, I 'm talking about you, Jacks Abby) . They can be spiced with Jalapeno peppers (thanks Boston Beer Works). They can be hopped continually for two hours, creating a super high ABV hop orgy that drinks more like a fine liquor than a beer (I'm  talking 'bout you Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA).

The style lends itself to many, many interpretations, and one of my absolute favorite things in beer is seeing how different brewers interpret the style. For this years IPA month, I'm leaning towards an East Coast/West Coast comparison. Yesterday I gave you a superb east coast style IPA- Lunch, from the Maine Beer Company. Today we're heading west....

West Coast Style IPA
Green Flash Brewing, San Diego CA
7.3% ABV, 95 IBUs

I had heard of this Green Flash IPA before, specifically when it won the 2009 National IPA Challenge. Only recently have I seen it for sale locally.

The Green Flash web site has this to say about the beer:

A menagerie of hops is layered throughout the brewing process: Simcoe for unique fruitiness and grapefruit zest, Columbus for strong hop pungency, Centennial for pine and citrus notes and Cascade for floral aroma. A multi-dimensional hop experience.
This beer pours a hazy orange with two fingers of thick, creamy,  foamy tan head that has serious staying power. It eventually collapses a bit, but still leaves a healthy, bubbly lacing on the surface and glass.

Smell is pungent, "in your face", piney hops (and I love it!).

Mouthfeel is creamy, velvety, luscious. Excellent body.

Taste is, at first, an absolute assault of citrusy, super bitter, super strong grapefruit on the palette. Luckily the initial assault retreats substantially, although it never quite leaves. The lingering grapefruit bitterness carries over to a very dry finish.

This is a rock solid IPA. I wouldn't have guessed it was west coast though, as I feel it was missing a bit of the brightness that I tend to associate with west coast style IPAs. But maybe I have not had enough of them yet?

I recommend this beer to hop heads and anyone planning a BBQ. Not sessionable (in my opinion anyway) due to the IBUs and ABV.

I think this beer lends it self extremely well to a comparison with Maine Beer Companies "Lunch" IPA. Both are the same ABV, 7%, and both pour almost the exact same color and clarity (hazy). But they could not be more different in taste.

Here is my first East Coast/West Coast IPA comparison-

Lunch smells very sweet, with overtones of tropical fruits in the nose.
West Coast is all hops in the nose, Piney hops to be exact. there is no sweetness at all.

Lunch also starts bitter, but not as extreme, and then it transitions to an almost sweet, juicy profile.
West Coast is all business, and its business is to bring the bitter hops, which is does exceptionally well.

Both finish dry, but Lunch has almost no bitterness in the finish. Sessionable due to the smoothness.
West Coast has a definite bitter after taste. Not sessionable due to the super bitter 95 IBUs.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

IPA Month Begins With "Lunch"...

Its August again, and I've decided to once again dedicate this month to my favorite beer style- the IPA!

This year we are kicking off IPA month in style, as I finally got my hands on a few bottles of Maine Beer Company's legendary "Lunch" IPA.

This beer is constantly mentioned among the ranks of the best IPAs in the country, often compared to Russian Rivers' "Pliny the Elder" and The Alchemists "Heady Topper".

At 7% ABV, this beer blurs the line between IPA and Double/Imperial IPA. I'm tempted to classify it more closely to more a regular IPA due to its incredible drinkability, unusual with an IPA as the hop bitterness tends to preclude sessionability. However, this is not a standard beer by any measure..

Here's my Lunch experience-

Lunch India Pale Ale
Maine Beer Company
Portland, ME
7% abv

Malt – American 2-Row, CaraPils, Caramel 40L, Munich 10L, Red Wheat

Hops – Warrior, Amarillo, Centennial, Simcoe

This beer pours a hazy red orange, with a thick, luscious slightly off white head that remains throughout the drink, leaving lots of beautiful lacing on the sides of the glass.

Smell is Amazing- at first, sweet, with hints of tropical fruit. A second sniff reveals the treasure trove of citrusy hops underneath. Notes of orange and grapefruit begin to permeate the nose.

Mouthfeel is similarly amazing- soft and luxurious. Velvety smooth on the tongue, embracing the palette as it washes over.

Taste is hoppy greatest, but not over stated like you might expect. Grapefruit bitterness envelopes and plays on the tongue, but just to tease before it transitions into more a juicy, red grapefruit like sweetness and wipes out the introductory hop bitterness. Finish is dry and a touch spicy.

This is quite possibly the most perfectly balanced IPA that I've ever had.

A superb IPA. Superior smell, mouthfeel and drinkability make this a "must buy" brew.  Taste is excellent, although I'd personally like a bit more hop bitter kick. A more drinkable IPA I've not had in my life.

Highly recommended. A must buy if you can find it. Distribution is limited to NE currently, as I understand it.