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Ithaca alpHalpHa

February 21st, 2011 beckel

Today I have a brew that I had almost forgotten about. Luckily it hasn’t been sitting in my cellar for too long and at 8.5% ABV I have faith this brew could store well, albeit at a loss of hop esters as is typical. While I have yet to write about Ithaca Brewing I have had the pleasure of sampling both their Brute a delicious golden sour ale and Flower Power a bright West Coast inspired IPA. Called a “Double Honey Bitter” the interestingly named alpHalpHa is rather unique beer made with organic Pilsner malt, New York grown Cascade hops, local alfalfa honey and an American yeast strain. Part of their Excelsior series of limited edition brews alpHalpHa is released annually in early fall and is sure to be a fun take on the Imperial IPA style. This bottle is batch# E!013.

Pours a lovely orange hue, notable haze is present but the color remains bright and appetizing while completely opaque. A massive layer of white head is created and fades over many minutes leaving lacing on every surface of the glass. Sweet and slightly spicy herbal esters hit the nose initially, smoothed out by further honey and alfalfa esters throughout. Beautifully earthy, reasonably sweet and modestly alcoholic on the nose. Some of the rich herbal esters remind me a bit of menthol or mint, but not nearly as intense. Tastes strongly of alfalfa honey, with smooth orange hop esters coming in mid-palate, finishing with clean, sweet malt and gentle mint. The mouthfeel is almost silky and the body is medium. This brew would likely have a clean golden color as the bottle suggests if it weren’t for the yeast that is obviously still in suspension. Upon opening the bottle I noticed the cap was covered in thick, solidified yeast as is the crown and some of the neck of the bottle. While I find this a bit odd, because the bottle was stored upright it doesn’t detract from the wonderful flavors present. The intense herbal esters brought to this brew from the locally sourced honey is a brilliant example of how different a product can be based on its terroir. Further it shows how additional ingredients can impart enjoyable flavors into beer and not to be afraid of experimentation. Modest bitterness is present in both the nose and flavor but over all this is more of a herbal, fruity brew than any conventional Imperial IPA. The lighter body brought by use of honey is very nice, making this brew very palatable and easy to drink while contributing to it’s solid 8.5% ABV. At about $13 for a 750ml bottle this may not be a cheap beer, but is worth every penny in my book. A good choice for fans of both Saisons and IPAs, obscuring styles wonderfully. While I would be interested to see how much brighter the hop character of this beer would be fresh, I found it very delightful with a few months of age. If you are lucky enough to live where Ithaca distributes, give it a shot and ride your bike.

Ithaca alpHalpHa

Ska Modus Hoperandi

February 18th, 2011 beckel

I typically try to write about beers before ever trying them as I enjoy the process of tasting, learning and watching opinions evolve. So I must note that I first had a glass of this brew last night and can’t wait to consume it again. I have had the joy of sampling a few other brews from Ska Brewing in the past and was ever so happy when a good friend brought me a mixed 12-pack of their brews and a few other Colorado beers.  Ska has only recently gotten into canning some of their brews, but I’ll still give them credit for packaging in my favorite manner. I don’t know a ton about Ska, aside from the fact that they unfortunately don’t distribute to Minnesota, but it seems like they have fun with brewing and that is key in my book.

Pours a barely translucent rich amber hue with a notable amount of yeast sediment in suspension. Just under two fingers of bright white head is produced, leaving a moderate amount of lacing behind. The aroma of this brew is simply fantastic. A multitude of citrus and other fruits; orange, grapefruit, apricot, mango & soft pine are complimented by a sweet malt backbone and plenty of clean bitterness on the nose. The flavor brings you almost as much delight with bright passion fruit, orange and grapefruit playing with earthy hop esters, malty sweetness and modest bitterness from mid-palate to the finish. I hate to note that I enjoy the aroma of this beer more than the flavor, but that should simply speak to how remarkable the aroma truly is. A delicious beer with enough bitterness and diverse fruit esters to keep any hop head happy, yet not brutally bitter and fantastically drinkable. Some of the citrus esters are reminiscent of a West Coast IPA, but the slightly caramely, rich malt character reminds you it is a Midwest brew. At 6.8% ABV I could drink this brew all night long, and would if only it were available in our market. Witty names aside, this brew is definitely worth your time and money if you enjoy quality IPAs. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Ska Modus Hoperandi IPA