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

Laurelwood Workhorse IPA

January 5th, 2011 beckel

Today I have another west coast IPA, this time from the folks at Laurelwood Brewing out of Portland, OR. Founded in 2001 with a 7bbl brewery, Laurelwood has grown extensively in the past 10 years currently operating 6 pub locations (if you count the soon to be re-opened pizza co.) including two locations in PDX airport. Their website stresses their support for the community, locavore and families. Aside from appreciating their moral stance I always respect breweries that list their ingredients giving Laurelwood more points before even sampling their brews. Workhouse IPA is brewed with 2-row, Crystal 40 & Carapils Malts. Simcoe, Amarillo, Cascade & Columbus Hops. Dry hopped twice and rocking a solid 80 IBU; I’m getting thirsty already.

Pours a relatively dark, slightly brownish red hue with very little head created initially. As you continue to pour carbonation erupts from the bottom of the glass and cascades up creating about a finger and a half of tight white bubbles. After a minute or two the carbonation fades leaving a small amount of residual head and nice lacing. Aroma is full of fruity hops, lots of orange and passion fruit esters that scream Simcoe & Amarillo with out being overly orangy as both hops can be depending on utilization. Brilliant malty sweetness on the nose adds a nice richness and contrasts the fruity and bitter esters wonderfully. Tastes of sweet dates, passion fruit, orange, grapefruit, earthy hop esters, notable malt sweetness and mild bitterness. This brew is full of citrus as well as a diverse variety of other fruit esters and an impressive malt backbone that makes this beer border on many of the flavor profiles often found in Imperial IPAs. While it just misses the imperial bill at 7.5% ABV the alcohol is almost completely hidden by the robust hops and sweet malts, making this palatable brew far to easy to drink. Body is medium and the mouthfeel is well carbonated and relatively clean. As I continue to drink this brew the pitted fruit esters continue progress towards the middle of the palate and are a very unique and enjoyable character that is very unexpected for the style and make me very curious about the yeast used and more so where the heck it is coming from. My assumption is it is a mix of fruity hop esters playing with my senses and producing independent flavors, but it distinctly reminds me of esters many Belgian yest strains create. This is definitely a creative brew that challenges style parameters and will be enjoyed by many. There are so many diverse hop esters in this brew I am almost tempted to call it a bit confused but it is simply delicious and IPAs as a style are not intended to be overly balanced. If you are into fruity hoppy brews you will be in heaven with this one. If you are looking for sincere bitterness you will not find it, but I think most hop heads will still enjoy the diverse blend of hops and malt. Definitely something to check out if you make it to Oregon. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Laurelwood Workhorse India Pale Ale

Green Flash West Coast IPA

January 4th, 2011 beckel

Today I have what is said to be a shining example of a West Coast IPA from Green Flash Brewing Company out of Vista, California. Founded in 2002 by former pub owners Green Flash has earned a reputation for utilizing the abundant hops conveniently found in their region to make delicious hoppy brews as well as a variety of Belgian inspired Ales that I was previously unaware of. I was lucky enough to get a few bottles of this brew as well as a bottle of their Hop Head Red Ale from an acquaintance in Oregon. While not available in any states immediately around Minnesota, you can find plenty on the coasts as well as a few states in the Midwest (Ohio, Illinois & Colorado).

Pours a lovely orange red hue that brightens greatly when brought to light. A clean two fingers of off white head is produced and clings steadily creating a very attractive pour. After many minutes you are left with a few millimeters of residual head and a good amount of lacing. Aroma is full of bright, rich citrus with notable grapefruit, orange and lemon dancing about your nose backed up by rich malts, nice bitterness and a hint of alcohol. Flavor is very hop forward with massive orange and grapefruit citrus hitting the tongue followed by intense bitterness finishing with enough malt sweetness to cleanse the palate a bit with out making you forget you are drinking a sincerely bitter brew. Citrus esters are beautifully fruity and complex, even with serious grapefruit esters this brew avoids the almost tart acidic esters that sometimes come from over use of Centennial and Cascade hops that I feel plague some “West Coast” India Pale Ales. While malts play a supporting role in this Ale it is a very important one with soft caramel and grain esters complimenting the fruity, bitter bouquet of hops in a way any hop head is sure to appreciate. Body is medium-light and the mouthfeel is smooth and clean, making this 7% ABV brew exceptionally quaff able, provided you like bitterness. While this may not be appreciated by people who prefer classic English examples of the style the brilliant bitterness and overall hop profile is exactly what I am looking for in a seriously hoppy IPA. If you’re lucky enough to get some of this brew fresh you will be a happy person. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Green Flash West Coast IPA

Pelican India Pelican Ale

December 28th, 2010 beckel

Today I have a brew from Pelican Pub & Brewery out of Pacific City, OR. I know almost nothing of Pelican other than the massive notoriety received for their Mother of all Storms, a barrel aged Barleywine. Their website doesn’t say much about their history but it appears they have been winning countless awards since 1996. I was lucky enough to get this brew sent to me by an acquaintance from the area, but it appears you can also order their brews directly from their website, though the shipping is rather steep and they don’t ship to Minnesota…

Pours an attractive copper hue that is very translucent. Over three fingers of tight off white head blossomed as I poured, slowly but steadily building and creating an enjoyable presentation. A vast amount of lacing and residual head are left behind, but what is more impressive is the aroma. Fantastic notes of grapefruit, orange & lemon support an assertive bitterness and enough malt to create just the aroma I am looking for in an IPA. Hops are not as forward in the flavor with malty sweetness hitting my palate first, evolving into solid bitter esters and then the citrus hop notes found in the aroma finally shine. Intense grapefruit is the primary player in the hop profile making the use of Cascade abundantly obvious. The malt backbone is spot on to support the serious hops used in this brew but currently I am getting a notable astringency that could possibly come from the quantity of hops and overall bitterness of the brew, but more likely has to do with the hops deteriorating over time. This bottle has been sitting in my fridge for about two months and while the bottle isn’t dated I fear I have left this brew to stew for too long. Even with the imperfection that I fear I am at fault for this is one damn good beer with pretty much everything I am looking for in a quality India Pale Ale.  Body is medium and the mouthfeel is reasonably light for the style. At 7.5% ABV this ale is far too drinkable for those who love hops. The intense bitterness is more than enough to completely distract your palate from the alcohol content and encourage you to drink this 22oz bottle with out  a second thought. As the beer warms, or perhaps as I get used to it, the astringency lessens but I would still love to try this brew fresh from the tap for comparison. If you enjoy bitter, citrus laden, hop forward IPAs you will certainly enjoy this brew. A very solid ale that I wish I could get in my market. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Pelican India Pelican Ale

Port Wipeout IPA

November 17th, 2010 beckel

Today I have another fun beer we can not get in Minnesota. From the well regarded Port Brewing Company out of San Marcos, CA. Wipeout is Port’s year round IPA and as the West Coast is said to be the mecca of hops I expect this ale to deliver. Port Brewing Company formed in 2006 after Vince and Gina Marsaglia decided to expand the brewing capabilities of their previous brewpubs, called Pizza Port where they first started brewing in 1992, by purchasing a production facility previously owned by Stone Brewing Company. To make things more complicated Port Brewing is only half of the beer that comes out of their brewery with the other half brewed by renowned Tomme Arthur under the name Lost Abby. Producing Belgian inspired ales that are often barrel aged. But more on that another time. According to their website Wipeout is brewed with Two Row, Wheat, Carapils & English Crystal Malt. Amarillo, Centennial & Simcoe Hops (though the bottle adds Summit hops to the list and while only listing four varietals suggests that it is brewed with no less than five hop varieties). Then fermented with White Labs’ California Ale Yeast.

Pours a hazy pale yellowish orange hue that is quite opaque. When poured down the center of the glass over four fingers of white head are quickly produced, so quickly it overflowed a bit. A few millimeters of residual head persists and a small amount of lacing is left behind. Aroma is quite fantastic with robust citrus hops up front, lemon, grapefruit & orange, complimented by modest malty sweetness, gentle wheat esters, alcohol and hop bitterness. Massive citrus hits the palate immediately with intense lemon and grapefruit, followed by delightful sweetness and esters of Crystal Malt. Midpalate you are greeted by serious bitterness and some orange esters. Finishes with a blend of all of the above with citrus esters playing with malty sweetness and plenty of bitterness. While this ale comes in at a reasonable 7% ABV the bitter hops completely distract me from the slight alcohol in the flavor. Body is medium-light and the mouthfeel is very clean and well carbonated. A nice West Coast IPA with beautiful, intense citrus, enjoyable caramel (Crystal) malt esters and unquestionable bitterness. If you enjoy bright citrus hops with enough malts to back them up and unfaltering bitterness in your IPAs you will not be disappointed. As far as I’m concerned a quintessential West Coast IPA. While I am still partial to my fantastic local IPAs it would be nice to have a deliciously fresh brew like this available in my market. Most fans of American IPAs will enjoy this brew, I know I do. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Port Wipeout IPA

Boundary Bay IPA

November 14th, 2010 beckel

Boundary Bay Brewing Company is a Brewpub out of Bellingham, Washington that was recognized as the nations largest brewpub in 2008 by the Brewers Association. They strive to brew classic styles but say they also like the “push the envelope” with some beers such as the IPA I have before me. They only bottle a few of their beers so I am happy to have the opportunity to sample this brew.

Pours a dark amber hue that becomes a hazy orange hue when brought to light. Two fingers of bright white head are produced and stay for many minutes leaving a few millimeters of residual head and a decent amount of lacing. Smells of bright hops, a good deal of orange esters likely from Amarillo Hops, passion fruit follows further encouraging my belief. Gentle earthiness and a hint of alcohol. Malt flavors are very forward and robust, followed by solid fruity hops, with orange and passion fruit shining through once again. Bitterness hits you mid palate and continues through the finish. As it warms additional esters of lemon and grapefruit come into play creating a nicely balanced yet American influenced India Pale Ale. A nice ale with roots in the English approach to the style but stepped up with American hops and fruity gusto. With a medium body and a reasonably clean mouthfeel this 6.4% ABV brew will be quite approachable to most. I encourage consumption of most beers at just a bit colder than room temperature with one of the few exceptions being IPAs due to the astringency that is sometimes exposed in hop esters. With this malt forward IPA, like many Imperial IPAs I highly suggest letting it warm for 10 minutes or more to experience how nicely the malty esters continue to evolve and allow the caramel notes to shine providing nice diversity and even more enjoyable contrast with the fruity hops. Or just drink it slowly like I have, it comes in 22oz bottles after all. If you enjoy malty IPAs but are looking for something more Americanized this is the brew for you. With enough bitterness to fit the style and even appease most of us state side, but enough malt presence to bring solid balance this is unquestionably a very well rounded beer. If they brew the rest of their beer as well as this IPA I would love to see more from Boundary Bay. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Boundary Bay IPA

Ninkasi Total Domination IPA

November 13th, 2010 beckel

Today I have a beer I am very excited to sample. Ninkasi Brewing out of Eugene, Oregon is a rather new brewery with their first batch of beer, in fact this beer, brewed on June of 2006 in a leased restaurant space. I have been wanting to sample their brews for some time as they get good reviews but unfortunately their beers are unavailable in the Minnesota market.

Upon pouring carbonation quickly cascades from the middle of the glass creating a lovely two fingers of tight white bubbles. After fading a millimeter or so of carbonation persists with clouds of carbonation sitting on the surface of the brew. The very cloudy apricot hue along with the almost creamy looking head creates a very nice presentation. Aroma is fantastically hoppy with strong esters of orange, mango, followed by other citrus’ particularly grapefruit, rounded off with enjoyable malt sweetness and some nice bitterness. Flavor is ripe with fruity hops, bright mango and orange upfront followed by intense, but fantastic bitterness. Lemon and grapefruit are apparent mid palate and malty sweetness is noticed just after helping balance the sincere bitterness as you continue to drink. As it continues to warm esters of passion fruit start to appear and the fruity esters continue to to shine with the bitterness lessening a bit. Though not particularly balanced this is one beautifully hoppy, bitter brew that I would happily drink all day long. Body is medium and the mouthfeel is surprisingly clean for such a resinous brew. With a reasonable 6.7% ABV this would definitely be a go to beer if I could get it in my market. With the delicious bright fruits and intense bitterness this beer would pair perfectly with a spicy meal. If you enjoy a solid IPA and aren’t afraid of bitterness this brew is definitely worth your time. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Ninkasi Total Domination IPA

Surly Wet

October 21st, 2010 beckel

So we have the infamous Wet from my local Surly Brewing. Though only the 2nd year they have brewed this Fresh Hopped IPA and the first year they have canned it the hype surrounding it is as intense as everything else Surly and limited. Surly Brewing is unquestionably one of my favorite breweries though I rarely get around to writing about their beers. Coming in at close to $17 a 4-pack this is no cheap brew but you get what you pay for with craft beer and a brew like this is not cheap to produce. Brewed with hops that were harvested 3 days prior to boiling this is one brew that any fan of serious hops can appreciate. I have had this brew a number of times since its release, even being lucky enough to sample Wet – All The Way, their very limited unblended version of the brew that was available at the Autumn Brew Review. While I find the distributed version of Wet fantastically more balanced and much more palatable it was fun to try the insanely hoppy unblended brew that contained an intense 20 lbs of hops per barrel. Canned 10/11/10.

Pours an attractive completely translucent copper hue. Producing about two fingers of bright white head that lingers for a few minutes leaving a nice amount of lacing and a few millimeters of residual head. Smells of massive tangerine, Mandarin orange, grapefruit, passion fruit, lemon, intense bitterness and a myriad of other citrus and fruit esters. Flavor starts with rich caramel malt, solid bitterness, vibrant and diverse fruit esters obviously from the serious amount of Citra Hops used in this brew. Mild herbal hop esters compliment the fruit notes and an oat like grain character adds to the relatively full but clean mouthfeel. Body is meduim and at 7.5% you better be careful because your mind will tell you to drink this brew all night long. After taste is a bit grassy as you will often see from the use of fresh hops but the lingering flavors are still quite nice encouraging you to take sip after sip. If only harvest time could be more than once a year I would be a happy man. Any fan of IPAs will be all over this one but unfortunately your time is running out to get some. If you are luck enough to already have some in your possession drink it quick as this is not a beer to be aged. If not I’m sure there are still a few places to grab some. If this beer could be produced year round and at a slightly more economical price I would drink it on a regular basis. Though last years was only available on draft I’m pretty sure I like this balance of this years better. If you enjoy fruity hops and aren’t afraid of a nice dose of bitterness you will be in heaven. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Sury Wet

Chatoe Rogue Wet Hop Ale

October 13th, 2010 beckel

Today we have the Wet Hop Ale from Rogue’s Chatoe Series of BYO Certified ales. I enjoyed a small pour of this brew on Monday at Town Hall while sampling their Fresh Hop Ale (which was fantastic) as well as Surly’s Wet and Deschutes Hop Trip. While I enjoyed it it wasn’t a big enough sample to do it justice, particularly with so many similar beers side by side. Crafted with Carawheat, Carafoam, First Growth Dare & Risk Malts. First Growth Freedom, Revolution, Independent, Rebel & Liberty Hops. Fermented with their usual Pacman Yeast. For those not familiar with the concept of wet (fresh) hop ales, most ales are brewed with dried hops as hops will mold if stored wet for very long. In the case of wet hop ales freshly picked hops are rushed from the hop yard straight to the brewery as quickly as possible and then boiled with the wort (unfermented beer) like any other brew. The lucky folks at Rogue have their hop yards only 77 miles away. Talk about fresh.

Pours deep red hue that is rather opaque and looks like cranberries when away from light and bright orange when brought to light. About two fingers of tight off white bubbles are formed and fade within a minute. Smells strongly of bright, resinous citrus, peach, orange, gentle herbal notes, a variety of fruity esters and very soft bitterness. Tastes of bright fruity hops, notably orange, tangerine, lemon and peach, mild bitterness and a very nice slightly sweet malt balance. As it warms alcohol becomes a bit more notable on the nose and caramel esters start to shine. Though this brew comes in at a decent 6.4% ABV it certainly doesn’t show. An enjoyable brew with a nice array of fresh hop esters and plenty of malty sweetness to not be overwhelmed. If you enjoy fruity hop esters but aren’t into intense bitterness this is the brew for you. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Chatoe Rogue Wet Hop Ale

Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye

September 25th, 2010 beckel

Today I have another beer from my Great Taste trip and another brew form the folks at Bear Republic. This time around it is an 8% ABV IPA brewed with 18% Rye Malt. If it tastes any where near as good as it smells I think I’m going to be one happy man.

Pours a rich ruby hue that is very opaque barely allowing you to see objects on the other side. Three fingers of tight off white head are produced and don’t move for many minutes eventually fading and leaving a very large amount of lacing for the style. Smells fantastically of citrus hops, orange, grapefruit, pear, melon, grapes, bright floral characters, rich grain including a bit of rye, solid bitterness and a good deal of carbonation. Flavor is full of bright citrus, notably orange, grapefruit and melon, deep delicious rye, serious bitterness and a bit of alcohol. The intense citrus & floral hops play wonderfully with the herbal and slightly spicy rye esters creating one fantastic brew. Mouthfeel is clean and body is medium. Overall a quite fantastic brew. Though I have only had the opportunity to sample two of Bear Republic’s beers and both have been IPAs I have been sincerely impressed by what they present and if their other beers are anywhere near as good I will definitely be back for much more. If you enjoy bitter IPAs this brew will do a good job of showing the enjoyable attributes Rye can add to the style. Any fan of bitter, floral and fruity IPAs will be all over this one. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye