Posts tagged ipa
Posts tagged ipa
Westbrook Brewing Co.
Mt. Pleasant, SC
Citrus Ninja Exchange Double IPA
About a year ago, Westbook got a little hot and heavy with the guys at the Charleston Beer Exchange. Both were turned on by their mutual love for citrus-forward IPAs, and when their love was consummated, they birthed a beautiful - and delicious - bundle of joy known as Citrus Ninja Exchange. The Cascade single-hopped DIPA was stuffed with 50 lbs. of grapefruit, then dry-hopped four times. Needless to say, it was hoppy, juicy and heavy on the citrus.
Or so I’ve heard. The first born was a draft-only concoction that I never got to try. But this year, they got together again and gave that first brew a younger brother, this time with a simpler malt bill and a blend of American and New Zealand hops for Citrus Ninja 2.0.
Ninja pours a classic deep, hazy orange color. There’s about half a finger of head that disappears pretty quickly, as you’d expect a 9 percenter would. That’s coupled with some very nice lacing and alcohol legs.
If they were going for a citrus-foward beer, they achieved it in spades. The grapefruit wafts out of the glass as you’re pouring, and there’s just an epic grapefruit note on the nose. It’s very astringent and a tad boozy. Just imagine sticking your face in a freshly cut grapefruit and inhaling. It’s like that, but with less pulp.
Tastewise, there’s a slight bitterness on the tongue and a medium mouthfeel. There’s sort of a syrupy sweetness and a New Belgian-esque bready maltiness to it. Of course, that’s all taken over by the gigantic explosion of grapefruit on the back. It seriously tastes like eating pure grapefruit. The alcohol burn on the middle and back of the palate are exactly what you’d get from a fresh grapefruit. There are also hints of other citrus - lime, lemon, orange - but it’s overwhelmingly grapefruit centric. There’s also sort of a pulpy aftertaste and a dry finish. The beer, in a word, is amazing.
Fruit- and citrus-forward IPAs are my favorite. They can have an aggressiveness and power to them, but still mellow nicely and become more enjoyable as your palate adjusts. Citrus Ninja is an assault on the taste buds, what with its huge tartness and astringency, but it’s one you just want to keep drinking. The flavor is full, lush biting, but just oh so damn good. Here’s to hoping this becomes an annual collaboration.
Green Flash Brewery - San Diego, CA
Founders Brewing Co. - Grand Rapids, MI
Linchpin White IPA
White IPAs must be the thing to brew these days. Not that I’m complaining or anything. Taking a style such as the IPA and brewing it in a different way is fine with me. And when you get two breweries as great as Green Flash and Founders to do one together, it’s as if you’re just asking for my money.
Linchpin is brewed with wheat malt, two yeast strains and three different hop varieties. What you get it an IPA with a Belgian sweetness but a huge bouquet of citrus. Very drinkable, very refreshing and incredibly enjoyable on a hot summer day.
Linchpin pours a crystal-clear straw yellow color. There’s a gigantic head that fills half the glass and lingers forever. There’s some incredible lacing but not much alcohol legs.
The nose is incredible. A big West Coast hop presence, a bit of a Belgian malt sweetness, a little bit of pine and a little bit of peach, tangerine, oranges and mangos. It’s bright and delicious.
That bite of bitterness on the tongue hits you first, and from there big, bright West Coast hops explode on the mouth. The citrus and pine hop notes are crazy throughout the entire thing, and there’s a slight fruity sweetness from the Belgian yeast. The flavor it full and filling but the finish is dry. It’s a refreshing contrast.
While the white IPA style is just now coming into prominence, the ones I’ve tried so far have been great. And Linchpin easily takes the cake as the best White IPA I’ve had. Not only does it come from two great breweries, but it shows a great mix of the styles from the the breweries’ two respective regions.
Stone Brewing Co.
Ruination Tenth Anniversary IPA
What is there to say about Stone Ruination that hasn’t been said before. As one of catalysts for double and imperial IPAs, the intensely hoppy, insanely bitter yet incredibly drinkable beer is well known and much loved by hopheads.
So, what to do when your “liquid poem to the glory of the hop” celebrates its 10th birthday? Kick it up a notch.
Everything in Stone’s 10th anniversary celebration of Ruination is turned up to 11. The ABV was upped from 7.7% to 10.8%, the amount of hops used in the brewing process was doubled to five pound per barrel, and then another pound of Centennial and Citra hops are used during dry hopping. While Ruination is phenomenal and easily one of my favorite DIPAs, the 10th anniversary is easily one of the best imperial IPAs I’ve ever had.
The pour is a clear brownish orange with a finger or two of head that lingers for a while, surprising for a high ABV beer. There’s some really gorgeous and very strong lacing and nice alcohol legs around the sides of the glass.
The nose is, in a word, delicious. There’s massive, epic notes of tropical fruits such as peach, pineapple and mango. There’s kind of a candie sugar note as well, I’m guessing from the increased malts used to balance out the hops.
For a beer this bitter, it was surprisingly mellow on the front. I have a feeling that’s just because the bitterness destroyed my tastebuds as it explodes with a huge hop note in the middle and settles into a surprisingly smooth and juicy finish. It just glides across your tongue. The bitterness is, of course, damn strong, but it’s evened out with all the malts that go into the brew. If there’s a beer that’ll give you hop mouth, it’s definitely this one. Big piney hops on the back.
This is absolutely an A+ beer for me. Ruination changed the game for me as far as hoppy beers go, and what the guys are Stone have done with this special batch is really impressive. It’s still insanely hoppy, but incredibly drinkable and show just how damn good the guys at Stone are. Pick one up if you’re man enough to handle it. (Sorry, couldn’t pass up the chance for a bit of Stone arrogance.)
Anchorage Brewing Company
Galaxy White IPA
Anchorage Brewing Company came out of nowhere about a year ago with a slate of insanely complex and equally as good beers. Founded by Gabe Fletcher, the former brewer of Alaskan-based Midnight Sun Brewing Company, Anchorage specializes in limited batches of barrel-aged beers brewed with Brettanomyces. But the barrel-aging process for each beer is insane.
Take, for example, Galaxy, the brewery’s newish attempt at the fledgling style of white IPAs. The beer is brewed with Galaxy hops, coriander, kumquats and peppercorns. Then it’s then fermented and aged in French oak foudres with a wit yeast. THEN it’s dry-hopped with Galaxy again. THEN it’s bottle conditioned with Brett and wine yeast.
Like I said: Insane.
Brett is a tricky yeast to work with, so having the skill to not only work with it but barrel age AND make beers as damn good as these … well, it’s pretty impressive.
Anyway, on to the beer.
Galaxy has a hazy light yellow color to it. Being bottle conditioned, the huge five fingers of a fluffy head doesn’t surprise me. The head doesn’t last for long, though. There some good lacing and really no alcohol legs.
The first thing that hits your nose is that huge Brett funk. There’s a big hit of lemon peel, citrus and a slight sweetness from the kumquats, and a big pepper note too. The citrus works so well with the funkiness.
The mouthfeel is light and crisp, but there’s a huge explosion of flavors on the back. A big, big barnyard funk from the Brett mixes with massive lemon, orange and pineapple notes. The spices are very forward as well.
Galaxy, as with every Anchorage beer, is excellent. The intricacies and complexity of the brewing process are reflected in the price of each bottle, but anything and everything with the Anchorage label is worth the price.
Three Floyds Brewing Company
Arctic Panzer Wolf Imperial IPA
I’ve been very lucky lately when it comes to sampling some of Three Floyds’ consistently awesome beers, and that trend continued recently after getting my hands on a bottle of Arctic Panzer Wolf, their year-round DIPA. But while most Imperial IPAs go for a sweeter, more boozy taste, APW goes for a drier, crisper flavor that’s an interesting surprise.
The beer pours a hazy sunset orange color with a bit of yellow around the edges. Two fingers worth of head dissipates fairly quickly, but there’s some very nice lacing and alcohol legs.
Surprisingly, there’s a really nice dry white wine note on the nose. It’s that very muted alcohol smell with that crisp light citrus smell. There’s a bit of pine behind that along with grapefruit and apricot. A little bit of booze on the nose as well. But overall, it’s a very rich and tropical smell.
Following the nose, the taste at first is quite dry. Those white wine characters come through really strongly. There’s an extremely dry pine hop taste throughout the mouth and very prevalent bitter hops. It’s very crisp and not really sticky or resionous like most DIPAs. Lots of grapefruit and pepper on the mouth. The taste gets a bit stickier and sweeter as you go along. In all, it’s a very well-balanced DIPA with a unique dryness not found in other similar beers.
And with that, I’ve depleted my stock of Three Floyds. Beer mail is encouraged and gladly accepted.
Westbrook Brewing Co.
Mt. Pleasant, SC
Covert Hops Extra Black Ale
I was able to try Covert Hops on draft during a recent trip down to Westbrook and the South Carolina coast and have been meaning to pick up a bottle of it. That was about two months ago and I didn’t get around to grabbing a bomber until this past weekend. While I was worried the hops in Hops would die down a bit, I was happy to find that it was just as roasty and hoppy as I remember it.
As the bottle would hint, Covert Hops pours black with a gigantic head on top. I was worried the bottle was a bit over-carbonated, but after reading some more reviews I realized I wasn’t alone. Of course, the lacing is really nice on it, but at just under 6%, there’s no alcohol legs.
The roasted malts and piney hops are the most prevalent on the nose. There’s a hint of bitter dark chocolate and just a very slight hint of dark fruit, giving it a slight sweet character. That characteristic black IPA smell is what’s the most present, though.
There’s a big bitterness on the front of the tongue. The piney hops come through huge in the middle of the mouth. (There are 4 lbs. used in each batch.) The roasted notes reappear on the back with a big bitter black coffee taste. It’s a very light-bodied beer, which is in contrast to its appearance. Maybe a bit too watery, but awfully drinkable.
Quick side note: While they’ve been around for just more than a year, Westbrook has some of the best labels I’ve seen. Each beer is unmistakably Westbrook, with the name featured very prominently below each central design, but the labels themselves are littered with all these little drawings across them. But what I appreciate the most is that each bottle includes a short description of the beer, the suggested serving temperature, the proper glassware and an easily noticeable bottling date, four things EVERY craft brewer should have on their label. Cheers to Westbrook for eye-catching yet informative artwork.
Shmaltz Brewing Co.
Saratoga Springs, NY/San Francisco, CA
He’Brew Hop Manna IPA
I’m sorry to say, but Shmaltz Brewing - the makers of the He’Brew and Coney Island lines of beer - is one of those breweries that generally falls into the “miss” category for me. Among my beer geek friends, Coney Island is regarded with a resounding “meh” and He’Brew has never had much fanfare either. But lately, He’Brew has been on a roll with me.
To give credit where it’s due, the guys behind He’Brew make some ridiculous - and ridiculously good - beers, both in alcohol content and creativity. It’s as if they’re constantly trying to find new ways to barrel age and blend their catalog and one-up their last batch. For example, Genesis 15:15, their insane new anniversary barleywine, is brewed with a variety of fruit juices and then aged in rye whiskey barrels; Jewbelation Fifteen is a blend of 15 different malts and 15 different hops; and Funky Jewbelation blends six different beers, all aged in different barrels for different amounts of time.
And then, there’s Hop Manna, their new year-round single IPA. It’s a break from the extreme, coming in at just 65 IBUs and 6.8% ABV, making it a fairly sessionable beer. It’s brewed with 2-Row, Munich, Wheat and Vienna malts and Warrior, Cascade, Citra, Amarillo Crystal and Centennial hops, then dry hopped again with Centennial, Cascade and Citra. So, yeah, sounds hoppy as hell. I had previously grabbed a 12 oz. of Hop Manna a few months back and - as with most prior He’Brew offerings - was really underwhelmed. But as is the case as of late, the newest and freshest release really surprised me.
It pours a golden sunset orange and swells to a huge bubbly head on top. There are big fluffy bubbles throughout which lend to some really nice lacing.
This thing is a major hop bomb on the nose. It’s a big East Coast-smelling IPA, with grassy notes coming through most prominently. There are hints of tropical fruits, mainly pineapple and peach, but also a definite malt presence. It’s sort of a biscuit smell. There’s a hint of grapefruit on the back, but overall a really great showcase of the hop profile.
While it’s a hop monster on the nose, it’s a much more subdued taste, which was a nice surprise. The grassiness and spice notes come through first on the tongue. That dries out a bit mis palate and toward the back of the throat, where the maltiness comes back in. The citrus pops in the middle, with big grapefruit and orange juice notes being the most prevalent. It’s got a real nice dry finish to it and isn’t overpowering in one way or another.
With Shmaltz/He’Brew being a “bigger is better” kind of brewery and single and double IPAs trying to out-hop each other lately, it’s surprising to see Shmaltz not only buck their own trend, but that of the market as well. Hop Manna is a nice break from the monstrous hop bombs being produced today. It’s very well balanced, though clearly a hop-forward beer, but not overly so. And it’s definitely wiped away previous doubts about their products.
L’chaim to them.
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
Hoptimum Imperial IPA
Last year was the debut of Sierra Nevada’s Hoptimum, a whole-cone imperial IPA clocking in at 100 IBUs and hopped to the high heavens. It was a much-hyped and sought after beer.
And for me, it’s was met with a resounding “meh.”
For a beer that screams “hop” - from the name to the color of the label to the fact there’s some freaky Silent Hill looking dude on the label with a hop cone for a head - I was quite underwhelmed. It wasn’t bad so much as it was just a major disappointment.
I’m guessing they went back to the drawing board with Hoptimum, because this year’s batch is simply astounding. First, a tribute to the hopping process:
First, the beer is brewed with German Magnum and Simcoe as well as some secret proprietary hop variety. Following that, it’s dry hopped with more Simcoe and proprietary hops, and then “torpedo hopped” with Citra and Chinook. Torpedo hopping is described as an “espresso machine for beer,” releasing the resin and essential oils without imparting any additional bitterness.
Anyway, on to the beer.
Hoptimum pours a crystal-clear brownish orange color. There’s a good two fingers worth of a bubbly rocky head, but it dissipates very quickly. (This is a 10% beer, after all.) Some really nice alcohol legs.
The Simcoe hits you on the nose to start. You get those wet pine and resin characteristics. There are hints of sweet fruits, oranges and peaches. There’s some astringency and a little malt note but otherwise just a really sweet, juicy smelling beer.
There’s a muted bitterness on the front of the tongue, but it just explodes in the middle of the mouth. A real nice bouquet of pine, bitterness and sweeter fruits take over the palate. The grapefruit really comes through on the back. There’s a slight maltiness that works well balancing out the hops and kind of a sweet finish, but the bitterness masks it slightly. It does have a nice bitter dry finish to it, an interesting end to an otherwise rich and flavorful beer.
Kudos to the folks at Sierra Nevada. This year’s batch is a vast improvement over last year, and I like the break from 22 oz. bombers for 12 oz. 4-packs. Makes an already drinkable yet ass-kicking beer a bit more accessible.
Foothills Brewing Co.
North Carolina is slowly making its way toward being the beer capital of the Southeast, if not the entire East Coast. Their wealth of fantastic beer and breweries has been a lure for craft beer jugernauts such as Sierra Nevada and New Belgium, both of which just announced plans to build their new - and first - East Coast breweries in the little town of Asheville, NC, which has been voted BeerCity USA three years in a row.
With all those bigger breweries setting up shop in my neighbor to the north, it’s likely the spotlight will shine on all the great beer coming out of the state, including those from my personal favorite NC brewery, Foothills.
Foothills, for me, is another brewery that hits all the right notes. I have yet to have a bad or even lackluster beer from the brewery. They’re renowned for their Sexual Chocolate imperial stout and People’s Porter, which are both superb for their respective styles. And when they do their releases of the barrel-aged versions, the crowds are just as strong as any other rare release days.
Not only that, but they’re staffed by some of the nicest, funniest and passionate brewers I’ve met. About a year ago, I went to a five-course beer dinner they did at a local bar and was blown away by the selection. (It was the first time I had most of their offerings.) And more than an hour after the dinner had finished, my fiancee and I were still standing around talking with Brewmaster Jamie Bartholomaus. He even took time to sketch out this illustration of the proper way to move a keg, which I still have on my fridge:
(Jamie said he planned to use this illustration during interviews with prospective employees. If they could somehow decipher it, he said he’d hire them on the spot.)
Anyway, back to the beer. Hoppyum is the brewery’s year-round IPA. It’s brewed with a variety of hops, but the brewers focused mainly on Simcoe, giving it that juicy tropical fruit smell and taste. And at a little more than 6% ABV, it won’t wreck your weeknight.
Hoppy pours a crystal clear brownish orange, almost a copper color with a hint of amber toward the center. It’s topped with about a finger-and-a-half worth of a light bubbly head and some mild lacing.
The Simcoe shines through on the nose as the most prevalent hop. Those characteristic juicy tropical fruits - orange, papaya, apricot, grapefruit, mango - are very forward. There’s also a dry characteristic to it which mutes the scents somewhat, but doesn’t dampen them.
On the front of the tongue is a swell of those juicy fruit characteristics. It’s a very rich, wet flavor to it. As it progresses, the hop bitterness kicks in toward the middle of the palate, and interesting twist for an IPA (it’s usually concentrated on the front). But that bitterness flushes away on the back end and those fruit flavors come rushing back. I got a nice kick of orange juice and peach on this bottle. Toward the very end, there’s a dry finish and a more prevalent bitterness.
It’s great to have Foothills back in South Carolina - they were gone for a little while - and to know that their great selection of stuff likely won’t be a Carolina secret for much longer.