Monday, December 19, 2011

Great Weekends in Craft Beer...Episode 2

Another weekend in the books, and another three nights of sampling some excellent new brews!

Friday night after that fantastic work lunch I was definitely in the mood to drink some of the new beers that I picked up at Ned's.

After dinner out I sat down to try another brew from Ft. Collins, New Belgium Belgo Belgian Style IPA. This 7% ABV brew pours a hazy goldenrod color with a one-finger head of white lace, and the beer's label is adorned with a disco ball on a brown background.

It smells citrusy and spicy, and the first sip is full of lemon, coriander and clove. Following the initial spices the bitterness and grapefruit flavors come in from the hops. The use of Belgian yeast is obvious with fruit and spicy notes, and this beer gets even better as it warms and some of the flavors continue to develop.

The second beer of the night was a style that I have really been enjoying lately. Highland Thunderstruck Coffee Porter is a 5.8% ABV brew that is created with chocolate malt, midnight wheat and Honduras Macala coffee from Dynamite Roasting Co. in Black Mountain, North Carolina.

The beer pours jet black with a one-finger head of tan foam, and smells of fresh java and chocolate. The first sip is like a mocha frappuccino - the coffee is very powerful and I didn't know if I was going to sleep at all that night! There is also a bit of fruit in the middle, which was surprising, and then a good dry finish with some bitterness.

On Saturday my wife took the kids to my in-laws' house to make Christmas cookies and to hang out with the grandparents, so Dick and I got together to play some Modern Warfare 3 and drink some brews.

We started with a beer that I had seen in his fridge before, but honestly had no idea what style it was...I still don't really! Rogue Captain Sig's Northwestern Ale is described on their website as a, "India Red Ale", and pours a very cloudy amber color with a two-finger head of dense, off-white foam. As with most Rogue brews the ABV is not listed...

The beer smells of chocolate and barley, but at first sip is incredibly bitter with tons of resinous, piney hop flavor. After checking out the details online I see why - this thing weighs in at 80 IBUs! Despite the heavy hand of Northwestern hop flowers, this brew is actually pretty well balanced after that first taste. The hop presence calms down and the malts really begin to take shape.

Now with my hop-fiend side unleashed, I thought it might finally be time to pull out something special. This brew has been aging for about a year-and-a-half in the bottle, and was aged on French and American Oak before that!

Great Divide 16th Anniversary Wood Aged Double IPA is a 10% ABV, copper hued beer that pours to a two-finger head of tan, lacy foam. This celebration beer is based on their Denver Pale Ale (DPA), and to me the ale smells like an Andes after dinner mint!

At first sip the beer is smooth like velvet...I LOVE any beer aged on oak! I still get the crisp, cooling flavor of mint - I'm not sure what that is coming from - but this beer is awesome! Sweet malts, biting and bitter hops and smooth vanilla from the oak - yum!

To really finish scratching that hoppy itch, we decided to round out with one more IPA before switching to another style.

Next up was Troegs Perpetual IPA, an Imperial Pale Ale that comes in at 7.5% ABV and pours a cloudy but light-orange color with a very lacy one-finger white head.

This beer smells very citrusy and floral, but in actuality it is really NOT incredibly spicy or bitter. I was expecting something more along the lines of a 60- or 90-Minute from Dogfish Head based on the name...The full, leafy hop flavors are there, but the dry-hopping must have been so intense that after the aroma the flavor kind of falls flat. Good beer, but I felt deceived!

Finally, the last beer of the day...I know we are slightly past the prime of pumpkin brew season, so we decided to pop this one open because we didn't know how it would age.

Epic & DC Brau Fermentation Without Representation - Imperial Pumpkin Porter is a 7.3% ABV collaboration between the breweries in Utah and the District of Columbia. The beer pours black with a one-finger head of tan, lacy foam.

Something kind of cool caught my eye on the label, I saw a stamp on the side that said, "Release #1". Well my mind immediately jumped to, "We got the first bottle off of the line! Awesome!" After giving it a minute to sink in, and then looking it up on their website, that stamp actually was referring to the batch number and not the bottle number...But it was still cool to know that ours was the first release bottled on October 17th, 2011, and to read beside the stamp where it explained that only a few thousand bottles were released and we were able to grab one!

The beer itself smells of chocolate, pumpkin meat and nutmeg, and has a great roasted barley taste with a little smokiness in the finish. I hope these two get together for another joint venture in the future!

Then we had yesterday/last night's brews...Watching football all day can really take it out of you, you know? These libations helped me get through the ulcer-inducing games that threatened to screw my fantasy football season:

Newcastle Winter IPA - I am a big fan of the original Brown Ale, and I like seeing already established brands try to hang on to/increase market share by taking a risk on something new. I HATE complacency (as I sit on my butt on the couch all day...), so kudos to these Brits for stepping out.

The beer is a light copper color with a one-finger head of tan foam. It smells a bit musty, but not unpleasant, and the first sip is very nutty with a thicker mouthfeel. There is some light hoppiness but nothing that would lead me to define this brew as an IPA! However, it is as smooth as the original and well balanced enough to drink several. I would compare it to a Newcastle Brown crossed with a Boston Lager...

Schlafly Winter ESB is a 5.8% ABV, amber colored brew that pours to a two-finger head of white, lacy foam. Bottled on 11/9/2011, the beer smells of caramel and citrus (lemon).

And now I am completely confused...The last beer was an IPA and was sweet, and this is an ESB and is actually quite hoppy! The first sip is very grassy, lemony and spicy until the malt backbone kicks in. Caramel sweetness is there to help balance, and rye adds some depth to the flavors - but no winter spices to speak of...What makes this a winter ale? Doesn't matter, it's good!

Last, but not least, is Bison Gingerbread Ale, a 6% ABV beer brewed with ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon. The brew is technically a "Spiced Holiday Porter", and it pours a deep mahogany color with a two-finger tan head of lacy foam.

I only get a light aroma of gingerbread with this beer - it is primarily roasted barley that I am smelling. The first sip is definitely unique...the ginger really lightens-up the palate of the otherwise thick porter. The nutmeg and cinnamon are also there, but I appreciate how understated they are - it really allows you to enjoy the beer for the true style. I was actually pretty worried this was going to be a gimmick beer, but that is not the case!

Yet another great weekend of brews, and after tomorrow I will be off of work for the rest of the year. Expect a lot of great new posts!

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