Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Breckenridge Brewery: Lucky U IPA

I grabbed a single of this at Party Source. I like the bottling, the glass even has the brewery's symbol stamped into it. I think marketing/bottle design in the craft beer industry is severely lacking in many places and thriving in some places. There is a wide range of quality in beer labels, but this Lucky U IPA has a very nice appealing label and I appreciate that.

The color is a bit amber, but not far off from a classic IPA color. The taste is a bit sweet, but mostly piney. There are some hints of malt sometimes, but then it is taken over by a refreshing pine needle flavor. There is not much smell, but the little bit there is is all pine as well. The mouthfeel is fantastic, just crisp and refreshing. This is the second IPA in a row I have tried from Party Source though that is a little flat and lacking the aroma. I think they tend to have bottles sit on their shelves for a long time while they sell kegs. Makes me think I should grab the more age-friendly beers next time I am there.

My sister wanted to open some wine right after I poured this, so I spent about 15 minutes searching the house for a corkscrew and then stabbing the cork with a screwdriver before I got to enjoy it, so that might contribute to the lack of carbonation. Anyways, it turns out the corkscrew was in the silverware drawer the whole time. So I give this IPA a refreshing 7/10 well-placed corkscrews.

Lagunitas CENSORED Rich Copper Ale

Lagunitas is a brewery that does not get enough attention on this blog. They sometimes get lost in the list of great left coast breweries. Lagunitas is in the San Francisco Bay area, and is about to become the dominant force on the Bay area craft brewing scene, with a plan to expand by nearly 6x in the next year. I suspect we may be hearing a lot more from them here in the Northeast as well.

Censored is described on the label as a Rich Copper Ale. It pours a rich coppery red (no surprise there). There is almost no head, and only a subtle malty aroma. At this point I am not too excited for this beer, but I will reserve judgement until tasting.

Post taste reaction - I may have spoken too soon. Most good beers I have also smell and look good, but this one saves all of its goodness for the flavor. It has the distinctive malty and sweet backbone of a great red ale, but has a really crisp and sharp finish, perhaps caused by the nice balance of hops. There aren't too many hops here, and you don't need them. The flavor is astounding and supremely balanced. I almost want to call it "dry", even though I don't really know what that means, only that it is usually a good thing in wines.

This beer is very sessionable, but beware: it packs a surprisingly strong 6.75% ABV according to the label. You can certainly start to feel the effects of that about half way through, especially on an empty stomach. I highly recommend this, and you won't be dissapointed if you go for a 6 pack. I found it in the "Craft a Pack" selection at Wegmans, probably one of the better bets there.

I give it a solid if not spectacular 7/10.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Weyerbacher Double Simcoe IPA

It was my first trip to the Party Source, one of Syracuse's few dedicated beer stores. I was a little disappointed when walking in because it was pretty much an empty room with a row of shelves along one wall filled with six packs. The selection was not great, mostly American breweries and no Belgian or German section. They have a few things that you can't find at Wegmans, but Weggies definitely has more selection. I won't be making trips to PS very often unless I am buying a keg of PBR (So not very often).

I bought a four pack of Weyerbacher's Simcoe IPA for about 9 bucks. Pretty expensive, but a Simcoe IPA is an exciting thing. I had a single hop Simcoe IPA before by Mikkeller, a Danish brewery. It was fantastic, I didn't review it at the time, so I will try to get it again, but it was at least a 9/10. Seeing another Simcoe IPA was exciting, I've never really liked Weyerbacher, but Simcoe is such a unique hop that I had to try it.

The beer pours kind of chunky, like there is still some yeast in there. Not something I am really looking for in an IPA. The color is nice but a little burnt, pretty dark for an IPA. I was pretty disappointed in the taste immediately. It was not very carbonated and definitely not fresh. There wasn't much smell to it at all. I wonder how long it had been sitting on the shelf at Party Source. I don't really like judging this beer now, cause I think it would be a lot better if it were fresh. The taste grew on me after a while. It has a very full body and not too much bitterness. It was pretty sweet, but a bit too much caramel for me. It was not the uniform taste of an Imperial IPA. Much more sweet and kind of like an Amber IPA. It felt kind of heavy and that just wasn't what I was looking for. The word "Double" is kind of hidden in the label, I thought it was just a straight Simcoe IPA in the store.

If I accept that it is not a typical Imperial IPA and also think about how it is 9%, then it is enjoyable to sip with some cheese and crackers. I would like a little more finishing hops in this. I give it 6/10 spicy Habanero cheese on lightly salted Ritz crackers.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Peak Organic Brewing Company

Usually when you see the word "organic" on any type of food product you think of another term: better. You might even think of another term: expensive. Luckily Peak IPA satisfies the former rather than the latter.

Peak Brewing Company is located in Portland Maine and is all about using great ingredients to make an array of handcrafted beers. Jon Cadoux, an avid home brewer, started the company in an effort to bring sustainability to the brewery world. This IPA features three different types of hops (Simcoe, Amarillo, and Nugget), but does not use traditional bittering hops.

The first thing you get from this beer is the citrus, both in smell and taste. If I had to hazard a guess this is because of the lack of bittering hops, but the effect is a very crisp almost spring/summer seasonal taste. In the back you get the typical IPA aroma and taste. The bitterness is not huge, but it is there and offers a nice contrast to the citrus.

I enjoyed this beer with a rather spicy Fish Burrito at John's Tex Mex in Rochester, NY. It was only $3.25. The IPA paired really well with this meal. The beer cleansed the palette very nicely and worked well the spiciness of the meal.

Overall, this is a solid IPA. Nothing spectacular, but it hits all the right notes. This could be a beer you drink everyday because it is not overpowering, but it is not a special occasion type brew. If you are into beer pairing I would suggest this beer with any spicy dish. Overall, I give 7 out of 10 Kristen Pasquarellas.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Craft Your Pack Challenge

The idea behind Craft Your Packs is not a difficult concept: grab a six pack container, fill it with six of your favorite single brews, and be on your way. When this idea finally came to Wegmans' throughout the Rochester area, I was immediately in love with the simple idea. So there I was at the Penfield Wegmans with a desire for beer, but which ones? Should I get six similar brews? Should my brew journey take me all of the map. I decided to create a challenge. I love IPAs and Pale Ales, so I decided to take six I had never tried before and rank them to find another standard to add to my fridge. So with an open head and a desire for beer, I began this journey.

The Contenders

1) Bear Republic Brewery - Racer 5 IPA

Hailing from California this wild card is shrouded in myth and legend. Mostly because I had not heard of it before seeing it on tap at Dickie's in Rochester. The beer is described as a "hoppy American IPA is a full bodied beer brewed American pale and crystal malts, and heavily hopped with Chinook, Cascade, Columbus and Centennial." It also says something about having a trophy in every case, I did not get a case so I cannot say if this is true or not.

2) Kona Brewing Company - Fire Rock Pale Ale

All the way from Hawaii I was much more familiar with this company's work coming in having liked some of their other offerings. This is another triple hopped brew (Galena, Cascade, and Mt. Hood), but feature a "Hawaiian Style" which I think means it has a copper color. Company motto: Living Aloha, not sure, what this entails, but I can dig it.

Weighing it at a staggering 65 IBUS (the website says that 65 is a lot), this Denver product claims it is brewed for one type of people: "hop disciples – independent beer drinkers seeking out robust, flavorful beers characterized by their abundance of hops flavor, aroma and bitterness." Sounds like me, many of our contributors, and our readers. I think we may have a favorite.

Samuel Adams Latitude 48 IPA A Sam Adams in this challenge? Isn't this hip disciple blasphemy? Not a chance. Say what you want about this company; but they care about their beer. Sure, they are not your typical micro brew anymore, but they are not one of the big wigs either. This IPA features of blend of hops from the "Hops Belt" in the Northern Hemisphere which, as you may have guessed, runs at 48 degrees latitude.

The hometown favorite (sort of) comes in featuring a blend of 2 different types of malts and two different types of hops. While at least that's what the sticker says, the website says it is three. This confusion may be just to toy with the other competitors, but this not really an IPA not really a Pale may prove to be feisty in the challenge.

6) Smuttynose Brewing Company - Smuttynose FinestKind IPA

This IPA from New Hampshire is bare bones. It is unfiltered and dry hopped. So what if there is some stuff at the bottom, Smuttynose cares about it as much as the two old dudes on the bottle do. This former Gold Medal winner also has the wins to back up its attitude, but will it prevail, only time will tell.

The Seedings

Before tasting I gave each a ranking based on how I think I would like them. I based my decision purely on my own beer tastes, what I have heard about the beer and/company, and the bottle's look.

1) Smuttynose Finestkind IPA - The two dudes on the battle talk me into this one.

2)Titan IPA - Heard great things about this beers and I liked the simple design approach.

3) Racer 5 IPA - Do not know much about it, but the bartender at Dickie's liked it enough to have it on tap.

4) Southern Tier Pale Ale - Nice look from a quality brewery

5) Latitude 48 IPA - I do like their seasonal brews, so this has upset potential

6) Fire Rock Pale Ale - While I like this company's fruit beers, I am unsure about this one.

Round 1

Match 1: 1) Smuttynose Finestkind IPA vs #6) Fire Rock Pale Ale

Smuttynose has it all: its hoppy, its bitter, its smooth, and has a great aroma. It comes out of the gates strong. Fire Rock has a nice color and a solid bitter taste. Fire Rock is solid, but not in Smuttynose's league. Winner: Smutty Nose.

Match 2: 2) Titan IPA vs 5) Latitude 48 IPA

The Titan IPA comes on strong. It has a nice hoppy smell and fits very well into the IPA motif. There is nothing overly special about it, but it works well. Latitude 48 is surprisingly smooth yet still have the strong bitter overtones of a quality IPA. Both of these are IPAs, but one is just much more drinkable. Winner: Latitude 48.

Match 3: 3) Racer 5 vs 4) Southern Tier Pale Ale

Racer 5 starts out big. It has a fruity aroma and seems more like an "imperial" IPA. Its big taste earns it huge points. STPA comes in a great package. Not a big beer, but very crisp and light. While STPA's bottle looks great its contents just do not stack up to Racer 5. Winner: Racer 5.

Round 2

3) Racer 5 vs 5) Latitude 48

Can L48's Cinderella run continue? Racer 5 gets better with every taste and I am really noticing its great color and a very nice lacing. L48 is still going strong, but is a bit weak on the bitterness scale compared to Racer. L48 belongs here, but it is just a bit overwhelmed. Winner: Racer 5

Final Round

1) Smuttynose Finestkind IPA vs 3) Racer 5

Smuttynose got the bye into the finals because of its pre-challenge ranking. However, Smuttynose show no sign of letting up and Racer 5 is up for the challenge. This beers are very good in all the major categories of taste, look, smell, and feel. Racer 5 holds nothing back, but Smuttynose is more refined. Both are quality beers, but only one can be victorious....

Winner: Smuttynose Finest Kind IPA

Smuttynose won out because I feel it is a more quality beer. It has the total package: strong bitterness against grapefruit undertones, it is very crisp, smells great, and has great lacing. While Racer 5 I felt was about one thing: Hops. Still a great beer, but it is lacking the power packing wow factor Smuttynose has.

While there you have it. My first installment of my (annual, weekly, bi-monthly?) Craft Your Pack Challenge. All of these beers are worth a try, but I think Smuttynose is a keep and Racer 5 is a valued addition to any "hop disciple's" fridge.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Dogfish Head Spring Seasonal: ApriHop

A few years ago I tried Dogfish Head's ApriHop, and was less than impressed. It seemed to me like just another fruit beer. Apparently DH rebuilt the recipe in 2010, to make the beer more hoppy and not as sweet. They claim it is the fruit beer for people who hate fruit beers. After watching Brewmasters this past winter, in which DH praised ApriHop like it was one of their best beers, I decided to give it another try. That show really worked on me huh?

At ~$12 per four pack, it is a pricey brew. The label says, "An India Pale Ale brewed with real apricots." It pours with a small head, and has a very strong hoppy aroma, must be pretty strongly dry-hopped.

This beer taste mostly like a very well balanced IPA, I wonder if it is derived from the 60 minute IPA? I don't get too much apricot, the bitterness of the hops mostly drowns it out. There is something subtle and fresh about it though, I could convince myself it is the apricot if I try hard enough. Overall this tastes very fresh and refreshing. It hits the mark for a late winter / early spring seasonal. As you get a little further into the beer the fruitiness of the apricot works its way into your palate quite nicely. This blows away the only other apricot-flavored beer I have tried, Magic Hat's #9. If you are looking for a nice treat to enjoy on the first day it gets nice out, I highly recommend this beer. I give it 7/10 mostly due to the price, it is a great beer but about as expensive as it gets.