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Beer Review #243 West Coast IPA

Today we have Green Flash Brewing Company’s claim to fame, West Coast IPA. I first heard of Green Flash via praise for this beer. Being a lifelong (minus one year in Texas) east coaster, I have a bit of a different take on what an IPA should be compared to my left coast beer lovers. Everything I heard about West Coast IPA told me that this beer took a hoppy west coast IPA and hopped it up more.

West Coast IPA pours a nice burnt orange color has has a thick off-white head. I actually had to leave the head settle for a bit so that I could empty to full bottle into my glass. The nose is a punch of bright citrus and pine homes.The bottle reads “extravagantly hopped,” and boy did this one smell like it. There was a slight hint of malt behind the mountains of hops. I didn’t get any heat which I was expecting to find as this beer comes in at 7.3% ABV.

After I gave my nose a break from the hops assault, I dove into the beer. A strong bittering hop hits you right away and a citrus/pine hop flows through the entire beer. There is a solid malt backbone that supports all of the hops, but I couldn’t identify any particular flavor in the malt. The beer finishes with one final hop kick that fades as you drink the beer.

I really liked this one. It’s super hoppy and lives up to the hype. For a beer that is so hop forward, I found that the body supported the hops very nicely. I’m going to be getting this one again. (more…)

Beer Review #238 Hoptimum

Recently I have really been in the mood for IPAs. I brewed a Belgian IPA a month ago and I am brewing an American IPA this weekend. But before these beers were ready, I had to satisfy my need desire for a solid IPA. In comes Hoptimum from Sierra Nevada Brewing Company. I didn’t know anything about this beer when I grabbed it other then the fact that I loved the bottle art (I’m such a sucker for good bottle art). When I got home I got around to reading the label and I was met with a “whole cone imperial IPA. 100 IBUs. 10.4% ABV.” Well that sounds like something that might fix my desire for a solid IPA.

Hoptimum pours a nice orange color with a medium thick white head. It looks like an IPA and the head stuck around longer then I would have thought with the high ABV percentage. The nose is packed with hops. This thing screams hops. In my opinion a lot of Sierra Nevada hop odors tend to be on the piney side and this beer is no exception. I also picked up a slight twinge of heat.

The taste is just raw, intense hops. I didn’t really get anything in the malt world, but just piney, delicious hops. This beer certainly hit the mark for a guy who wanted a solid IPA. I wouldn’t want a newcomer to craft beer to even sniff this one, but for me, it was perfect. (more…)

Beer Review #184 Union Jack IPA

In the past few years I have heard a whole lot about Firestone Walker Brewing Company and how amazing their beers are. Until recently, they have not distributed to my area and I haven’t been to an area that they did distribute to so I was SOL. Imagine my surprise when I was browsing the shelves of the beer store and stumbled upon a whole bunch of Firestone Walker beer. Now I didn’t get to grab as many as I wanted, you know budgets and all of that, but I did grab a Union Jack IPA. I have been on a slight IPA kick recently, and generally west coast IPAs do a good job of filling my IPA need. Firestone Walker is located in Paso Robles, CA and a quick Google search shows that area being in the middle of Los Angles and San Jose, IPA country.

A nice orange colored liquid flows out of the stout bottle along with a fluffy white head. The nose is pretty sweet with a good mix of hop aromas. There was lots of grapefruit and pine to go around with this one. Union Jack IPA is 7.5% ABV and I didn’t get a single drop of that on the nose of this beer.

There is a light malt flavor on the front end of this beer which is then follow by a healthy kick of hops. They are mainly citrus in flavor. I found them to be a wonderful mix of crisp but also lasting. By that I mean that the beer finishes out, but a fresh hoppy aftertaste stays. This isn’t like some hops that just stay on your tongue and don’t leave, these hops are squarely in the aftertaste realm.

I really dug this IPA. I found everything about it refreshing. It was perfectly balanced and didn’t have a ton of piney hops. The hops really flowed in well and then faded out. I might have to pick up more Firestone Walker beers if this beer is any indication of the quality of beer they produce. (more…)

Beer Review #176 Wreck the Halls

My second “Christmas” beer that I am reviewing after Christmas comes from Full Sail Brewing Company  of Hood River, Oregon. I have had a number of their beers in the past and even got to visit one of their locations on my honeymoon in Portland. In my eyes they are one of the “classic” northwestern craft breweries along with Rogue Ales, Pyramid, and a few others.Wreck the Halls is a blend of an American IPA and a Winter Warmer. The bottle displays, “22 ounces of hoppy holiday ale.” That was all I needed to grab up this bottle.

Wreck the Hall pours a cloudy orange color with a bit of a reddish hue. There is a thin white head that sits on top of the liquid but it does not cling to the glass as it is being drank. The nose is hoppy as you would excpect with an American IPA mix. The hops are almost entirely citrus smelling and they are very bright. I did get a bit of background malt, but the hops are the shinning star for the nose of this beer.

On my first taste there was some nice caramel malt up front quickly followed by citrus hops. The first variant of hops fades into a piney hop flavor. The pine flavor really sits on the tongue for a long time and doesn’t get kicked out by any other flavor.

This is a pretty good IPA as the malt balances out the hops pretty nicely. I don’t really see a Winter Warmer in any way, shape, or form in this beer; just a solid IPA. The only thing that I don’t like about this beer is the fact that the pine flavored hops just sit and sit on your tongue. I’m not a big fan of pine hops and I generally like them to be kicked out by carbonation or something else. The bright hops from the nose gave me the impression that the hops would be crisp in flavor as well, but they really just linger. This is still a good beer, but it is not my style of an IPA, maybe it is because I am from the east coast. (more…)

Me a beer judge!?!

I had my first chance to do a beer judging last weekend and boy was that a trip. My local homebrew club sponsor a competition every year for the past 11 years now. I believe the entries were limited to IPAs and Pale Ales this year becasue our club is just not big enough to have hundreds of beers to sample. In fact one year they had over 300 entries, with five people judging, which prompted the limiting of categories.

My tasting table was in charge of the IPA style number 14 A-C. Being my first judging I was a little nervous about making sure I did a good job and that my taste buds agreed with the style guidelines. It is amazing to see what people submit to the contest. We had one guy who sent in three bottles that said save for final round on them. Some balls.

Picture not from our judging, just there to give an example

I used to be a much bigger fan of IPAs than what I current am. I am just hopped out, but I do have a good background in IPAs because I used to drink them like crazy. My table was made up of 3 people, one of which was extremely skilled in brewing and judging. Surprisingly all three of us came out around the same scores consistently. It is funny how you can pick out the things that take a beer down a few points. Half of the beers I tasted I would of been happy with if I brewed them, but according to the style guidelines they didn’t quite fit.

Being judge is easier than being a brewer. So is running a beer review website. A few things I noticed with almost all of the IPAs we tried. The first was that people often gave too much malt backbone, particularly in 14C the Imperial IPA. The malt should support the hops, but no be equal. The second thing I noticed is how tough it is to properly hop a IPA. Most of them were very harsh and just smashed down on your tongue and left a lingering harsh flavor. Some people like this, I do not, and neither do the style guidelines. The final thing is that you can see the knowledge of the brewer when tasting. We had one contaminated beer so it couldn’t be fairly judged but the differences in the beer came down to slight variations that had huge impacts.

It might be unfair to judge the brewer on the beer they make as I’ve made plenty of great and terrible beers. It just seems like a beer that is more technically correct shows a better skill level by the brewer than his competitors. That skill might not translate into a winning beer but, as a homebrewer, I appreciate it.