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Beer Review #214 Nelson Imperial IPA

I’ve reviewed a few different beers from the Widmer Brothers Brewing Company of Portland, Oregon in the past with mixed reviews. My father-in-law bought me this beer for Christmas among a few other beers. This is a review that has been sitting on the back burner for some time as I drank and wrote this review shortly after New Years. I’m finally getting caught up with beer reviews and I’m getting these old reviews flush out more quickly now. Now back to the beer. Nelson Imperial IPA is clearly an Imperial IPA, or IIPA for those of you who like abbreviations, and rocks in at an impressive 8.6%. O yeah, it comes in 22’s as well. Needless to say, this is a “you’re staying home tonight” kind of beer.

Nelson Imperial IPA pours a nice clear orange color and comes with a medium white head. The nose is full of bright hops that are a good mix of citrus and pine. Behind the hops you can really smell the malt sweetness on this beer. Higher ABV beers tend to be a bit thicker and generally smell the same. This beer has that type of feeling.

On my first taste my thoughts about this being a thick beer were correct. This beer has a chewy quality to it. The malt, while thick feeling, is very nice and has some light caramels. Just as the malt is getting overly sweet as good solid kick of hops come in to clean this one up. The hops have a grapefruit and pine flavor which interact well with the malt base. I would love to say more about this beer, but it is pretty straightforward.

This beer tastes exactly like what you would expect from an Imperial IPA. If you have had an Imperial IPA before, I don’t think this one will blow you way. That is not to say that this is a bad beer by any means, but I feel like this has more of a “standard” taste to it. I would put this beer down for the benchmark of what an Imperial IPA should be. (more…)

Beer Review #186 90 Minute IPA

I have reviewed a lot of Dogfish Head beer on this is in recent month, but give a guy a break, I live in Delaware. I would be remiss if I didn’t support the First State’s first craft brewery. DFH makes some really great beers and they also make some beers that are just not my style, but you can never deny that they aren’t afraid to try anything (even if it is just for marketing purposes). 90 Minute IPA is the middle child of their famed IPA series, 60 Minute and 120 Minute being the other “young and older” beers respectively. DFH also makes a 75 Minute IPA but it is only released on draft and can be a bitch to find.

This IPA comes in at 9% ABV and is continually hopped from 90 minutes during the boil. It pours a nice orange-amber color and is crystal clear. The head is a soapy white with a good mix of bubble sizes. The nose has a nice hop odor to with with lots of floral and citrus notes. There is some slight sweetness mixed in behind the hops.

On my first taste I was surprised at the malt behind this beer. There is a solid malt backbone and some biscuit notes are there to add some nice depth of flavor. Before the malt really has a chance to settle in the hops come in and really give a good kick. The hops are in flavor what they were in smell, floral and citrus. I also got some grapefruit in there as well. The robust hops really dry out the beer well and help lead to a crisp ending.

I really dig this one. Of the “big three” this is my favorite. I found it to be nicely in balance and it had a really nice selection of flavors. For anĀ  Imperial IPA this one is fantastic. If you haven’t had this one before, go get it! (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.

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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.