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Beer Review #277 Hop Notch IPA

03-20-02Uinta Brewing Company of Salt Lake City has really been expanding in my area. A few years ago I was only able to purchase their 750 ml bottles, but now I get their normal beers along with seasonal releases. I was recently in New Jersey to attend a birthday party and I picked up a six-pack of their beer in Jersey. Hop Notch IPA might not be a new beer, but it is a new beer to me and I’m always on the lookout for a new IPA. This one comes in at a nice 7.3% ABV.

Hop Notch IPA pours a hazy orange color. It has a two finger off-white head that never truly fades away. The nose is packed with big, bright hops. Pine and citrus are the two primary hop odors. A decent malt sweetness is mixed in there as well. It just smells like an IPA. Big, bold, and hoppy.

The taste starts with a decent malt sweetness. There are some slight caramel flavors that are quickly ripped away by the hops. The hops start as a slight citrus and grapefruit combination and then fade into a pine flavor. It ends on a sharp piney note that dries out the drink nicely.

This is one of the more enjoyable IPAs that I’ve had in awhile. There is a solid hop punch along with a balanced malt body. While aggressive, it stays drinkable. Well don Uinta. (more…)

Beer Review #257 Doublewide IPA

12-30-03For my last beer review of the year I decided to go after a big imperial IPA. Doublewide IPA from Boulevard Brewing Company rocks in at 8.5% ABV. The bottle says, “Relax. It’s twister proof.” A long time ago I was a meteorology major (my wife actually is a meteorologist) and tornadoes have a special place in our house. They scare the hell out of me and also fascinate me to no end. The bottle art on this beer is interesting to say the least. It’s a bit of a departure from their other Smokestack Series labels.

Doublewide IPA pours a nice clear orange color and has a white soapy head. For a high alcohol beer the head lasts a long time and never fully fades into the beer. The nose is packed with hops. Citrus and pine ring out of this one along with a little heat. I didn’t get any malt flavor, the hops really overpower everything else.

Unlike what the nose promises, there is a good amount of malt sweetness on the first taste. A really solid punch of hops comes in after that and cleans out any sweetness that was there. The hop flavors are very much like what the nose said they would be. The hops are clean and crisp and do not get muddled in with anything else going on in the beer. I didn’t get any heat in the beer, even as it warmed.

I really dig this beer. It’s super hoppy but very drinkable. Unlike some imperial IPAs that are loaded with hops and nothing else, this beer maintains a surprising balance. I really like this one and I would highly recommend it to anyone in the mood for some hops. (more…)

Beer Review #250 Wooly ESB

I have reached the 250 beer review mark. I consider myself accomplished, my wife and parents think that I drink too much. Today’s beer review is the second of three beers that Magic Hat Brewing Company sent me. The bottle says that this beer is an ESB, or Extra Special Bitter, with spruce. I’m not generally a fan of spruce flavored things as it makes me think about tree sap a bit too much. Extra Special Bitter is a bit of a misnomer for many newcomers to craft beer. They are expecting something really hoppy, and an ESB just isn’t that. ESB is an English beer style that, while significantly more bitter than an English Mild, is not all that bitter in the grand scheme of things.

Wooley pours a wonderful clear orange color. It has a thin white head that clings to the side of the glass. The nose is nice and malty. It’s an interesting mike of sweet and dry that you often find in English style beers. There are also some dried fruit odors that are probably the result of the yeast strain used to make this beer. There is a slightly spicy hop smell that lingers in the background along with a slight hint of spruce. Since the spruce was so light in the nose, it gave me hope that it wasn’t going to overwhelm the beer/my taste buds.

There is a nice dose of malt and biscuit on the front end of this beer. It is followed with the fruity esters found in the nose, mainly small bits of plum and cherry. The hops come in on the second half and do a nice job of replacing the other flavors in a balanced way. The hops are slightly spicy and the spruce gives a nice resin taste that adds to the bitterness. Everything mixes nicely to give this beer an earthy quality that I always enjoy.

As I said at the beginning of this review, I’m usually not a fan of spruce flavored anything,but this beer does a good job of keeping that flavor in check. I really enjoyed sipping on this one while getting caught up on episodes of American Horror Story. This beer comes in at 4.5% and I can imagine downing one of these after shoveling some snow when you don’t want something heavy but you also want something with some balls. It’s refreshing and crisp, while delivering plenty of flavor.  (more…)

Belgian IPA Tasting Notes

I posted my recipe for the first version of my Belgian IPA not to long ago and I wanted to update you on how it actually tastes. The idea behind this beer was to blend an American IPA along with a Belgian Tripel. At the end of the day this beer came out to be 9% ABV and 75 IBUs.

The beer poured out of the tap a nice clear orange color. The image makes it look a bit darker than it actually is. The head is plentiful, a little too much so, and doesn’t fade until well into the drink. It leaves a nice lacing. I’m going to attribute the head to the hops and wheat malt. I did carbonate this one a bit higher than normal as well. The nose has a slight hop aroma but is overwhelmed by heat and Belgian spices.

The heat hits you quickly and then fades away. There is a decent malt body and it is very clean. I didn’t get any bready or toasty notes when drinking this ale. The Belgian spice notes are strong and a bit peppery. I think the yeast was a bit muddled and the true yeast flavor got lost. I’m going to try a different approach with the yeast next time out. This beer was built off of the yeast cake from two previous batches. I think the previous flavors and different fermenting temps gave the yeast a few characteristics that I would rather not have.

The hops were present, but they need to be there much more. I tried to cheap out a bit and go with higher alpha acid hops to get more bang for my buck and I don’t think it worked very well. The hops tasted a bit old. The next time I make this beer I want to add more bitter and aroma hops to help balance out the heat and malt.

I’m about halfway there on this beer. I like it a lot for a first run but it needs some help. In addition to the hop and yeast changes I wouldn’t add as much sugar and sub in more base malt. With a yeast cake the size of what this beer had to work with, I think the simple sugars produced a bit too much heat. I would also ferment this one a bit colder. All good things in time I suppose.

Beer Review #233 Summer Session Ale

The summer is quickly coming to a close, like in two days, but I wanted to squeeze one more summer beer review in before summer officially ends. I’ve been actively trying not to purchase seasonal beers to get a better selection of more widely available beers, but when I see a local brewery like Evolution Craft Brewing Company of Salisbury, MD, I have to give it a try. Evo as they refer to themselves was originally located in Delmar, DE, but moved a few miles down the road to a much larger facility this year. My wife’s family lives just outside of Salisbury, so I’m a regular customer of Evo when visiting.

Summer Session Ale pours a nice golden orange color with a slight haze. There is a medium foam head sitting on top that slowly fades into a whisper of its former self. The beer has a nice summer smell with bits of orange and bread. It smells pretty sweet and I didn’t detect any hops in there.

On my first taste I was surprised that the sweetness wasn’t more. There is a very light malt component that gives way to some slight lemon and orange flavors. The bready smell carries through to the flavor as well and helps round out the malt flavor. There is a slight citrus hop on the back of this one but it’s not very bitter or assertive.

For a summer beer this one nice nice and very drinkable. I don’t think it is anything super special but it sure is refreshing. It also comes in at 4.6% so you can enjoy a few of these with no problems on a hot day. (more…)