Posts Tagged ‘IPA’

A Few Madison Brews

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

Tonight I’m trying a couple beers I picked up last time I was in Madison. The first two are from Capital Brewery out in Middleton, and the third was brewed by Ale Asylum on the northeast side. Capital is renowned for their lagers, so I’m trying their märzen as well as a new beer that just might wholly embody badger nation. Ale Asylum, on the other hand, is known for beers overflowing with hops, so I’ve got a double India pale ale to round out the night.

The golden age of the supper club may have come and gone in most places, even in Wisconsin. But these eateries still grace the occasional roadside of the cheese state and remain on the mind of badgers young and old. There is no better testament to that than the newly released Supper Club, a “true American Lager.”

The Supper Club looks about what you would expect, crystal clear, a golden straw color, with some bone white head. More head retention than your average American-style lager. The nose is very subtle. Some bready malt and the faintest herbal hops are balanced by the right amount of sulfur. Right for the style, that is, but still too much for my taste.

The flavor, too, is remarkably average. A decent malt character, but nothing to write home about. Again, the noble hops work themselves in, but almost imperceptibly. The taste of sulfur adds some background noise that could come from the yeast, but perhaps it’s a veritable corn adjunct. The body is on the weaker end, even for this type of beer.

Overall, this beer would fit in nicely with many made in this country in times past, but I’m not sure it’s enough to warrant production by an otherwise respected brewery. Since it’s not as hoppy as PBR nor as malty as Bud, I just don’t see myself ordering it. I suppose it fits the bill, though.

Next up I will be trying Capital’s Oktoberfest lager. This märzen has a thick and pillowy off-white head above a mildly hazy, gamboge-colored beer (hardly the “fiery amber” they claim). The nose has that restrained maltiness that many Oktoberfest beers do, the sensation of bread and barley just under the surface, trying vainly to break free. The hops add a hint of herbal character to the aroma. As it opens up, the toast becomes more noticeable, but it is still much too restrained.

The flavor is richly malty. Bread, biscuits, and toast combine with the taste of my sister’s homemade pizza crust. This strong and supple malt flavor is backed with a reasonable herbal hop flavor, though for a style originally intended to exhaust all the hops for the season, it could use more. A light residual sweetness and mild bitterness tease the palate. Both disappear relatively quickly, leaving a sessionable beer, as any Oktoberfest should be.

Tonight I will be rounding out these relatively mild lagers with an aggressively hoppy double IPA from Ale Asylum. The Satisfaction Jacksin pours a very hazy mahogany. The pale golden ochre head is full and creamy. The nose is hoppy. Quite pleasantly hoppy. This beer exudes the citrusy character for which Pacific Northwest-grown so-called C-hops earned their place in the hop pantheon. No wonder it is so hoppy, as it has “over 3 pounds of Centennial per barrel.” I could sit here just smelling this all day.

But I have to try it. The taste is hoppy. Quite pleasantly hoppy. Rich floral and citrus flavors burst forth, backed up by a solid malt foundation. The caramel and toast flavors of the malt meld harmoniously with the grapefruit character of the hops. Amazingly, there is almost no perceptible bitterness, despite the significant hopping rate. A full and creamy palate certainly works to that end, balancing what bitterness was to be had, while remaining fresh and lively. This beer is like Cookie Monster: big, fuzzy, and sweet.

And one more note: if you search for this beer, do not click on the link for “Satisfaction Jackson,” that’s not what your looking for.

++Ale Asylum Satisfaction Jacksin

4.3 (4-9-8-4-18)

+Capital Oktoberfest

3.8 (3-7-8-4-16)

+/-Capital Supper Club

3.0 (3-6-6-3-12)

Sierra Nevada 2009 Celebration Ale

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

2010-03-02-celebrationTonight I will be tasting the 2009 Celebration Ale from Sierra Nevada Brewing Company in Chico, California. This is the newest in Sierra Nevada’s venerated line of hoppy winter beers.

The 2009 Celebration Ale pours a golden amber with a healthy bottle-condition haze. The tan head is absurdly thick and creamy, like meringue. The nose is richly hoppy. A tart grapefruit aroma prevails, accompanied by lemongrass and pineapple. A hint of malty sweetness comes through, but the grapefruit makes it difficult to detect.

The flavor of the Celebration Ale is supremely hoppy. Grapefruit dominates, to a fault. Almost nothing else is noticeable besides, even the bitterness from those hops. The tart citric flavor seems a bit flat, and is refreshing for only a little while before growing impertinent. The body is full and light but can’t make up for the lack of character on the taste.

+Sierra Nevada 2009 Celebration Ale

3.4 (5-8-6-4-14)

Session #30: Beer Ice Cream

Friday, August 7th, 2009

session_logoThe Session is a monthly beer blog carnival. You can read about its origins here. This month (Beer Desserts) is hosted by David Jensen of Beer47. The prompt is located here and the roundup is posted here. David wants to know if beer goes with or in desserts and asks, “What beer desserts have you tried and liked?”2009-08-07-sun-rye

Just days before the prompt was posted my friend Jordan and I spoke about making ice cream. We had discussed several strange and interesting flavor ideas (including chili pepper) but somehow beer had escaped us. Fortunate, then, that this Session topic is beer desserts!

We made four varieties: one with my homebrew altbier, one with Redhook Sun Rye, one with Boulevard Single-Wide IPA, and one with Murphy’s Oatmeal Stout. For the first three we loosely followed a recipe from the Pencil & Spoon, chosen for its simplicity.2009-08-07-jordan The idea here is just to combine the dairy (we used half & half), beer, and sugar and churn. For the Sun Rye and altbier we mixed at a ratio of 6:3:2 half&half to beer to sugar. They both turned out fine but are quite subtle. On the Single-Wide we upped the ante, with almost one-to-one beer to half & half. This turned out to be about the right ratio, yielding a great hoppy flavor.2009-08-07-murphys

For the stout we went with a traditional egg based recipe somewhat like this one at Brian’s Belly. We boiled the half & half and beer while mixing the eggs, sugar, and a bit of cocoa. After tempering the eggs with a bit of the cream we mixed it all, cooked for a bit, then cooled it before churning. The flavor was not all that different from the others but we could tell right away that it was a lot creamier!2009-08-07-eggs

For all of these we used a bit of xantham gum, which acts as a binder as well as preventing the formation of ice crystals.

Every one of these beer ‘screams turned out great, but the Murphy’s and Single-Wide were particularly fantastic. The Murphy’s tastes much like a coffee ice cream, but the bitterness and malt flavor remind you that it’s actually stout. The balance between the sugar and hops in the Single-Wide is ideal, and the floral hop taste is just incredible.

2009-08-07-churnRed Hook Sun Rye Ice Cream
5 cups half & half
20 oz Sun Rye
1/2 cup sugar

Homebrew Altbier Ice Cream
3 cups half & half
12 oz homebrew
1 cup sugar
pinch xantham gum

Single-Wide IPA Ice Cream
3 pints half & half
36 oz Single-Wide
1.5 cups sugar
a few pinches xantham gum

Murphy’s Oatmeal Stout Chocolate Ice Cream
2 cups half & half
16 oz Murphy’s
3 egg yolks
2 whole eggs
1 cup sugar
pinch xantham gum

Sprecher Tasting Notes!

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

Astute readers may remember that I said I had lost the notes I took on the Sprecher Brewery tour. Well guess what? Cleaning out my disc golf bag I found them! That’s certainly a strange place to put them, but that’s where both of my “lost” pages were squirreled away.

First up, the Mai Bock. This blonde beer has a slight amber tint. There is barely any haze below some creamy white head. The aroma is bright with malty caramel and bready notes. The taste is dry and the body thin, so immediately this seems almost flavorless. Upon inspection you may note the hint of a dirty, earthy hop flavor that reminds me somewhat of the hops in PBR.

Next I tried the IPA², their double India pale ale. This one is a pale caramel amber color and is almost clear. The head is creamy and off white. There is a slightly sweet, delicate floral hop nose that comes through as lilacs and roses. The flavor is rich with earthy hops. On the sides of the tongue a somewhat one-dimensional bitterness disappears quickly, leaving a lingering malty sweetness.

I went on to have the Abbey Triple. This golden yellow beer has some turbidity and some white head. The aroma is exactly that of one of Elvis’s favorite sandwiches, peanut butter and banana. I would hardly believe it transcribing these notes now if I hadn’t written, “No foolin. An Elvis sandwich. Weird.” The flavor is strongly of bananas with a bit of clean malt and clove character coming through. This one has a lot of unfermented sugars remaining giving it an over the top sweetness that turns cloying. I’m not really sure why all these breweries think that you make a Belgian-style tripel with hefeweizen yeast, but this is yet another one. (Brewers: go with Wyeast 1762 or White Labs 500, please!)

Then, at the behest of the brewers, I tried Hop on Top, their new extra pale ale. They were soliciting comments, so presumably this was still in beta, and it showed. Brilliantly clear and the color of straw, this beer has only a hint of white head. The hop aroma is grassy, sharp, and green (the character of fresh, unkilned hops). The first thing I notice on the taste is that the body is pathetically thin and the beer entirely lacks malt flavor. There is a strong grassy hop taste, but this takes on the almost medicinal character of hop extract. Watery and thin, this beer is actually very unpleasant to drink.

To wash that taste out I had their Russian Imperial Stout. It is pitch black with a big pillow of tan head (that doesn’t quite last long enough). The nose is mild, earthy, and dry, with toast and a good amount of coffee. The roasty and robust flavor, strong with coffee (though not overpowering), is almost meaty. A light sweetness and plenty of carbonation activity keep this richly flavored beer from being oppressive. Sprightly, like Chris Farley.

+Sprecher Russian Imperial Stout

3.8 (4-7-8-4-15)

+Sprecher IPA²

3.3 (4-7-6-3-13)

+/-Sprecher Abbey Triple

2.8 (3-7-5-2-11)

+/-Sprecher Mai Bock

2.6 (3-7-4-2-10)

--Sprecher Hop on Top

1.5 (1-5-3-1-5)

IPA Week: Mikkeller Simcoe Single Hop IPA

Sunday, July 5th, 2009

While Mikkeller is officially located in København, Denmark, head brewer and co-creator Mikkel Borg Bjergs refers to himself as a “gipsy-brewer” for his habit of brewing in facilities located around Europe and the world. The Simcoe Single Hop IPA, for instance, was brewed at the De Proefbrouwerij in Lochristi, Belgium.

2009-07-05-mikkellerThe Mikkeller Simcoe Single Hop has a rich hoppy aroma that draws your attention from across the table. A thick citrus and delicate floral hop nose dominates, rich and round and full. Just a hint of toasty pale malt comes through as well. A generous pillow of creamy beige head sits atop a very hazy caramel-colored beer with plenty of chunks of yeast at the bottom.

A bitterness that is quite strong but not at all sharp hides the delicate hop flavor to some extent. Light citric and flowery hops meet the tip and sides of the tongue while the pervasive bitterness rides up the middle. Just sweet enough to give a solid creamy palate, this beer avoids being overpowered by the hop bitterness or the active carbonation. The problem with beers that have amazing aromas is that no matter how good the flavor is it will always be just a little bit disappointing. Likewise with the Simcoe Single Hop: the wonderful flavor is overshadowed by the near-perfect aroma.

Overall an incredible IPA. Despite being almost 7% alcohol this beer has a great delicate character that makes it way too sessionable. If I had several around I’d easily get myself in trouble.

++Mikkeller Simcoe Single Hop IPA

4.3 (4-9-8-5-17)

IPA Week: Saphir Single-Hop Organic Homebrew

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

Today I finally brewed the beer that has been several months in the making. It is an all-organic single-hop saphir India pale ale. Saphir hops have this other-worldly fruity character to them that I was hoping to capture in full with this brew.

It started out with Northern Brewer‘s organic light malt extract to provide most of the fermentables. To that I added a pound each of Briess’s organic cara-pils, caramel 20L, and caramel 60L malts. These adjunct malts will provide body and solid malt flavor to balance the hops.2009-07-03-homebrew Caramel (also known as crystal) malts are roasted while still wet, allowing the enzymes to work breaking down the starches into sugar which then crystallizes within the kernel. Cara-pils (also called dextrin malt due to its high dextrin content) is the lightest variety of caramel malt. It is roasted just long enough to crystallize without allowing the sugars to caramelize. The 20L and 60L malts are left longer, converting more of the sugars to an unfermentable form and darkening the malt (creating Maillard by-products), in this case increasing the color to 20 or 60 degrees Lovibond, respectively. I did what’s called a mini-mash with the three pounds of grain, steeping them in the water as I waited for it to raise to boiling.

I used only one type of hop for bittering as well as flavor and aroma: saphir. This is a relatively new variety coming out of Germany, intended to replace the hallowed Hallertauer Mittelfruh (the variety used in classic Bavarian Oktoberfestbier). Saphir has a wonderfully delicate herbal and citric aroma (great for brewers) and an incredible resistance to disease and pests (great for growers). I added three ounces at the start of the boil to give a solid bitter foundation. After half an hour I threw in another ounce, and again after another fifteen minutes. These should allow the flavor of the hops to come through significantly. Just before stopping the boil I threw in half an ounce and I’ll dry hop with the last half ounce to ensure the presence of the intoxicating aroma of the saphir.

Like all good American IPAs I used Sierra Nevada’s yeast. Beer Calculus predicts it will end up being around 6.4% alcohol and somewhat leaning towards bitter and hoppy. I can’t wait to see how this turns out…

Saphir Single-Hop Organic IPA
6 lbs. Organic Light Malt Extract Syrup
1 lb. Organic Cara-pils
1 lb. Organic Caramel 20L
1 lb. Organic Caramel 60L
3 oz. Organic Saphir 60 min.
1 oz. Organic Saphir 30 min.
1 oz. Organic Saphir 15 min.
1/2 oz. Organic Saphir 1 min.
1/2 oz. Organic Saphir dry-hopped
Wyeast 1056 American Ale Yeast

IPA Week: Dogfish Head 90 Minute

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

Dogfish Head, from Milton, Delaware, is a strange brewery (if you couldn’t tell by the name). They make some of the strongest and strangest of American craft brewing. They make forties of “Liquor de Malt” and have a beer called “Golden Shower”. They put strange ingredients in beer and make historic replica brews. They also have perhaps the most acclaimed series of India pale ales in the United States (East of the Rockies, at least), their 60- 90- and 120-Minute IPAs, so named because they are “continuously hopped” each minute for 60, 90, or 120 minutes.

2009-07-02-90-minuteThe story goes that when Dogfish Head started making these so-called continuously hopped beers they rigged up a machine that would shake a coffee can with a hole in the bottom just enough to empty the can after an hour. Nowadays I imagine their system is fancier.

The 90-Minute Imperial IPA is a barely hazy amber with a thick straw head. The nose is strong but delicate. Initially sweet with toasty pale malt, it grows into a serious flowery aroma. Daffodil and lavender are followed by a light peach character.

The peach and toasty sweetness continue on to the first taste. A smooth bitterness tries its hardest to take over but the malt obstinately balances it out. Floral and herbal hop flavor dominate as it moves to the back of the tongue and into the aftertaste. The bitterness lingers a little longer, but a hint of mouth coating holds it just at bay.

A playful and delicate beer, remarkable for one at 9 percent alcohol.

++Dogfish Head 90-Minute IPA

4.1 (4-8-8-4-17)

IPA Week: Houblon Chouffe

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

2009-07-01-chouffeAll the beers from Brasserie d’Achouffe in The Ardennes of Belgium are named something with “chouffe”, Flemish for gnome or elf. Today I’m having Houblon Chouffe, or “Hop Elf”. This beer is labeled a Dobbelen IPA Tripel, so it’s a hybrid style that takes inspiration from both American Double IPAs and Belgian tripels.

The Houblon Chouffe is a turbid yellow gold. The head is massive, pillowy, and white. The aroma is complex and compact, a wonderful marriage between an IPA and a tripel. The tripel character is just a bit more prominent, possibly because the bottle is not entirely fresh (thank you, Iowa ABD). The nose is strongly peppery, with toasty malt and an herbal and earthy hop presence.

The taste is immediately a bit bitter and a bit alcoholic. Some pale malt flavor comes out as well. Earthy hops provide a background that indicates it really is half of an IPA. It grows just a little sweeter through the taste, and it’s not too active so the palate is quite creamy.

All in all a tasty beer.

+Houblon Chouffe

3.7 (5-8-6-4-14)

IPA Week: Millstream Iowa Pale Ale

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

I will continue with IPA week by tasting another midwestern India pale ale, this one from Millstream Brewing Company in Amana, Iowa. Founded in 1985, Millstream is one of the oldest microbreweries in the country. Amana is a German town and Millstream is therefore a lagerhouse. That doesn’t mean they don’t do good work on ales: in particular their banana-fueled hefe is quite tasty. But this isn’t wheat week, though I do like that alliteration…
2009-06-28-millstream

The cleverly titled Iowa Pale Ale pours an opalescent copper with a bit of creamy off-white head. Citric hops (definitely cascade) stand out on the nose, with a backing of earthy ones (probably fuggles). A bit of toast comes through as well in the delicate aroma.

A bit of pointed bitterness greets you on the tip of the tongue. This migrates to the middle, growing into an earthy and herbal flavor. Meanwhile, a mild sweetness builds on the sides of the tongue, joined by some citric hop character. Neither the bitter nor the sweet flavor is too strong, balancing out to a very sessionable beer. All I would ask for is a bit more prominent hop flavor.

+Millstream Iowa Pale Ale

3.3 (4-7-5-4-13)

IPA Week: Boulevard Double-Wide

Saturday, June 27th, 2009

The Boulevard Brewing Company in Kansas City, Missouri has released a number of special-edition beers called the Smokestack Series. Tonight I will try the Double-Wide India Pale Ale. This is the bigger brother of their Single-Wide that I reviewed a little while back.

Double-Wide IPAThe Double-Wide pours a lusciously hazy deep caramel copper color with a thick, frothy tan head. The nose is full of hop complexity: pine and a rough floral aroma dominate, with significant notes of herbs and citrus. The grapefruit character of Pacific Northwest hops is assertive. A rich malty aroma matches the hops, manifesting as caramel and toast as well as raisins and prunes. There is but a hint of the sharp alcohol, but it’s hard to notice for the pine.

On the tongue the Double-Wide is slow to attack. First I notice a bit of caramel followed quickly by grapefruit and other citric hop flavor. Later the herbal and piney hops come, bringing along a significant but not overpowering bitterness. The citrus and herbs circle the caramel and raisins while the bitterness grows softer and eventually fades.

This beer is serious yet playful, strong yet drinkable. As much as I love their Single-Wide, Boulevard has worked a miracle with the Double-Wide.

++Boulevard Double-Wide IPA

4.2 (5-9-7-4-17)