Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Results, Not Excuses

Back in a previous life, when I used to go by the name "XO" instead of Bill, I carried around a coffee mug with a motto on it: "Results, Not Excuses."  It's even engraved on my retirement plaque.  So I won't make any excuses as to why my blog production has been so spotty lately; I'll just get get right into it.

The big news at Kenai River Brewing is that their cans arrived last Friday, all 16 pallets of them.  I stopped by to take a look on my way home and my impression was: "Lord, that's an awful lot of cans!"  Canning operations should commence this week, and I believe the first six-packs will be available for sale on Friday, March 4.  Besides taking delivery of their cans, Kenai River has also released the latest in their series of Single Hop IPAs; this one uses Saaz hops, one of the classic European "Noble" hop varieties.  I snagged a liter and drank it over the weekend.

It poured a hazy orange-gold into the glass with a large white head that dissipated fairly rapidly to a collar.  The aroma was of hops, of course, but not tremendously so.  On my palate the beer had a good mouth feel, nice bitterness, and a pretty intense finish.  However, I can't say that this is one of my favorites from among their Single Hop IPAs.  I can't quite put my finger on why, but the Saaz just didn't work for me here.  I find this strange, as I love them in a good Czech pilsner, like Pilsner Urquel.  Still, that's the purpose of brewing these single hop beers: to experience how a hop impacts a beer all by itself, so be sure to stop by and taste it for yourself.

Speaking of new beer releases, Kassik's Kenai Brew Stop released their Big Nutz Imperial Brown Ale on Sunday, 2/13.  I haven't been out there to grab any yet, but I need to hurry up, as I'm sure it will not last long.  Kassik's also sponsored the 2011 Fur Rondy Homebrew Competition up in Anchorage on 5 February.  Frank Bell and Brian Noonan brewed a specialty beer that was selected as the Kassik's Choice Winner; they will get to brew a commercial batch of their beer at the brewery.  I'm told that the work to complete the expansion of the brewery is still on track, with hopes to have their bottling line up and running by late spring, give or take.

Turning to some other beer reviews, I've been working my my through several that I picked up on recent Anchorage trips.

Let's start with Midnight Sun's Rondy Brew 2011 Winterfest Lager.  Each year Midnight Sun brews the official beer for the Fur Rendezvous in Anchorage; this year they went with a classic lager style.  It poured a lovely light honey color with a huge white head.  The nose was of clean malt with a touch of hops, just what you'd expect from a lager.  On the palate, the beer had nice carbonation and enough bitterness from the 30 IBUs from Saaz and Hallertau hops to balance the malt, dropping away to a nice, clean finish.  At 5.6% ABV, this beer is certainly sessionable.  This is just the sort of approachable craft brew that could wean a BudMillerCoors drinker away from macro brews and into the world of craft beer.  Nice job, guys.

Thanks to Pamela at La Bodega, I also got to sample a bottle of Sierra Nevada's new Hoptimum Whole-Cone Imperial IPA.  This beer is one serious hop bomb!  We're talking 100 IBUs from German Magnum hops, aroma hopping with Simcoe and an unnamed proprietary hop variety, dry hopping with Simcoe and the proprietary hops, and the use of Citra & Chinook hops in the "torpedo", the same hop infuser that is used to make their Torpedo Extra IPA. Toss in enough malt to provide something to hang all these hops on and you end up with a 10.4% ABV monster.

It poured a lovely copper color, with a massive, cream-colored head.  The aroma was massive, with plenty of citrus/grapefruit notes from the Simcoes.  On the palate there was a tremendous hop bitterness, though not quite as shattering as some other 100 IBU hopbombs that I have had.  The brewers at SN obviously went to a lot of trouble to try to keep the giant drinkable.  The beer has a decent mouthfeel and a good finish.  You have to really like hops to enjoy this beer at all, and I defy anyone to enjoy more than one glass, as anything more pretty much shreds your palate.  That being said, I found I liked it.  The brewers at Sierra Nevada continue to push the envelope; like everything they do, Hoptimum is a beautifully crafted example of the brewer's art.

Speaking of big beers, I also got to try a couple of barley wines.  The first was 10 Squared Barley Wine Ale from Fish Brewing Company in Olympia, WA.  The 10 x 10 comes from the fact that the brewers used 10 different malts and 10 different hops to brew a 10% ABV, 100 IBU barley wine.  While both 10 Squared and Hoptimum are 100 IBUs

Finally, I had a bottle of North Coast Brewing Company's 2010 Old Stock Ale.  This is a beer that I had heard many good things about, but had never gotten around to trying.  Of course I had also heard that it was a beer that was really designed to be cellared for several years before drinking, so tasting a 2010 bottle right away really doesn't do the beer justice.  However, I like to have a starting data point before aging a beer, so here goes.

The  beer poured a lovely translucent ruby color in the glass.  It produced a small head that dissipated almost immediately.  The aroma was very rich, redolent of plums, figs, or some other dark fruit.  On the palate the beer was equally complex, vinous and full of rich, dark flavors like a good port. At 11.7% ABV and 35 IBUs from classic British hops like Fuggles and East Kent Goldings, this is a wonderful example of an English barley wine.  I plan to cellar several bottles and taste them at one year intervals, to see how it matures.  Should be worth the wait!

Well, that's about it for this time around.  Get out there and try some new brews.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

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