Wednesday, May 25, 2011

New Beers From Near and Far

After a busy American Craft Beer Week, I once again find myself behind the power curve on blogging.  So let's jump right in.

During my last Anchorage run, I picked up three beers at La Bodega from Shipyard Brewing in Portland, Oregon.  I'd had some of their brews during sojourns on the East Coast, and they have a great reputation, so when I saw three different 22 oz. bombers, I snapped them up.  Two were from "Pugley's Signature series", an Imperial Porter and XXXX IPA, while the third was a Strong Ale/Barley Wine, Double Old Thumper.  Let's start with the porter.

The porter poured very dark, with the slightest ruby highlights when held up to the light.  A big, tan head was in evidence, with an excellent aroma of chocolate, sweet malt and roasted coffee.  On the palate there was a very full body with good carbonation.  This brew is very much the robust porter, with some residual sweetness, balanced by the roastiness and the addition of classic English hops like Fuggles and East Kent Goldings.  Weighing in at 7.1% ABV, it reminded my a lot of Flying Dog's Gonzo Imperial Porter, though not quite as "big", either in alcohol or mouthfeel.  A very nice beer and a great accompaniment to the grilled rib-eye I had for dinner that night.

The next beer was the XXX IPA.  It poured out a bright, clear copper color with a big off-white head, classic IPA appearance.  The aroma was packed with the citrus hop notes that scream Cascades, and the beer also uses Warrior, Summit, & Glacier hops in its recipe, for a total of 70 IBUs.  On the palate, the body is fairly light, with good carbonation and excellent up-front bitterness and hop flavor.  Everything is so well-balanced that it hides the 9.25% ABV extremely well; it's a nice, hoppy IPA that doesn't stray into the 100+ IBU hop-bomb territory.  Too high in alcohol to be a session beer, but it's not a palate-wrecker either.

Finally, the most unique beer of the three, Double Old Thumper Ale.  Anyone who lived in Britain and likes beer has likely heard of Ringwood Brewery's Old Thumper, which it past years has won the title of Grand Champion Beer of Britain at the Great British Beer FestivalRingwood and Shipyard Breweries have always had a close and special relationship, with Shipyard actually brewing Old Thumper under license in the US.  Now they have produced Double Old Thumper.  True it its name, it weighs in at 11.2% ABV, twice Old Thumper's 5.6%.  It poured a dark honey color, with a big, cream-colored head, very impressive for a beer with so much alcohol.  The aroma began off with some hops, including the classic grapefruit notes of Simcoes, moved to some malt sweetness, and then ended with a touch of alcoholic heat.  On the palate it was a classic English-style barley wine, albeit one that used American hops. Malty sweetness in front, with a fair amount of alcohol heat on the long finish.  Very nicely crafted.

All three of these beers were excellent, and I'd happily grab more at the earliest opportunity.  My only quibble was with the fact that the 22 oz. bottles they came in had twist off caps.  Huh?  Big beers like these do not need to have twist off caps, especially a beer as big as Double Old Thumper, which might get cellared for several months.  Anyone who can afford to drink these big brews should be able to afford a church key to open them.

Another beer I acquired in Anchorage was Gnomegang.  This is a bit of a tongue in cheek collaboration between Ommegang Brewery in Cooperstown, NY and the Belgian farmhouse brewery of Brasserie D'Achouffe.  The Belgians traveled to Cooperstown last summer to brew this Strong Belgian Golden Ale style beer, using their yeast in the primary fermentation  and Ommegang's house yeast in the secondary fermentation in the bottle.  Since both breweries produce excellent beers, I was anxious try taste their collaboration.

It poured a bright gold with a huge white head, exactly as you'd expect for a beer of the style.  The nose had a spiciness to it, like cloves, plus the earthiness characteristic of a Belgian yeast.  The beer was very light on the palate, with a dancing carbonation and flavors of clove, a touch of caramel sweetness, and good hop bitterness.  The finish is long, dry, and warming.  At 9.5%, this is no session beer, but it's so effervescent that it hides its alcoholic strength very well.  Another quality beer from two great breweries.

Now, let's talk beer news from Alaska.  Gabe Fletcher up at Anchorage Brewing Company has finally received his bottles and bottling machine, so  he's now got some revised release dates:

Whiteout Wit Bier - Released June 18th - Brewed with Sorachi Ace Hops. Spiced with lemon peel, coriander, and black peppercorn. Aged in French Oak Chardonnay barrels with Brettanomyces. Triple fermented. 6.5% ABV & 20 IBUs.

Bitter Monk Belgian Double IPA - Released July - Brewed with Apollo and Citra hops. Dry hopped in the barrel with Citra Hops. Aged in French Oak Chardonnay Barrels with Brettanomyces. Triple Fermented. 9% ABV & 100 IBUs.

Love Buzz Belgian Saison - Released August - Brewed with Amarillo and Simcoe hops. Spiced with fresh Alaskan rosehips, fresh orange peel and black peppercorns. Dry hopped in the barrel with Citra hops. Aged in French Oak Pinot Noir barrels with brettanomyces. Triple fermented. 8% ABV & 40 IBUs.

Tide and it's Takers Triple - Released September - Brewed with Sorachi Ace and Styrian Golding Hops. Aged in French Oak Chardonnay barrels with brettanomyces. Triple Fermented. 9% ABV & 30 IBUs.

Anadromous Belgian Black Bier - Released November - Brewed with Summit Hops. Aged in French Oak Pinot Noir barrels with Kodiak Salmon Berries and brettanomyces. Triple Fermented. 8.5% ABV & 30 IBUs.

Darkest Hour Belgian Imperial Stout - Released December - Brewed with Summit Hops, molasses, dark brown sugar and Italian black licorice. Aged in Rye Whiskey and Pinot Noir barrels with Brettanomyces. Triple fermented. 13% ABV & 33 IBUs.

Not sure where they'll be on sale on the Peninsula, but they'll definitely be available in Anchorage. 

Kassik's Brewery has finished their first bottling run of their award-winning Caribou Kilt Wee Heavy Scotch Ale (note the slight name change to placate the government).  The beers are bottle-conditioning as I write this and should go on sale next Wednesday, 1 June. Late Addition: I forgot to mention that Kassik's will be celebrating their 5th Anniversary with a benefit for the Food Bank.  It's from Noon to 5 PM on Saturday, June 4th at the Brewery.  There will be live music by The Cousins, food, raffles, and special samples of aged beers.  It's for a great cause, so make it if you can.

Over at Kenai River Brewing, they are continuing their good deal from last week, offering pints of Honeymoon Hefe for $2.50 and growlers for $8.  Don't think they've gotten their Sunken Isle IPA cans delivered yet, but it shouldn't be too much longer.

St. Elias Brewing has finally run out of H&H Highland Ale, much to my sadness, but they've replaced it on tap with this year's version of Island Girl Ale, a raspberry kolsch.  I reviewed the original version back on 6/15/2010.  This year's is a bit drier, with the raspberry making the beer seem slightly tart, rather than overly sweet.  Very clean tasting it's a nice summer beer, which will be very popular and refreshing as the weather gets really warm.

Looking ahead, the Kenai Peninsula Brewing & Tasting Society will be having their June meeting at 6:30 next Wednesday, 1 June.  We'll be meeting at Kenai River Brewery in Soldotna and talking about our July party and the Kenai Peninsula Beer Festival, taking place on August 13th. June 2 will be a First Thursday, so I expect St. Elias will be rolling out another cask of something, along with their live music.

Enjoy your Memorial Day Weekend, and keep drinking good beer.

Until Next Time, Cheers!


takajose said...

I think my mouth watered a little bit reading your newest review Bill. Can't find better, or more poetic beer descriptions anywhere else!

I'm Bill Howell. said...

I consider that high praise coming from you, Jose! Thanks.

takajose said...

Related Update: We were out at the market and we came across a Belgian-style amber ale called Rare Vos ('Sly Fox' in Flemish). I recognized the Ommegang Brewery from your review, so we got a couple of bottles and it was *delicious*. It also makes delicious beer bread (which is something we've been doing at home every week...can't go wrong with 4 ingredients, one hour bake time, and the flavors of your beer-of-choice peeking through in every bite!)

I'm Bill Howell. said...

Glad you liked it. Ommegang makes some excellent brews!