Thursday, March 10, 2011

Hale's Ale's "Red Menace" Amber Ale

4 out of 5 Hops

Another Seattle staple brewery, Hale's Ale's, and their delicious hoppy amber, Red Menace. I love the name and bottle label for this beer. The bust of Lenin in the picture is of an actual statue located in Fremont, just north of Seattle, where the brewery is located.Here is the story of the statue. I have to love this beer, if just for the label. Truth is though, it tastes good too. Style could be compared to an American Pale Ale, but with more toasted malt flavor and color. Hoppier than its UK cousin but not infringing on the IPA category. This fine brew is deep red color, almost brown until held to the light. The aroma is toasty, malty, and a touch of piney hops. The taste is initially a mild sweetness, then quickly balanced by moderate hop; about 37 IBU. The Centennial hop only is used exclusively for this beer. Bonus points for Single hop beer! The hop oils cling to your mouth for a while a good way though. The flavor has a slight black tea flavor left behind. Not sure my feelings on that. Mouthfeel is full bodied, but not to the point of being thick and creamy. I could not find the ABV for this beer, but given the original gravity of 1.056 I would calculate it is around 6% or just under. There is a bit of yeast sediment in the bottle, which makes me assume this has been bottled conditioned for carbonation. Bonus points for bottle conditioning! Hale's has been around since 1983 and still going strong. Try the Red, and if you like it, Join the Party!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Dale's Pale Ale

5 out of 5 hops

Continuing my series of canned beers, I present...Dale's Pale Ale from Oskar Blues Brewery in Colorado! (Applause) Have I mentioned I have a severe mental aversion to canned beers? I think I equate all them with the flavor of American Light Lagers consumed in my fuzzy memories of youth. This American Pale Ale changes my mind though. I pour the beer into a glass, leave the can in the kitchen,walk to another room and sit, close my eyes, smell, and...taste. Wow! This came out of can? I realize cans now are lined for flavor protection and they are more this beer is an indicator how good they can be I will keep trying the cans. I may be converted yet. Well the beer at hand has an awesome aroma of lemon/grapefruit and English biscuits. The taste is lightly sweetened at the front but quickly converted to HOPVILLE, USA! This Pale could easily be an IPA at about 65 IBU and 6.5% ABV. Texture is thick and chewy and the finish is pleasantly oily and leaves a delicious Centennial Hop flavor behind. Speaking of hops..the recipe I found for this is Northern Brewer and Cascade for the boil/bittering, Chinook hops for some more flavor and finally Centennials for aroma. I will be snagging more of this one and also trying their other varieties very soon. Six pack and some fishing anyone?

Tsingtao Chinese Lager

3 out of 5 Hops

China's Number One Beer! I have not drank Tsingtao in a long time. The green bottled version is a staple in Seattle Chinatown restaurants. Many a spicy Sichuanese meals have I enjoyed along side this brew. This is the first time I have tried it in a can though. Not too shabby. I recall the bottled version being a little skunky like a Heineken; I attribute this to the light striking that occurs in the green bottles. Why do they use green bottles?? So, back to the can. This little 3.8% has a light, mellow malt/rice aroma. They use a mash of barley and rice to brew this. The taste is very delicate and smooth with a honey like lager aftertaste. Pleasant surprise. Hops are used just enough to balance the sweetness but do not allow any distinct hop notes. Clone recipe I found calls for Tettnang and Saaz hops. It has a clean, crisp aftertaste and the flavor dissipates quickly. Still...I am not complaining. Goes great with Asian food; especially spicy I think. In fact, I made stir fry tonight just for this beer. I don't know how the distribution is in the rest of the states, but just for the Hell of it, I dare you to try it. Compare the can and the bottle if you are able. Amazing what bottling can change.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Tale of Two ESB's

5 out of 5 Hops...just because

What better excuse to drink two beers than with two interpretations of the same style? Redhook ESB was an early favorite of mine when I began drinking craft beers. It's also one of my go-to beers in a pinch that is readily available here in Washington. Fuller's produces amazing English Beers that are available in the U.S. On to the comparison! ESB stands for Extra Special Bitter, which is a descendant of English Bitter/Pale Ale. The Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) has guidelines that break down the elements of each beer style. I basically see ESB as an ale with more hop, malt, and alcohol than a Pale Ale. There are more breweries doing ESB's now, but these two have always served as gauges for my comparisons.

First off, my old friend, Redhook ESB. This is a 5.8%, 28 IBU brew. It has a toasted malt nose with light hints of hop. The taste is malty but the moderate bitterness takes over right away. Hops used are "Alchemy Hops"(proprietary blend:Warrior and Millenium?) and Willamette for bittering, Centennial and Crystal for flavor/aroma. Clean finish, malty aftertaste with some hop.

Next is the Fullers ESB from England. This would be the more "original" style, but to each their own. The aroma is more noticeable and has a toffee/candy/fruity smell. Uniquely Yummy. The other Fullers "London Pride" has a similar aroma; yeast, I presume, combined with the grains. The taste is malty delicious and a slight oily finish. The beer has a very full bodied mouthfeel to it..if that makes sense..not watery in texture;thick and chewy. English Hops used are Target (bittering), Challenger(flavor/aroma), Northdown(flavor/aroma), and Goldings(flavor/aroma/dryhop)..same blend as their Bitters but add the Goldings. ABV is 5.9% and IBU is a rumored 35; which is remarkable since the Fullers tastes less hoppy. Definitely an English beer. Carbonation and aroma may seem very foreign at first, but give it a chance.
I won't go so far as to say one is better than the other. Like any style, each brewery interprets. I say try em both and see what you think. Redhook is very common in the West, and Fullers has a large distribution in the US. Let me know what you think!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Sierra Nevada "Celebration" Ale

5 out of 5 Hops

So I decided to close out my short Sierra Nevada fixation with the 2010 Seasonal IPA " Celebration" featuring fresh hops. I sampled these 3 beers in, what I felt, hop strength and flavor order. Celebration is the same IBU's,65, as Torpedo, but yet the hop flavor seems stronger and hangs in the mouth afterwards. No complaints on the lingering flavor of Cascade and Centennial hops in my mouth; both were used at the end of the boil for finishing and then dry-hopped after fermentation. This beer has a toasted,toffee, and citrus festival aroma and is followed up by a brief malty sweet taste, and then engulfed in hops. The hop flavorings are powerful and leave a light oily resin finish. This ale is great to sip and then sit back and enjoy the flavor. The bittering hop for this elixir is Chinook. (For reference, if you have had a Stone Brewing "Arrogant Bastard", they use all Chinook hops for bittering and flavor in that one.) Ok, back on track. Alcohol content is 6.8%, which is very manageable to enjoy a few in one sitting. And again I love the bottle conditioning with bits of yeast in the bottom. I like to leave a tablespoon or so of beer in the bottom, swirl around the yeast to mix and then savor that flavor. Yeah. Thank you Sierra Nevada. Celebration ale is a Fall release beer, so look for it later this year. I do believe the Spring Seasonal "Glissade" Bock style lager is on the shelf now. To your health!!

Sierra Nevada "Torpedo" Extra IPA

5 out of 5 Hops

The joy of Sierra Nevada continues. I decided to build on my previous post for Sierra Nevada Pale Ale by enjoying their "Extra" IPA. Well, it is "Extra" Delicious. The aroma has a fresh, hoppy and herbal smell with a hint of the yeast. I love the bottle conditioning flavor of the extra yeast! Don't let the "Extra" part scare you away you light beer lovers. The IBU for this brew is only 65, which is solid for an IPA, but not too be confused with a Double IPA. Also, the alcohol is at 7.2% ABV, which is higher than the Pale, but not dramatically. The "Extra" term, I believe, refers to the extra hop flavor created by using a unique, stainless "Hop Torpedo" for dry hopping. Mmmm....hop oil resin. This beer delivers a sweet malt taste at first, then the bittering Magnum hops takeover, followed by the finishing hop flavors of Magnum again and Crystal. The dry-hopping is done with magnum, crystal, and citra hops. For me, the flavor of this beer is really complex and each drink brings a different taste to mind. I attribute the hop oils that have mingled after fermentation in the dry-hopping. Either way, this is an amazing IPA bar none. There are "monster hop"/"hop bombs" out there that boast 100+ IPAs, but I don't find myself really enjoying them the way I like Torpedo. So please, please, please try this year round IPA and let me know your thoughts. Prost!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

5 out of 5 Hops

Ok. How could I not review this beer earlier..maybe even first? This, to me, is the granddaddy of allllllll US craft beers. I believe this may have been the very first ale I tasted back in 1993. Created in 1980 in Chico, CA this beer/brewery set a precedent in the beer world along with Anchor Steam Beer in San Francisco...but more about them later. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is widely distributed in the US and I am sure you have seen it on the shelf. If you have not tried it, please, please, please drop everything and get some! This ale is the flagship beer for Sierra Nevada and they have not stopped creating other amazing brews. I will review more of theirs' very soon. So..onto to the beer in hand. Incredible citrus and malt aromas followed by a crisp, balanced bitter flavor. IBU bitterness is a moderate 37, but there is more hop flavor than the number conveys. There is an aftertaste that is clean and bitter, but not overpowering. Hops used are Magnum and Perle for bittering flavor and Cascade for aroma. This beer is also bottle-conditioned which allows the yeast to add to the flavor profile as well. Alcohol is 5.6% and pricing is reasonable. This could easily be an everyday beer for me. Flawless! Cheers!