Saturday, November 22, 2008
Crisp and Bitter.
Sometimes you just want a simple, good-tasting lager-style beer, so what could be better than this bottom-fermented Munich Helles Lager from the historic Hofbräu München itself? This pale-gold brew is nicely effervescent and pours with a wonderful thick head. To the nose, this beer has a fresh, grassy aroma tinged with malt. On the tongue it's hoppy-bitter but extremely crisp, like a cold slice of Granny Smith apple. The finish is smooth with just a hint of bitter lime peel. This is exactly what I was hoping for - everything I like about the German "Reinheitsgebot" beers in one refreshing glass! As The Barvarians say "oans, zwoa, g'suffa" - One, two, chug!
I'd serve this brew with herb-baked Rainbow Trout and steamed asparagus.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Another one from Pike Brewing, this time a Pale Ale. The "Heirloom Amber" tastes as redolent of character as its evocative name suggests. This brew pours a ruby amber with just a tad of lacy foam. The first flavor to assault the tongue is rich, smokey malt that's neither too sweet nor overbearing. This maltyness is balanced by the merest hint of rosemary provided by the idiosyncratic blend of Magnum, Willamette and East Kent Goldings hops. The finish is all cream with just a touch of burnt vanilla and hazelnut. Certainly not a run-of-the-mill amber but unique and very flavorful! I'd pair this up with mom's chicken and dumplings and some steamed, buttered broccoli.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Well-mannered yet feisty.
Pike Brewing is Seattle Washington's own downtown-market brewery with a nice selection of micros of which this India Pale Ale is a standout. This brew pours a hazy golden-orange in the glass with just the slightest bit of cream for a head. On the tongue it's surprisingly effervescent despite the weak head and I notice it has a complex balance of sweet and bitter happening - very nice! The bread-and-pie-crust flavor of the malt vies with the citrus-apricot tang of hops but neither side triumphs - this is a nice, flavorful ale that hits the IPA middle ground squarely. The finish is slightly sweet with a lingering bitter overtone of pine. I'd pair this up with peppered steak fries and a steamed spicy-hot Italian sausage.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
Morland Brewery in Suffolk are the authors of this fine bottle-fermented English Pale Ale. This pours copper-orange in the glass with just a bit of lacing at the top and a touch of sediment on the bottom, this brew is a delight to the eyes as well as presenting a pleasant yeast-and-honey nose. On the tongue it's nicely hoppy with flavors of grapefruit and unripe pears. Malty caramel-like overtones dissipate into a robust bitter finish of lemon rind and dates. Maybe just a tad "skunked" from the clear bottle, this one's still very smooth and refreshing. I'm curious now about its sibling "Old Speckled Hen" and will see about an assignation in the future. I'd have a pint of this with toasted Cheddar on a heavy Rye with crisp pickled carrots on the side.
Thursday, July 31, 2008
The Lighter Side of Hops...
Deschutes Brewery makes their seasonal Hop Trip Pale Ale as part of their specialty "Bond Street" series, their brewmasters' homage to their roots. Golden tan with a pleasant malty nose and just a finger of foam, this brew is a surprising change from all the hop-heavy beers I've grown used to here in the Pacific Northwest! If you're a big Hop-Head or even someone who shys away from the magic herb, you owe it to yourself to try this one. Brewed with freshly harvested hops instead of the more usual compressed pellets or dried flakes, the flavor of this Pale Ale is different to anything I've had before! The taste is almonds and grape leaves with just a hint of molasses smoke at the back of the tongue. The finish is a light floral herbalness with just a hint of lemon resolving to a subtle burnt carmel. Look for this one in the Fall, just after the hops are harvested - well worth seeking out. This would go well with a home-made lamb and potato stew with lots of garlic, tomatoes, sage and onions.
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
Seeds of Love.
He'brew Brewery is the offbeat producer of this decidedly offbeat IPA. The malty-sweet nose threw me a bit as I was expecting the herbal bouquet of hops from this medium-amber ambrosia. Nowhere near as sweet or acidic as I expected based on its name (and ingredients), the flavor is heady with dark malt, figs, dried peaches and just a tang of hops. The flavor is rich and complex though more reminiscent of a solid Bock than an IPA - but maybe that's just the Pacific Northwesterner in me talking as our IPAs tend to be "hop bombs". Nonetheless this ale is a real mouth-pleaser I'll seek out again! I'd pair a 22 ounce bottle of this with potatoes au gratin topped with basil ground beef and Walla Walla onions.
Monday, June 30, 2008
The Golden Lion.
A strange brew from Brouwerij Van Eecke N.V, this is like a cross between a hoppy Pale Ale and a Belgian Tripel. Popperings is a small town in the West of Belgium where hop cultivation is its main industry and "hommel" is hops in the local dialect. Poperings Hommel pours a slightly clouded pale gold with a small nonpersistent head. The nose is a solid fruity yeast with a grassy edge. On the tongue, the unique blend of bitter hops melds with but doesn't obliterate the familar Belgian-style fruity yeast - flavors of citrus rind and lemongrass mesh with green apples and tart muscat. Not your usual Pale but not all Dubbel either, this delicious hybrid will keep your taste buds guessing for some time! This beer would go very nicely with Swiss cheese and carmelized onions toasted on whole-wheat crackers.
Sunday, June 29, 2008
Not your father's Whitbier.
As I mentioned before, Dogfish Head Brewery is no stranger to strange brews and their Red and White is a prime example. This pours a cherry red with a firm, persistent head and a fresh, bready nose with the vaguest hint of coriander. Very much a Belgian Witbier, the yeast is foremost amongst the flavors creating a sweet and fuity body. There is a bittersweet pie-cherry tang with a hint of bitter herbs and orange peel. The Dogfish twist this time is Pinot Noir...both the addition of Pinot Noir Juice to the mash and the aging in Pinot Noir barrels. This brew has character with a capitol "C"! In spite of its heaviness due to its complexity and massive 10% abv, its no less appealing. If you're a fan of White Ale, you owe it to yourself to give this one a taste. Pair this one up with an authentic Russian beef stroganoff and you wont go far astray.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Humulus Lupulus Maximus.
Suprisingly, Stone Brewing's wonderful brews hail from sunny SoCal where the hops must grow bigger than your head judging by their Ruination IPA. The faint floralness that tempts the nose belies the massive hop-monster hiding in the first sip. On the tongue this IPA is all rich flavor. The Columbus and Centennial hops bloom on the taste buds with a creamy medium-bitter tang that is both bold and piquant. The lingering finish is lemon rind and figs. With a little kick at 7.7%, its still a very smooth drinker. Though Stone says this will ruin your taste buds for anything else, I'd pair it with something equally bold like Maytag blue cheese and lightly toasted whole-grain sourdough bread.
Thursday, June 5, 2008
Gold from Cologne.
Brauerei Heinrich Reissdorf is the producer of this clear, golden "session style" Kolsch, a Pale Ale local to its birthplace in Cologne, Germany. With its effervescent herbal nose and frothy head, I knew this one was going to be a refreshing change from my malt-and-hop-heavy favorites. On the tongue, the flavors of raspberry leaves and green grapes sparkle then fade to a non-lingering apricot finish. The flavor is straightforward and not overly complex. This ale adheres well to the "Reinheitsgebot" with only water, barley, hops and yeast creating its invigorating flavor. As soon as the weather starts to heat up, I'll make sure to have a few of these in the fridge. I'd like to have a tall glass of this golden brew with baked Rosemary Halibut and steamed broccoli.
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
Smoke and Herbs.
Rogue Brewery crafts this wonderful German Maibock style ale with a Northwest twist: the Rogue brewmeisters use their own proprietary "Pacman" yeast! This ale pours a transparent dirty-tangerine with just a medium-light head. The aroma of fruity yeast is the first to hit your nose, followed quickly by the hearty molasses-like scent of malt. This one is a new favorite - the taste is beautifully thick and heavy with lots of smoky malt and overtones of roasted almonds, pistachios and a touch of quince. There's a nice herbal bitterness hiding right beneath the malt so hop-heads need not despair. The finish is a cool, citron tang mellowed by the lingering malt. (Did I mention the malt?!) This would be fantastic alongside a spicy Penne Puttanesca with lots of Kalamata olives and capers covered with fresh-grated Romano.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
IPA fit for a God.
Elysian Brewing Co. has a real fondness for Greek mythology and their beer. Zeus, king of the gods and hurler of thunderbolts, appropriately graces their India Pale Ale, "The Immortal". This pours a clear yellow-copper with just a bit of lacing on top. The nose is a refreshing herbal breeze with some Bing cherry, but not excessively floral like some IPAs. On the tongue, this one is all apricots and a brisk, grassy bitterness. The finish is slightly sweet, toasty malts with a touch of grapefruit but fades quickly. An easy drinker with an earthy freshness, this one's a favorite - keep my glass filled, please! The Immortal is a solid all-purpose IPA and would pair well with cumin-heavy chili con carne topped with roasted Jalapeños and lots of soda crackers.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Revelry for Your Tongue.
Unlike their Delirium Noel, Brouwerij Huyghe makes this Strong Dark Belgian ale all year round so there's no need to wait for Yuletide merrymaking! Delirium Nocturnum pours a nice, clear, ruby-brown with a solid head. The lovely nose is redolent with woody overtones of cedar and incense with hints of yeast and candied fruit. For the tongue the complex flavors center around a strong, bittersweet base with lots of nutty yeast and a bit of bitter papaya. Unmistakably Belgian, the flavor is bold and complex enough to keep the mind busy as well as mask the 8.5% kick - so tread lightly. The finish is yeasty with the lingering tang of hops and herbal notes. This is another brew that ages well so you may want to lay a few bottles up. Revel in the flavors of this beer along with some whole-wheat Water Crackers and soft French cheeses.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Ale's the thing...
Samuel Smith's brewery in Tadcaster, North Yorkshire was established in 1758 and still brews beer the old way, though it would be nice if they gave the 21st century the nod with a website. Today I'm drinking their Old Brewery Pale Ale, a clear coppery amber with a thin, ephemeral head. The nose has notes of caramel and banana with just a hint of floral hops. On the tongue this beer is a refreshing, medium-bitter tang with lots of strong biscuity malt and a nice, tactile carbonation. The finish is only very mildly bitter and fades to a pleasant malty tartness rather quickly. This one is a great easy-drinking English-style Pale Ale with enough unique character to make it an attractive choice when the mood for something less astringent than an IPA but bolder than a Pilsner strikes. I'd drink this with sweet sausage, garlic-mashed potatoes and red cabbage slaw.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
Blacker than night.
Port Brewing's Old Viscosity is one of the most unusual beers I've ever had. True to its name, it pours as opaque and thick as you can imagine with a nice dark, but not persistant, head. Sweet malt is the first component to assail the senses quickly followed by molasses and bitter plums. The finish is like a black French Roast coffee with a hoppy lingering resonance and just a whiff of bourbon. There are very complex flavors at play in this brew and each part of the tongue gets its own workout! At no point does the flavor ever give away its surprising 10.5% punch, its as mellow as can be. This one is hard to pigeon-hole as its as far off the beaten track as some of the weirder American fruit beers or some remote Belgian hamlet's local pub favorite. This beverage blurs the line between Stout, Porter and Barley Wine style ales but still remains its own, a blacker-than-night, strong American Dark Ale. I'd have a tall glass of this with Sharp English Cheddar toasted with black pepper on hearty Irish brown bread.
Bold and Basic.
Redhook Brewery is another Northwest stalwart, creating signature craft brews since the eighties. Though now distributed by the monolithic Anheuser-Busch, they have retained their own brewery and brewmeisters in Woodinville, Washington. Redhook ESB is a rather nice medium-hopped ESB. Originally my favorite as a "beer neophyte" some years ago, I still consider this ESB as a great "everyday" brew. This brew pours a clear amber-red and presents a light nose of floral hops with a touch of green apple. Intial hoppy tartness on the tongue gives way to a light, yeasty body. The finish is tart but does not linger. For those of you trying to get a pilsner-loving friend to try an ESB, this Redhook would be a great introduction. This beer would go particularly well with whatever is on your favorite channel after 10:00pm...and popcorn of course. Say "hi" to Joel and the Bots for me, will ya?
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
To catch a Cobra...
Hale's Ales is an "old friend" to folks in the Pacific Northwest, making solid micro brews since the mid-eighties. Their Mongoose IPA is a relative newcomer to their fold and is a nice stand out with a great character. A rusty red brew, it has a healthy, yeasty aroma with a hint of malt. On the tongue, it presents a nice hoppy body without the over-the-top intensity of some IPAs. There's a hint of lemon peel but the overall finish is a long, tart grapefruit thanks to the Centennial and Nugget hops. This one's a great IPA that doesn't pretend to be anything else - not a Cobra, something a bit more "sly" but still with some "bite". A great brew with Italian cured meats, aged cheeses, Kalamata olives and rosemary cracker-bread out on the porch.
Sunday, May 4, 2008
Lemons and Spice.
Brouwerij Huyghe is the Belgian home of this winter-seasonal "strong dark ale" that weighs in at a heavy 10%abv. This pours a semi-cloudy mahogany with a nice, solid head. The nose presents a spicy tang with a hint of traditional Belgian sweetness. On the palate, there is a very strong citrus and walnut element with overtones of persimmons. This one is absolutely delicious with none of the heaviness I usually associate with this style of Belgian ale. The finish is yeasty with winter spice overtones masking the alcohol nicely - tread carefully. You'll want to lay a few bottles up...like I did. This would go nicely with Mom's pot roast, mashed potatoes and steamed, buttered Brussels sprouts.
If you can't find the Noel this time of year, don't fret. In a few days, I'll be tackling a similar brew from Brouwerij Huyghe that's available year-round.
Thursday, May 1, 2008
Deschutes Brewery produces the Hop Henge IPA as part of their specialty "Bond Street" series, their brewmasters' homage to their roots. Reddish brown with a solid citrus nose, this brew demands attention! If you're a big Hop-Head or a fan of Northwest-style IPAs, this will not disappoint - in fact it may smack you right in the kisser! WHAM! I love hops and this was still a very vibrant brew to my jaded senses! Floral with a nice solid, bitter finish, this one's not for the faint-of-heart but well worth seeking out. This would go well along the way to dousing the fire of a four-star Lamb Vindaloo or taming the demons amidst a sweltering summer night tangled in sweaty bedclothes - you decide.
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
A Moderate Beauty.
Belhaven Brewery makes this medium-brown golden ale of medium carbonation that pours with a nice medium-sized persistant head. At first one is lost in searching for the character - not too malty, not too hoppy, not too tart and not too sweet. This ale hits the middle of the road nicely - not too extreme in any one direction, its a good, very drinkable, malty ale that feels "just right" to the palate. A nutty, yeasty nose with just a touch of smoke, this is a real Goldilocks Ale - I could serve it to my Pilsner-loving friends or to friends used to darker fare without fear of reprisals. There's real beauty in moderation. This brew would hit the spot with a medium-spiced German sausage, steamed red cabbage and crabapples.
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
ESB fit for a Goddess.
Elysian Brewing Co. crafts a number of brews as bold and brash as the labels on them. Athena, the Goddess of wisdom graces the bottle of this Northwest-style heavy-on-hops ESB. So hoppy in fact that its in danger of becoming an IPA if not for the strong smoky body provided by the Cara-hell and Belgian malts. Not overly flowery, like some hoppy beers, it has a toasted orange peel finish that is pleasant on the tongue. With a bit of a kick at 5.9%, its still an easy-drinker. In fact, this ESB is one of my favorites and a wise choice by any definition! The Wise would go well with a Buffalo Burger piled with Roquefort crumbles and sliced red onions on a Kaiser roll.
Coffee and Chocolate.
Saint Peter's Brewery makes this amazingly opaque brew. Redolent with coffee grounds and chocolate with a tart finish, this Stout has overtones of prunes, raisins and herbs. The tart finish causes some to charactreize St. Peter's Cream Stout as "a bit off" but to my palate its just the character it needs to keep from being too sweet or heavy like many stouts. The longer I drink it, the more "bittersweet chocolate" it becomes. With notes of horehound and Worcestershire, its a Stout that stands apart. This would go well with Creme brulee or home-made caramel creme.
Not your father's IPA.
Dogfish Head Brewery has been crafting unusual beers since 1995 and they've gotten pretty good at it. Case in point is their 90 Minute Imperial IPA which at 9% alcohol by volume is not recommended for extended "quaffing"! Its a bit sweeter than many IPAs but still has a dry finish. It has an extremely floral nose. The hops are very predominant in the flavor but not as overpowering as you might think in such a high-alcohol brew because of the fruity sweetness balanced by the barley notes. For your first brew on a hot Summer afternoon or with a world-class Curried Chicken Salad sandwich, I can't think of a better choice.