Sweetwater Brewing Co.
SweetWater was one of the first Southern breweries to start getting their small batches up above the Mason-Dixon. Their 420 is fairly ubiquitous and was a staple at most beer bars in the last 10 years. I digress.
The pour is active and hazy – bottle-conditioning will do that to a brew – and a copper penny color sits in the dense middle while the out edges of the glass shine like polished amber. A fluffy white head holds up nicely as the active yeast keeps doing its work. It’s a treat to have a bottle-conditioned beer at the right time.
The nose is heavy on grapefruit with a vegetal zest smelling sort of the way radishes taste. It sounds weird but you know what I mean.
The mouthfeel is very even and balanced – exceptionally so. Nothing is out of place. There’s enough malt to cover the palate and some peppery sparkle on the tip of the tongue while the hops hit their high notes on the sides.
Certainly it is a citrus-forward brew, but it is tempered by Chinook pine which adds earthiness to the high-flying grapefruit flavor. This is not nearly the “mammoth” IPA the label claims it is but it’s a damn fine beer and, in my opinion, outranks their flagship 420.
Shiner Wicked Ram IPA
Here are some things I like: Shiner. IPAs.
Shiner has been marketing their new IPA and it’s about time, too. MOST of what Shiner (Spoetzl) does is great. I’m still not sold on Cheer…
This one pours livelier than most Shiners do; with some help, I kicked up a clean white head with fine lace. The color is red oak and copper straw, with excellent clarity (another Shiner staple) and a steady column of medium bubbles holding the head.
The nose is hop forward – wet grass and leaves, with a squeeze of lemon.
The mouthful is not huge but it’s even, using the effervescence well to coat your mouth. There’s a bit of an odd phenol tang, but that ignites slowly into a crisp grapefruit snap that is woodier than you might expect from an IPA. The finish sits for a moment to let you consider it, before disappearing in a haze of citric cream and just the mellow eat ember of alcohol.
At 6.0, it’s not a palate-wrecker, which I’m always game for. As always, Shiner makes a good, workingman beer. It’s pretty straight-forward, and it’s not changing any definitions of the style, but it’s good and it’s interesting and cheap enough to be worth it.
Evil Twin Brewing Stratford, CT
Citra Sunshine Slacker
The name was too apt not to try; having slacked off for 692 days, I’m in need of inspiration. The stylized geometric Lebowski on the can helps too.
Crystal clear golden straw color with a crackling snow white head. Fine pearl strands wind up the glass keeping the froth rocky. The nose is fresh cut sativa and grass, with a touch of over-ripe orange. The mouthfeel starts with that effervescence skittering across the palate, opens up wide, then thins out in a wave of bitters. The flavor starts tart and citrus, blending and evening out a bit before dissipating into a slightly vegetal tang. A few more sips help even things out and the bubbles take on a hand-pulled quality. It’s a good session beer albeit one that tries to clone the effect of an IPA rather than settle for its own profile. Sessions have become their own thing, mimicking English cask pales more than their overblown American counterparts. This one abides.
Lagunitas Brewing Co.
Kill Ugly Radio Double IPA
This sucker has been rattling around in my collection for years. I probably should have cracked it open a couple of years ago, but there’s no time like the present, so no sense in waiting any longer.
The pour starts without much head, but a slightly yellowed froth flexes a bit before settling to a lace. The clarity is initially impeccable, though the latter half of the bottle has sediment, with sparse carbonation (probably due to some slow seepage or cap decay). The color is burnished copper in the middle – a real shiny penny glow – with some soft caramel orange around the sides.
The nose is a surprisingly malty, with rich molasses coming forward, but soon giving way to overripe apricot and dried pineapple aromas. The mouthfeel is surprisingly light and not at all cloying or burly, as the ABV might indicate. A very even grassy twang hits, before pine and tobacco cross the middle of the palate. The finish rolls into dry apple skins and there is a breath of alcohol, but no wallop despite expectations.
This bottle has been cellared for at least four years, and it’s pretty mellow for what I was expecting to be a pretty bold brew. Certainly, a maximum of three years in the dark would have been better than the 50 months I unintentionally gave it, but it goes to show that Lags constructs hardy beers.
A guest review from Max – plus a new “Limited Release” tag and category!
Matt Brewing Co.
Saranac White IPA
There seem to be so many IPAs at one’s finger tips today that one might
think the beer industry has come to target only hop heads. This isn’t a bad
thing, mind you, but it is rare to find a really good hoppy IPA that tastes
different from, well, a really good hoppy IPA. Batter up, Saranac White
IPA. What drew me to this beer was essentially the fusion of two of my
faves: a citra hops IPA and a Belgian-style white. The results had the
potential to delight, but you never know with seasonals, because if they
bomb they are only around for a few months.
The pour unleashes a powerful head similar to that of a Boddingtons, the cascading abruptly ceases (note the glass here) and you are left with a beautiful orange-ocher haze. Don’t try and stare down this lady, she, like most women are tough to see through and patience will serve you best as you make your way through the aroma which, like most analysis of this beer, is refined citrus. The most prevalent smell is grapefruit, then grass.
The mouthfeel takes you on a wild ride starting with a blast of citrus, however the infusion of 2 Row, Wheat, and Oat malts, tone down the hop as the backside of the taste releases an array of spicy vanilla and coriander (Saranac also uses 2 Row malt in it’s Vanilla Stout).
There is a wonderful duality between these different styles, they harmonize
when they need to and clash at just the right moments. This is certainly
one of the most refreshing IPAs I’ve ever tried and I would be very happy to
see a re-release in time for grilling season. While hardly a session beer at
6%, I drank three in 20 minutes after the Giants won the NFC championship
with no problem!
Posted in Beer Review, Guest Review, IPA, Limited Release, Max, New Brew, New York, Seasonal, U.S. and A, Wheat/White
Tagged Beer Review, Guest Review, IPA, Limited Release, Max, New York, seasonal, Wheat/White
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
Ruthless Rye IPA
Much-maligned rye has made a serious comeback and I am a huge proponent of its revival. It’s most commonly added to IPAs to impart some peppery spice to the bitterness already present. So, in the hands of Sierra, this is an exciting addition to an already strong seasonal line.
Pour carefully: a billowing, crackling, faintly tan head explodes over the top of the beer. As it descends slowly, it sticks to the inside of the glass. Extremely fine carbonation can just be seen – the clarity is excellent, but the beer is dark. The color is a clear toffee brown, like burnished oak.
The aroma is initially a bit like wet socks. There is pine sap, faint lemon, and the contradictory aromas of damp wood and burnt pumpkin seeds. The mouthfeel is very good, starting off with a creaminess that coats the mouth, but which is instantly stripped away by an intense woody bitterness, like a dortmunder. That drifts backwards with the swallow, giving way to a combination of intense citrus bite and the nuttiness of those toasted pepitas from the aroma.
This is a fascinating beer – it is neither pure hop bomb, nor just a peppery rye ale. It has the lager-like qualities of a German pilsner, but the piney tartness of an IPA. Certainly, it’s one of the most interesting beers I’ve had in a while, and it’ll wreck your palate for anything milder to follow, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t badass. I’m biased: I love Sierra, but this really is a sick brew.
Empire Brewing Co.
No bottle photo here – I picked up a growler at my friendly neighborhood bottle shop, the new and awesome City Swiggers. Having a local beer shop like this is something I’d only dreamed of while I schlepped to the Lower East Side or even the outer boroughs to find my specialty bottles. So, thanks to City Swiggers for, y’know, existing.
A crackling, orange-tinted head fluffs up, clinging to the sides of the glass. Almost perfect clarity shows sparse, slow carbonation. The color of burnt sand in the afternoon sun, this beer has an orange blush to it with a touch of dun.
The nose has sticky and resinous grapefruit and passion fruit notes, and a touch of mango. The mouthfeel is full, with that hop stickiness overwhelming the breath of creamy malt. Mostly under-ripe grapefruit dries out the middle of the tongue, while the softer tropical fruits spread out and back across the palate.
It’s certainly a hop-forward IPA for lupulin fanatics, but the finish is slightly more cloying – sticky, really – than expected. If the finish were a bit more sere, I’d rave about this one, but it just misses on the finish.
And in case you were wondering: yes, I did finish the whole growler after the Giants won the NFC Championship game.