Fire Island Beer Company
Saratoga Springs, NY
Red Wagon IPA
I got excited to have a sort-of-local brew, but realize that this beer is now brewed (or contract brewed) upstate. However, without the move from homebrew to brewery, I wouldn’t get to sample this. And I guess Saratoga is just as local as Fire Island.
The color is a very hazy and rusty roan with honey-amber accents. The clarity is very low – the muddiness of the color echoes in the opacity. A low, thin off-white head quickly runs its course, but settles into a nice later of ale film with a good promise of lacing.
The nose is a lovely tangy mix of hops and malt. There is the gamy smell of wet leaves or damp ground, but a sweetness carries over behind the slight sharpness of over-ripe oranges.
The mouthfeel is very full – excellent all around. There is an overwhelming smoothness that is followed by a crackle of effervescence before the considerable amount of flavor arrives. A very bitter, woody bite is the initial thing to hit the tongue. It is sere and tongue-smacking, but is accompanied by rich citrus and tobacco. Suddenly, as you think that a metallic finish is going to overwhelm the beer, honey-sweet cereal malt comes in for balance to ease up what initially feels like it’s going to be a severe alcohol wallop. I don’t know the ABV of this beer, but it is tempered nicely.
This is a rich beer, and one that I’d recommend for IPA nuts and even big beer fanatics. I’m not sure it gets official “Awesome” designation here, but it’s really close.
Casco Bay Brewing Co.
The pour was a bit lethargic, not seeming to offer up much in the way of a supported head, but once it was all in the glass, a quarter-inch was sustained. It’s a nice ruddy tan color and comprised of very fine bubbles.
Red Tide, sans algae.
The color is auburn edging towards chestnut brown. The clarity is excellent and the whole brew is replete with steady fine carbonation.
The nose highlights the malt, but the three hops varietals that are purportedly used in this beer break some of the caramel sweetness of the malts to create an oddly loamy spice that has hints of pepper, starchy rice wine, touches of mild fruit, like cantaloupe.
The mouthfeel is very good – the fine effervescence melts away into a creamy start that carries some biscuity malt across the tongue well. That soon dissipates as bitter green twig tang kicks in through the middle and back of the tongue. Perhaps a bit of lemon zest back there as well.
The beer is a passable ale, but remains a bit unbalanced. It’s probably improved when paired with some lamb or other flavorful or highly seasoned red meat.
Carolina Beer Co.
Wilkes-Barre, PA/Mooresville, NC
Cottonwood Irish Style Red Ale
Excuse the split personality, but the Carolina Beer Company is based in NC, while the bottle says Wilkes-Barre. I’ll give them both a nod.
A half-decent pour gave up almost an inch of off-white head that was rocky but quick to settle with what looks like it might be decent lacing. The color is deep amber with honey-orange, caramel, and some cola tones when held to the light.
The nose is very sweet with touches of caramel corn, crème brulee, and a background of baked apple pie filling.
The mouthfeel is excellent and, like Nuke LaLouche, this beer really announces its presence with authority. The first tones are subtle hums from the malt in the form of bread crust and a slight earthiness like the skin of a potato. In no time though, this beer opens up with a wash of peppery hops that dance towards the back of the tongue, with a touch of warmth like the smell of a rich cigar. At the end of the swallow however, a dryness takes over with a yeast flavor that dries up the sip nicely, creating an impressive body.
I wouldn’t say this is balanced, but that’s a good thing in this case. This beer see-saws between identities, true to its split origins, and seems to be a malty session ale, then a winter warmer, then a hoppy amber, and finally a bit of a farmhouse brew.
All told, this is a stellar brew with something for everybody.