Category Archives: Beer

Tasting Beers and Stout Ice Cream at Peter B’s, Monterey, California

A recent trip to Monterey, California took us to Peter B’s Brewpub, back behind the Portola Hotel. A rowdy place full of pool tables and TVs blasting sports, it’s also home to Monterey’s biggest brewpub operation, with about a dozen beers on tap at any one time.

This time we came in search of something special, a not-yet-released ice cream flavored with Peter B’s own stout. Made by local icecreamateur Butch Adams (pictured below), who runs a small operation just off of Cannery Row called Kai Lee Creamery, it’s quite a treat, very mild up front, with a modest chocolate and nutty character to it — not quite stout, but not coffee or chocolate either. Lovely and restrained, I can’t think of a better way to end a session of sampling craft beers — unless you maybe drop a scoop of this into an IPA. A-

While we were there, we naturally sampled the five “always on” brews that Peter B’s offers, plus a couple of barrel-aged seasonal releases. Some quick thoughts follow on each of the beers.

Belly Up Blonde – A classic blonde ale, quite rich and malty. Fresh and chewy, with a slight oatmeal character. 5% abv. B+

Fort Ord Wheat – Unfiltered wheat ale. A bit musty, this is missing the bracing citrus of good witbiers. A little muddy on the back end. 5.8% abv. B-

Inclusion Amber Ale – Nice body on this, a good bridge to Peter B’s stronger brews. Mocha notes are prominent here, with some decent hops, though it’s far from bitter at 35 IBUs. Dried fruit and mushroom notes on the finish add interest. 5.13% abv. B+

Legend of Laguna IPA – The big guy (60 to 80 IBUs, depending on where you look). Ample citrus all around, with a ton of bitterness behind it. Hang in there for the evergreen finish, plusa touch of rum raisin. 6.5% abv. B+

Stout Resistance – The stout used in the ice cream, you get big coffee and cream notes on this black brew. It’s mouth coating and rich, but a lot of mushiness in the body mars this otherwise capable stout. 5.7% abv. B

Scotch Ale (seasonal) – Nutty with roasted grains and a slug of raisins. Nice balance here, and it’s quite different and fun. A-

Port Barrel Aged Stout (seasonal) – A real change of pace. Extremely cherry-fueled from start to finish, with a smattering of plums and raisins. Big body with a bracing, bitter finish that works well with the lightly sour body. B+

Review: Deschutes Brewery Twilight Summer Ale (2014)

twilight bottle 88x300 Review: Deschutes Brewery Twilight Summer Ale (2014)We last encountered Deschutes’ summer seasonal way back in 2010. Time for an update!

This warm-weather sipper toes the line between malty and hoppy, using Amarillo hops to bolster what might otherwise become a bit muddy on the palate. Up front the American Blonde-style ale offers some light notes of roasted apples and hazelnut, eventually fading as the hoppier elements come through. Some citrus peel on the finish adds balance and nuance to the somewhat chewy mid-palate, but the overall impact is on the milder side, just as you’d expect from a summer brew.

5% abv. Available through September.

B+ / $9 per six-pack / deschutesbrewery.com

Review: Firemans Brew Blonde Beer, Brunette Beer, and Redhead Ale

FB 3bottles.dry  525x645 Review: Firemans Brew Blonde Beer, Brunette Beer, and Redhead Ale

We last encountered Firemans Brew five long years ago — we mistakenly gave them an unattributed apostrophe back then — so with summer upon us, a fresh look is in order. The company still makes three hair-color-themed beers, though the “Brewnette” has been reformulated with a newish name (a straightforward “Brunette”) and less alcohol.

Fresh thoughts on the So-Cal based “The Original Firemans Brew” follow.

Firemans Brew Blonde Beer – A classic pilsner lager. A big body elevates this over your typical “baseball game” brew, with a chewy, sourdough bread core studded with a touch of pine and a hint of brown sugar. Some caramel notes emerge on the finish, but mostly it’s a crisp and clean slugger from start to finish. 5% abv. A-

Firemans Brew Brunette Beer – A burly double bock, with considerably more alcohol than the other brews in this lineup. Lots of malt on this one builds up layered notes of coffee, chocolate, and chicory, atop a sultry, creamy base. Built for fans of bigger bodied brews. 8% abv. B+

Firemans Brew Redhead Ale – A red amber ale that will offend no one, this malty, woodsy beer is built with a moderate body and a chewy, almost nutty character on the palate. The finish comes along with strong notes of fresh-baked bread and a touch of fresh coffee notes. Harmless. 5.5% abv. B

firemansbrew.com

Review: Deschutes Brewery Pine Mountain, Armory, & Cinder Cone Beers

deschutes armory 525x375 Review: Deschutes Brewery Pine Mountain, Armory, & Cinder Cone Beers

Three new brews from Bend, Oregon-based Deschutes are hitting the market — all three on a year-round basis.

Deschutes Brewery Pine Mountain Pilsner – A surprisingly malty pilsner, Pine Mountain has a big, bready body, with notes of peanuts, peaches, banana, and honey. The finish takes on an earthy, somewhat mushroomy character. There’s fruit here — those peaches are stronger than you might expect — but the heavy maltiness dulls this beer’s crisp finish a bit. 5.2% abv. B+

Deschutes Brewery Armory XPA – “Experimental Pale Ale,” made with five kinds of hops. Initially woodsy and piney, as it warms up it reveals a surprisingly sweet and orangey character, almost like citrus jellies on the finish. There’s good balance between the two, but the sweetness becomes a little wearisome after a pint or so. 5.9% abv. B+

Deschutes Brewery Cinder Cone Red Ale – A traditional red ale, this dark brew offers tons of richness, including notes from the forest, brown/burnt sugar notes, and plenty of bitter root character, particularly on the finish. A bit muddy, even chalky, this drinks like a burlier winter brew. Named after rocky lava formations… makes sense. 5.3% abv. B

each $4 per 22 oz. bottle / deschutesbrewery.com

Free Tickets to ChouffeFest New York and Washington D.C.

Howdy! Like Belgian craft beers and live in New York or Washington D.C.? Well, we’ve got something sweet (and bitter) for you!

Drinkhacker is giving away two pairs of tickets to ChouffeFest, which hits New York’s Brooklyn Bazaar on 6/19 and Washington D.C.’s TOOLBOX on 6/21. You can win a pair of tickets, which include entrance to the event featuring Belgian-style Chouffe beer tastings, delicious food, live music, and plenty of gnomified merrymaking.

You must be 21 or older to enter (and attend). To enter, please send an email to contest2@drinkhacker.com and provide your first and last name, your city of choice (NYC or Washington, D.C.), primary e-mail address, and what Chouffe beer you’re most looking forward to tasting.

All entries must be received by 6/17 at noon PDT. Only one entry per person. There will be one winner chosen for each city.

More info…  

Chouffe Fest celebrates Chouffe’s Belgian craft beers, which rumor has it, were hand-crafted by magical gnomes and passed in secret to Chouffe’s founders in the 1970s. Inspired by this mystical tale, Chouffe Fest invites guests to step into the imaginary world of the Chouffe gnomes, which includes an eight-foot-tall “gnome throne” photo booth and giant, playable versions of checkers, Jenga and Connect Four. Check out this video for more event details: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5C7EvJviWds

Chouffe Fest will proudly feature the following Belgian craft brews from Chouffe:

  • La Chouffe is a Belgian blonde ale with a hazy golden yellow color with full white head. La Chouffe boasts aromas of peppery spice and flavors of candy sweetness and fruity esters, followed by a creamy dry finish in this highly carbonated and gently warming ale. It contains 8% alcohol by volume (ABV) and a Rate Beer rating of 98.
  • Mc Chouffe is a Belgian-Scottish dark ale that is rich brown in color with a light tawny head. Featuring deep aromas of chocolate, toffee and caramel with rich nutty and spicy flavors of almonds, cinnamon and nutmeg, Mc Chouffe has a dry, creamy finish with noticeable warmth. It contains 8% ABV and a Rate Beer rating of 97.
  • Houblon Chouffe is a Belgian IPA Triple that is golden yellow with a delicate white head. Featuring grassy and citrus aromas from Amarillo, Tomahawk and Saaz hops with slight aromatics of clove; biscuit malt flavors are followed by a touch of honey then a dry, crisp finish marked with a touch of orange. Houblon Chouffe contains 9% ABV and boasts a Rate Beer rating of 99.

Chouffe Fest New York will take place Thursday, June 19 from 7 – 11 p.m. at the Brooklyn Bazaar located at 165 Banker St., Brooklyn NY 11222. Tickets are on sale for $10 each at: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/chouffe-fest-new-york-tickets-11652804853

Chouffe Fest D.C. will take place Saturday, June 21 from 7 – 11 p.m. at TOOLBOX D.C., located in Dupont Circle at 1627 (rear) Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, D.C. 20009.
Tickets are on sale for $10 each at: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/chouffe-fest-washington-dc-tickets-11652963327

Guests must be 21 and over to attend all Chouffe Fest events. For more information about Chouffe Fest, visit http://www.chouffefest.com

Upcoming: California Beer Festival Marin County 2014

Who’s ready for brews? I’ll be here — so come on by, enjoy a few craft beers, and say hi while ’80s cover bands pump out the jams.

Don’t miss the California Beer Festival Marin County on Saturday, June 28 from 12:30 to 5 p.m at beautiful Stafford Lake in Novato with 100 craft brews on tap featuring breweries from throughout the state including local favorites Lagunitas Brewing Company and Hopmonk Tavern. This is the third year for the annual event.

Attendees announced so far include: Six Rivers Brewery, Stone Brewing Company, Iron Springs Pub and Brewery, Broken Drum Brewery, Bear Republic Brewing Co., Big Sky Brewing Company, Altamont Beer Works, Bison Brewing, Carneros Brewing, Hangar 24 Craft Brewery, Day of the Dead Beer and many more. Beer sampling will be from 1 to 4:30 p.m. (VIP tickets get you in early.)

Information and tickets are available at CaliforniaBeerFestival.com. VIP tickets are $65 each. General admission is $40. Sliders and suds tickets are $55, with designated driver tickets available for $25. Children under 12 are free, but must be accompanied by an adult.

Be there!

Review: Stone Enjoy By 07.04.14 IPA

stone enjoy by 225x300 Review: Stone Enjoy By 07.04.14 IPAAs always, Stone’s latest ultra-fresh bottling has less than a month to go before you can no longer “enjoy” it (35 days after bottling)… ostensibly, anyway. In keeping with the past iterations of this long-running series, this beer is bursting with liquid pine character.

But 07.04.14 is balanced just a touch by some hints of caramel, lemon peel, and Asian spices (Stone’s tasting notes suggest peaches and tropical fruit, but I don’t much get those).

Whatever the little touches are, by and large it’s that huge hoppy pine character that positively spews forth from start to finish, as “Enjoy By” brews always provide. With 13 varieties of hops used (Ahtanum, Super Galena, Simcoe, Amarillo, Delta, Target, Calypso, Cascade, Citra, Galaxy, Nelson Sauvin, Motueka, and Helga) and 88 IBUs, one would hope so.

9.4% abv.

A- / $8 per 22 oz. bottle / enjoyby.stonebrewing.com

Review: Starr Hill Whiter Shade of Pale Ale, Soul Shine, and Little Red Roostarr

SH  WhiterShade 22oz Bottle thumb Review: Starr Hill Whiter Shade of Pale Ale, Soul Shine, and Little Red RoostarrThree new brews from Starr Hill, arriving just in time for summer barbecues. Thoughts follow.

Starr Hill Whiter Shade of Pale Ale White IPA – A hybrid of Belgian wheat beer and India Pale Ale, a bit like one of my current favorite brews, Lagunitas Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’. Made with wheat and two-row malt along with Cascade, Simcoe, Columbus, and Falconer’s Flight hops, it’s a nicely hoppy beer that still exercises some restraint with its bitterness (45 IBUs). The attack starts moderately big hop notes along with some orange fruit, quickly leading to a very pleasant and rounded body. Chewy on the palate, the wheat component makes for a more breadlike IPA than you may be accustomed to, but this is ultimately quite fulfilling and satisfying. The finish is soft and easy, more soothing than bracing like a classic IPA. All in all, an excellent brew. 7.5% abv. A / $10 per 22 oz. bottle

Starr Hill Soul Shine Belgian-Style Pale Ale – An “Americanized” Belgian ale, which means adding American hops (Falconer’s Flight, Cascade, Simcoe, and Columbus) and bringing it down to 5.2% abv. Though it’s specifically designed for lighter, summer drinking, the beer feels a bit watery, and super fizzy to boot. Relatively flavorless up front, I pick up very basic citrus notes interwoven with baked bread character. The body is short and quickly fades, however, leaving behind a minerally taste reminiscent of beer-spiked Perrier. Not my favorite in this batch. 5.2% abv. B- / $NA per six-pack

Starr Hill Little Red Roostarr Coffee Cream Stout – The odd man out in this otherwise summery collection of brews, Little Red Roostarr is an inky milk stout that offers the coffee ground and bittersweet chocolate notes you’d expect from this style, with a very modest hop character (East Kent Goldings) to it. What’s lacking is the “cream” component: Red Roostarr is fairly thin in the body, which ultimately takes the beer to a lackluster finish that has more chewy graininess in it than I care to see in a beer of this style. 5.8% abv. B / $7 per 22 oz. bottle

starrhill.com

Review: Six Ciders from Tieton Cider Works

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It’s time for a gaggle of apple ciders from Tieton Cider Works, based in Tieton, Washington. TCW makes at least 10 different products. Here we review a half dozen, all spins on the classic apple cider formula, and arranged from dryest to sweetest. Enjoy.

Tieton Cider Works Tieton Blend Cider Dry – English style cider, bone dry with barely a hint of sweetness. This is a tough one for those more accustomed to fruitier, sweeter ciders, and even after putting on my dryest of dry white wine hats, I couldn’t cut through it. Herbs and minerals abound here, but the overall effect is like a weak sauvignon blanc. 7% abv. C

Tieton Cider Works Yakima Valley Dry Hopped Cider Dry – Dry cider blended with local hops. Cider plus beer is known as a “snakebite,” but I’ve never seen anyone actually drink one. Here, the sweet, sour, and bitter are combine to create an initially off-putting concoction, but over time your palate adjusts and reveals a complex and unique brew. The sour apple notes remain the heaviest component, the hops largely blowing off to show themselves primarily as a hint on the finish. 6.9% abv. C+

Tieton Cider Works Wild Washington Apple Cider Semi-Dry – Aptly described, with tart and sweet elements. Lots of mineral notes here, along with an earthy (“wild,” perhaps) pungency on the nose. This is a cider for those who are OK with sweeter stuff, but who might want to experience a somewhat dryer beverage from time to time. 7% abv. B

Tieton Cider Works Apricot Cider Semi-Dry – Blended with apricots, naturally. Quite fruity, with strong overtones of fresh and dried apricots. Seems sweeter than “semi-dry” would indicate, with a biting acidity on the finish. The simplest, but perhaps the best, of the bunch. 6.9% abv. B+

Tieton Cider Works Apple Cherry Cider Semi-Sweet – Plenty of cherry flavor up front here, so much so that it almost drinks like pomegranate/cherry juice. Heavy sour notes on the finish abate over time, leaving behind the essence of fruit, with an almost mineral edge to it. Not bad. 6.9% abv. B

Tieton Cider Works Blossom Nectar Cider Sweet – Includes apple blossoms in the mix. Quite sweet, and indeed very floral, with a pleasant balance between tart apple and the perfumy, rose-scented blossoms. The perfume does take on a “grandma’s house” note over time, particularly as it warms up, but hey, you’re drinking cider, so stop moaning. 7% abv. B+

$42.60 as a mixed six-pack of 500ml bottles (one of each of the above) / tietonciderworks.com

Review: Founders Brewing All Day IPA Session Ale

founders all day ipa 300x179 Review: Founders Brewing All Day IPA Session AleAnother entry into the growing category of sessionable (aka lower alcohol) IPAs, Founders Brewing’s All Day IPA clocks in at just 4.7% abv.

Hailing from Grand Rapids, Michigan, the beer is now available in 15-packs of 12 oz. cans, a way, I suppose, to make up for the lower alcohol level.

The abv is just 0.2% higher than Stone’s recently-released competitor, Go To IPA, but the upgrade is worth it. Here, Founders offers up a rich and authentic IPA, full of piney, hoppy flavors. Lemon and orange notes kick up alongside the rustic, forestlike body, but the finish is plenty big and bracing. Sure, a higher-abv IPA offers a slightly cleaner, crisper conclusion, but Founders’ lower-abv rendition is perfectly credible and, I expect, to many drinkers it will be nearly as good as the real deal.

B+ / $NA (same price as the old 12-pack, we’re told) / foundersbrewing.com

Review: Alaskan Brewing Company Icy Bay IPA (2014) and Jalapeno IPA

alaskan jalpeno ipa Review: Alaskan Brewing Company Icy Bay IPA (2014) and Jalapeno IPATwo new brews from Alaskan Brewing — or rather, one new experiment from the “Pilot Series,” and one revamp of one of the company’s year-round offerings.

No need to beat around the bottle. Thoughts follow!

Alaskan Brewing Company Icy Bay IPA (2014 edition) – Alaskan recently updated the 2007 recipe for this staple by adding additional hops — Bravo and Calypso — to its original phalanx of Cascade, Summit, and Apollo hops. The IBU level is also higher (now 65), too. Results are fine, if short of breathtaking. The beer takes on a muddiness that might be the result of a surfeit of hops, and it’s missing the bracing crispness and citrus notes of the best IPAs. That’s a bummer, because the other notes in this beer — green pepper, tree bark, licorice touches — are intriguing. They just need something else to back them up. 6.2% abv. B / $8 per six-pack

Alaskan Jalapeno Imperial IPA – What you’re expecting: IPA brewed with jalapeno peppers. While this is a solid IPA, featuring a citrus-forward body with notes of mint, root beer, dried herbs, and plenty of hoppy bitterness, what I don’t get at all is any sense of jalapeno heat. It may be driving some of the mild green pepper and onion notes that you get, just barely, on the finish of the beer, but these are quite mild and not spicy in the slightest. Interesting (and unusual) flavors for an Imperial IPA, but where’s the heat? 8.5% abv. B+ / $8 per 22 oz. bottle

alaskanbeer.com

Review: Angry Orchard Green Apple Hard Cider

angry orchard Green Apple Bottle Hi Res 79x300 Review: Angry Orchard Green Apple Hard CiderWhy are these apples so mad? I guess because Angry Orchard is squeezing them into cider.

The company’s latest offering is Green Apple, made from apples grown in Washington state. The attack is brisk and tart, recalling indeed a real green apple. What’s left behind after that crisp apple character fades is a sort of melon-like finish, recalling sake, laced perhaps with a bit of bubbly. This would be a fine cider for sushi, in fact. Give it a spin.

5% abv.

B+ / $8 per six-pack / angryorchard.com

Review: Beers of Peak Organic Brewing Company

peak organic ipa 79x300 Review: Beers of Peak Organic Brewing CompanyWest coast readers can be forgiven for never having heard of Peak. The brewery is based in Maine, about as far from our shores as you can get. Things are changing, though, and Peak is making its way west. As part of its expansion to Northern California, we got to sample six of Peak’s (many) brews.

Thoughts follow.

Peak Organic Fresh Cut – Peak’s latest, a seasonal release. This is a dry-hopped Pilsner, with an apropos name. It’s grassy to extremes, almost to the point of being meadowy, if that makes sense. The sharpness of the greenery eventually gives way to a sort of mushroom character on the mid-palate. The finish offers modest hops. Fairly refreshing and reasonably restrained. 4.7% abv. B+

Peak Organic Hop Blanc – A Belgian white IPA, made with Belgian wheat and a cluster of hops. This is a lovely, hybrid-style beer, citrusy up front with a slug of Christmas spice. The finish: Bracing and bitter, with earthy overtones (a bit of a “house style” in Peak’s brews, it seems). 6.4% abv. A-

Peak Organic Nut Brown Ale – A bold and, indeed, nutty ale from Peak. This one starts right off with notes of fresh-from-the-oven wheat and rye bread, walnuts and almonds, and a dusting of brown sugar. Dense with lightly chocolate notes on the finish and modest bitterness. Touches of banana bread, even. A completely solid effort on a style that can be a little shopworn at times. 4.7% abv. B+

Peak Organic IPA – Made with Simcoe, Amarillo, and Nugget hops. Quite citrusy for an IPA, but with plenty of forest floor-laden bitterness to back up the fruit. Easy to slug on despite a high alcohol level (which you don’t really notice), with very light floral tones on the back end. 7.2% abv. A-

Peak Organic Simcoe Spring Ale – A Pale Ale dry-hopped with Simcoe (as you might expect) hops. Nutty up front, with notes of pine needles and tree bark. A little muddy on the mid-palate, with a finish that heads more toward the forest floor than the canopy. The IPA is similar in style but suits me better with its balance of citrus. 5.4% abv. B

Peak Organic King Crimson Imperial Red Ale – A unique duck in this lineup, maltier than the rest with cherry, root beer, and licorice notes. The finish is long, bitter, and malty, with subtle citrus notes. Heavy on the alcohol. Fun, but a bit much in the end. 9% abv. B

prices all NA / peakbrewing.com

Review: Stone Go To IPA

Stone GoToIPA Hero Web 225x300 Review: Stone Go To IPAThe problem (for some) with IPA: The alcohol level is through the roof. Finish off a bottle and you’re done for the night.

Solution: Stone’s new Go To IPA, which offers brisk hop flavors while clocking in at just 4.5% abv. The name is a play on words, not just that this should be your “go to” beer, but also you can “go two” when you sit down with them.

The beer is made with a technique known as “hop bursting,” in which a large amount of hops are added to the very end of the brewing process to infuse extra hop flavor along with some of the bitterness that IPA is known for. The results are interesting, even if they don’t result in my favorite beer. The nose starts off with big hop notes, but there’s an undercurrent of skunkiness that comes across right away. The body is hugely piney, with an almost vegetal character to it. This quickly turns earthy, almost muddy, with a finish that isn’t so much brisk as it is simply and vaguely bitter. It’s fine, but not overly memorable.

I like that Stone’s trying to dial back the alcohol but keep the power of the hops in the forefront, but I think I’d rather just drink half of much “real” IPA…

B / $10 per six-pack / stonebrewing.com

Review: Shock Top Honey Bourbon Cask Wheat Beer

Shock Top Honey Bourbon Cask Wheat bottle 80x300 Review: Shock Top Honey Bourbon Cask Wheat BeerThis new Belgian-style unfiltered wheat ale from Shock Top is brewed with honey and caramel malt, then is aged on “bourbon cask staves” (so, not in casks).

What’s wrong with that? Just about everything. The nose offers vague honey intertwined with hospital notes. The body is thin. And the palate is simply bad: Melted Bit-O-Honey candies, quinine, and mints from your grandma’s purse. Wholly unbalanced and unsatisfying, with a funky and sickly sweet aftertaste that’s difficult to get rid of.

A complete miss for the Shock, alas.

5.5% abv.

D- / $8 per six-pack / shocktopbeer.com

Review: Deschutes Fresh-Squeezed IPA

Deschutes Fresh Squeezed Angle 258x300 Review: Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPAThis otherwise traditional is stuffed with fresh mandarin orange character, literally to the point of overflowing, courtesy of its generous Citra and Mosaic hops dosage. (As it warms up, the fruitiness becomes even stronger… hence the name.) The finish is plenty bitter and surprisingly drying. Overall this is a fun beer, but the orange character makes it a little one-note, almost to the point of oversimplifying things.

6.4% abv.

B+ / $NA / deschutesbrewery.com

Review: Magic Hat Dream Machine IPL

Dream Machine 12 oz bottle 87x300 Review: Magic Hat Dream Machine IPLFor this hybrid, Magic Hat mixes up the style of an IPA with an amber lager. Good call, and this mash-up works well. The body is round and full, the hallmarks of a big autumn lager. The modestly bitter finish is loaded with bracing hop character, though it’s far from overpowering.

Dream Machine works both ways — as a punched-up lager and as a dialed-back IPA — great for when you find yourself somewhere in the middle ground.

5.7% abv.

A- / $NA / magichat.net

Review: BridgePort Brewing Trilogy 1 and Hop Czar Citra IPA

bridgeport trilogy 300x300 Review: BridgePort Brewing Trilogy 1 and Hop Czar Citra IPAPortland, Oregon-based BridgePort Brewing is celebrating 30 years in business, and it’s honoring the event by putting out three beers, all named “Trilogy something” over the course of the year ahead. Fans will vote on their favorite and the winner will be brought back in 2015.

The first of this trio is out now: Trilogy 1, which is dry-hopped with Oregon-grown Crystal hops. Review below.

We’re also doubling up this review with another look-see, of Bridgeport’s Hop Czar. Formerly a standard bottling, it too is becoming a series of subtly different beers with different hop varietals as the focus. The first release, nicknamed “Citra Czar,” uses (you guessed it) Citra hops in the mix.

Thoughts on both brews, now in limited release, follow.

BridgePort Brewing Trilogy 1 Crystal – A Crystal dry-hopped American pale ale. Solid stuff. Really fresh up front, with a minimal nose akin to a pilsner. The body is restrained on the bitterness, with some lemon peel and orange peel notes, plus a little nuttiness on the finish. A simple beer, unmuddied with distracting notes, but refreshing and well made. 5.2% abv. B+

BridgePort Brewing Hop Czar Citra – A Citra dry-hopped American pale ale. Lots of fruity citrus notes here, both on the fairly intense nose and the body. The strong fruit character is this close to being out of balance with the intense bitterness of the hops, and it’s the hops that win out in the end, leaving Hop Czar with a strong bitter finish. An unusual and satisfying IPA, but I think the Citra hops alone here aren’t enough to give the beer direction, balance, and a satisfying finish. 6.5% abv. B+

about $8 per six-pack / bridgeportbrew.com

Review: 4 Beers from Base Camp Brewing

base camp Smore Stout Bottle small Review: 4 Beers from Base Camp BrewingLike any good craft brewer, Portland, Oregon-based Base Camp makes a dozen-plus different beers, some with very exotic compositions. Unlike most craft brewers, it then puts these beers into oversized 22 oz. aluminum bottles, which are “made for adventure.”

We tested four of the company’s brews. Thoughts follow. 

Base Camp Brewing In-Tents IPL – An unusual copper-colored India Pale Lager. Deep forest notes and cedar closet on the nose. The body is equal parts IPA and malty lager, but the earthy, almost musty finish that develops (thanks to the beer being aged in oak barrels) is a bit too much, overpowering some of the delicate pine notes up front. 6.8% abv. B

Base Camp Brewing Ripstop Rye Pils – A German pilsner with the addition of rye malt. This is a beautiful combination, the pilsner lush and rounded, and the rye giving it a bit of extra zip. Straightforward with fresh baked bread notes, moderate bitterness, and with just a touch of orange peel on the finish. Lovely balance. Easy, summery brew. 5.7% abv. A-

Base Camp Brewing Northwest Fest – An Oktoberfest-style brew, moderately gold in color and quite malt-forward. Quite a good one, it’s been lagered on toasted oak to give it a touch of vanilla sweetness, but the mildly dry hoppiness and fresh baked bread notes overpower everything else in the end. Straigthtforward, it’s a richer, more mouth-filling choice than both of the above. 5.6% abv. B+

Base Camp Brewing S’More Stout – An American stout with all the trimmings: Chocolate, coffee, and intense malt extract on the nose and the body, leading into a thick, bittersweet finish (emphasis on the bitter). Not enough nuance in this one for me… just a punishing blackness punctuated by hints of dessert. 7.7% abv. B-

basecampbrewingco.com

Homebrew Review: Northern Brewer – BACON! Smoked Red Ale

Stock Homebrew Review: Northern Brewer   BACON! Smoked Red Ale

Bacon doughnuts, bacon gum, bacon mints, and now… bacon beer? One of the hottest crazes to sweep the nation lately has been bacon-flavored products, and not even beer seems to be able to escape its allure. In 2011, Oregon-based Rogue Ales teamed up with Voodoo Doughnut to release its Bacon Maple Ale, but now homebrewers can join in on the swine-inspired fun. (Which I did, for your reading pleasure.)

Northern Brewer’s BACON! Smoked Red Ale homebrew kit is available in both extract and all-grain varieties, featuring cherrywood smoked malt to cement the smoky, meaty character. However, what sets the Northern Brewer kit apart from crowd is the inclusion of liquid bacon extract. At first glance, this vial is intimidating; it appears thick, smells of a combination of brine and bacon, and doesn’t shy away from potency. Keep in mind, though, that this 30ml of extract is enough for 5 gallons of beer.

Bacon 3 Homebrew Review: Northern Brewer   BACON! Smoked Red Ale

Out of the box, the extract version of the kit contains specialty grains (chocolate malt, honey malt, Caramunich, and the aforementioned cherrywood smoked malt), dry malt extract (amber and wheat), dark malt syrup, an ounce of Willamette hops, 30ml of bacon extract, and your choice of dry or liquid yeast.

While steeping the specialty grains and during the boil, a strong smoke and barbecue aroma fills the air as the cherrywood malt works its magic. When I added the bacon extract after the boil, I could sense how meaty this beer was going to turn out.

Bacon 2 525x350 Homebrew Review: Northern Brewer   BACON! Smoked Red Ale

Disclaimer: Each homebrewer has different equipment, technique, and experience. Your results may vary.

Despite the aggressive pork notes that emerge while brewing the beer, BACON! cleans up nicely within the glass after a few weeks of conditioning in bottles. While Northern Brewer’s stock photo shows a radiant ruby color, my version was a little bit darker, bordering on mahogany. In the nose, the bacon still stands in the spotlight but isn’t overpowering. In fact, there’s a pleasant balance between the meatiness and a honey, caramel sweetness. This balance continues into the body, where a mild amount of chocolate contributes to the complexity.

Overall, my version of this beer had a bold but not overwhelming bacon characteristic; I went back and forth on questioning if I would’ve liked to see a more brash beer — without compromising the drinkability of how it is now. All told, I enjoyed what I ended up with and will probably explore this kit again in the future.

B / $50 (extract version) / northernbrewer.com