Review: Deschutes Brewery Swivelhead Red and Hop Slice (2017)

A new duo from our buddies in Bend.

Deschutes Brewery Swivelhead Red India Style Red Ale – Swivelhead Red is a beer designed to keep you guessing. The amber body looks like any classic, brownish-red lager, but one whiff and you know something’s up. India style? That’s right, it’s an IPA with eight different hop varieties in it, which find a foil in a significant amount of burly malt underneath. What percolates through is a greatest hits of two different styles. There are plenty of piney and citrus-forward hops, which attack the palate with ample bitterness before letting the sweet and nutty malt wash it away. The finish is a bit funky with mushroom notes as well as some chewy molasses character. 6.5% abv. B+ / $10 per six-pack

Deschutes Brewery Hop Slice Summer Ale (2017) – A semi-sessionable pale ale infused with lemondrop hops (among others). Quite piney, but not particularly lemony, as some smoldering, earthier elements tend to dominate. Nonetheless it’s a refresher with a surprisingly bold body and a slightly spicy finish — that goes down real easy. 5% abv. A- / $10 per six-pack

deschutesbrewery.com

Review: Magnolia Proving Ground IPA and Kalifornia Kolsch

San Francisco-based Magnolia Brewing is releasing two of its flagship brews in cans for the first time. We sampled them both, straight outta aluminum. Thoughts follow.

Magnolia Proving Ground IPA – This IPA is described as an American-British hybrid that includes British Maris Otter malt used as a counterpart to classic west coast hop strains. The results are slightly familiar to anyone accustomed to hybrid IPA brews, but dazzling nonetheless. Lightly nutty notes and bites of apple give way to big pine resin and citrus notes. The palate is bold and fruity up front, with a lingering finish of lightly toasted grains and a hint of coffee bean. Highly recommended. 7% abv. A / $NA

Magnolia Kalifornia Kolsch – This German style golden ale is malty, buttery, and full of classic notes of banana bread and chewy, freshly toasted grains. Plenty enjoyable on a hot day, but some lightly sweaty notes make the finish a bit funkier than desired. 4.7% abv. B / $NA

magnoliabrewing.com

Review: New Belgium La Folie 2017 and Juicy Watermelon

Something old, something new from New Belgium. One is a reprise of its annual sour release, the other a fruit-flavored ale. Let’s try both!

New Belgium La Folie Sour Ale 2017 – New Belgium’s annual release of La Folie — a sour brown ales matured in oversized French oak wine barrels for up to three years — is here. No surprises for those familiar with the beer. It’s intensely sour, with a heavy focus on fruit notes — apple and lime, especially — that are mouth-puckeringly tart. At the same time, it lacks that heavy acidity and pungency that can make so many sours overblown and undrinkable. While this is undoubtedly a powerhouse, it guides that power into something with balance and grace. 7% abv. A- / $16 per 22 oz bottle

New Belgium Juicy Watermelon – Watermelon lime ale? Sounds like something from which I’d run away screaming (and perhaps a reprise/rebrand of last year’s Heavy Melon), but much to my surprise, this fruit-heavy ale is quite approachable. You don’t even notice the fruit at first, which drinks more like a lager, malty and lightly sweet, with some Christmas spice elements. As the beer warms up, the watermelon becomes more evident, but it’s kept in check, never spiraling (quite) into Jolly Rancher territory. Summery, for sure, so hold out for a hot day. 5% abv. B / $9 per six pack

newbelgium.com

Review: Virtue Cider The Mitten

This new release from Virtue Cider is, as always, a Michigan-born cider, made from a blend of last season’s pressed apples. The cider is “aged in Bourbon barrels for up to one year, then back sweetened with this year’s fresh pressed apple juice.”

This is one of Virtue’s more interesting ciders, offering caramel and butterscotch notes that complement dried apples and cinnamon. It’s like a carbonated apple-flavored whiskey from the start, but the finish finds the fresher fruit notes enduring and hard to shake. Candylike on the back end, some lightly herbal notes linger here, along with a touch of bitter quinine, which helps balance out the sweetness.

6.8% abv.

B+ / $13 per four-pack / virtuecider.com

Review: Stone Jindia Pale Ale

Look closely at the bottle of Stone’s latest release: There’s an extra “J” in front of the India, making this a Jindia Pale Ale. What’s a Jindia Pale Ale? It’s a Double IPA infused with juniper, ginger & lemon peel.

It’s a kooky spin in IPA. Instead of citrus and piney notes, the beer is instantly floral and loaded with clear gingerbread character — literally like biting into a cookie. There are pros and cons to this, as the notes of rose petals, which hit first, give the beer a feminine quality, while the ginger makes it taste more like dessert. The most elusive property here is actually the juniper — though when mixed with hops it seems to be responsible for giving the beer its floral notes. The finish isn’t so much bitter as it is lightly bittersweet, here showing off a squeeze of lemon, but with those florals hanging in for the long haul.

This is a one-off from Stone, and while it’s worth sampling once, it’s probably nothing you’ll be knocking down the doors to get again.

8.7% abv.

B / $16 per six pack / stonebrewing.com

Review: Modelo Chelada Tamarindo Picante

Modelo’s latest release is a spin on its long-running canned Chelada, a new flavor that adds tamarind and chipotle peppers to the classic chelada recipe of beer, tomato juice, salt, and lime.

I tried the new product, rimmed with Halo de Santo spicy/citrusy salt blend that Modelo conveniently sent along.

All of the extra flavors in the Chelada have a really light touch here. The primary character is Mexican lager, crisp and lightly malty, with some brightly citrusy flavors driven by the lime. The tamarind is more noticeable than the tomato even (despite the ruddy brown-orange color), and the Chelada isn’t particularly picante unless you sip it with a chunk of rimming seasoning. I highly recommend this approach, as the spice really elevates the beverage into something festive. Straight from the can, it’s fine, but too boring to get excited about.

3.3% abv.

B+ / $3 per 24 oz can / modelousa.com

A Brief History of India Pale Ale

Though sours and goses have been making strong headway into the craft market recently, IPAs remain kings of the mountain. High in alcohol, swelling with hops, both tart and bitter, there’s a lot to like about the crisp, bracing taste of a good craft IPA. But whether you’re a dedicated hop-head who can recite the IBUs of any given beer, or a more casual fan of the pine and citrus taste of a good IPA, you might wonder where the name “India Pale Ale” actually came from. Everyone knows what a pale ale is, of course, but what does this beer, which is the hallmark of American craft brew more than anything else, have to do with India?

Ale is one of the oldest styles of beer, with references being found in ancient archaeological sites in modern-day Iraq. But there are few cultures that are as synonymous with ale as the English. By the time of the various pagan conquests of England by the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes, the meadhall with its mead and its ale was firmly entrenched in the culture of the English. In addition to ale, another thing the English were once fond of was colonizing, in order to grow what was once the mightiest empire in the world. The British East India Company began running operations in India in the 1750s, and from the 1850s to the 1940s the British crown laid claim to the whole subcontinent. Throughout this almost 200-year stretch of British rule, both the government and the army of India were both filled with Englishmen.

All of these Englishmen pined for English beer of course, but the brewers back on the British Isles were having trouble getting their beer to last on what was a six-month voyage from London to Kolkata, then known as Calcutta. The solution was hit upon by a London brewer called Hodgson, who formulated a strong, heavily-hopped ale in hopes that the hops and the high alcohol content would serve as preservatives and keep the beer drinkable for longer. The plan worked better than anyone could have guessed, and soon India was importing strong, hoppy ales by the literal boatload.

Though IPA was of course immensely popular in India, the strong, hoppy quality didn’t develop a following at home, and with the advent of refrigeration and faster transportation methods, standard English ales could then survive the trek to India. These original IPAs, for the most part, faded away… for a time. Leave it then to the American craft brewers in the 1970s to pick up the style as they searched for an unusual type of beer that could help them stand out from the crowd. These American IPAs became the alcohol- and hop-monsters that we know and love today, no longer developed for preservation reasons but just for their taste. In a funny turn of events it was then the English brewers who began copying American IPAs to fill a niche market at home that just kept getting bigger and bigger.

So when you crack open a bottle of Bear Republic Hop Shovel or something similar, you’re drinking a beer with a history that has crossed oceans, crafted from the influence of three different nations. Talk about a glass of history!

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