Posts from the ‘He Said / She Said’ Category

He Said/She Said #3- A Study on IPAs

Jai Alai

Holy 70s, Batman!

That’s right, Ladies and Germs!  It’s time for another installment of He Said/She Said, brought to you by the lovely folks at Hoptopia and BasicallyRed.  Tonight we have a treat for all you hopheads out there- a study of India Pale Ales.  Can ya dig it?  ‘Cause I know I can…

First, we start out with Cigar City Brewing Company’s Jai Alai India Pale Ale.  I hate to break foul on one of my fav breweries, but I just wasn’t digging on this brew when it came to aroma, despite its bitchin’ 70s style threads.  I got a musty odor, while Lee smelt salty seaside air, yellow grapefruit, and a not as spectacular as hoped hop.

Once we got to the taste, however, everything turned copasetic.  Very citrusy yellow fruit and a little fat (think Pam cooking spray, not butter) jumped out at Lee, while the brew tasted very clean and not drastically different from start to finish.  I, on the other hand, liked the IPA best at a colder temperature; first the beer is sweeter and then the hops come out as you hold it to warm it up.  Cigar City packed lots of flavor into this brew but also kept it quite refreshing none-the-less.  The hops and citrus profiles shine through, leaving not much room for anything else.  Big shout out to my buddy Phil from DosBeerigos for passing along a dang fresh supply of Jai Alai to make this all possible.

Surly Abrasive Double IPA

The only thing abrasive about this beer is me once I've run out of it...

“Beer for a glass from a can.”  You got that right, Surly Brewing Co!  My first thought, literally, when sniffing this brew was “whoa!”  With an aroma of bok choi/chow fun and old, musty, dusty pine satchel, Abrasive smells as if it was aged in pine barrels.  Lee was convinced he smelled aluminum on the beer, but I wasn’t so sure.  Jimica, red licorice and haslet (come on folks, give him a break… he’s British!) rounded out the nose for Lee.

The taste brought about one of the most malty IPAs I have ever tasted, which makes me *cough cough* hoppy!  Crazy drinkable with absolutely no semblance of alcohol, I think Abrasive is really nice when cold.  Lee’s two cents was that Abrasive Ale does succeed in tasting like a bigger version of Furious- perhaps a Furious Syrup (due to the sweet malt flavor, of course)?  Unique and complex wet hops and pink grapefruit are balanced nicely with the big maltiness, which doesn’t outshine the massive hop flavor.

Overall, I think this brew was a win.

Sink the Bismarck

"IPA for the dedicated"

“Holy Shit”- my words.

“I want to sleep in this glass”- Lee’s words.

That’s what happens when you set a pair of beer nerds loose on a 41% ABV rare Quadruple IPA (Eisbock) brewed by the mad scientists over at BrewDog.  Sink the Bismarck! is a creation of pure genius and sheer stupidity, as proven by the ever adorable Hans and Wolfgang.

First of all, the pour on this brew had absolutely no head, which at 41%, is a given.  This beer is basically on the verge of liquor-dom.  Once swirled, the beer gained a tiny yet pretty ecru head with little bubbles.

Although I’ve never had Absinthe, Lee convinced me that Bismarck! bordered on it’s aroma.  He also smelled spiced beef and creosote, as well as calling the beer “liquid Christmas tree.”  Put that in your candle and smoke it!  For me, the most prominent smell was pine sap mixed with Caribbean run cake.  As a former deli employee, I got a strong mixture of Pastrami and Londonport broil, wet leather, wood stain and polyurethane.

Taste-wise, it was licorice and really bitter syrup for Lee- definitely still an IPA with the texture and taste of both maple syrup and glycerine while also being astronomically more intense (think Absinthe, Chartreuse, Benedictine, or any other herb-based French spirit).  I totally felt the BURN and wanted a chaser with this brew, whereas, with most liquer, I don’t need such a thing.  It really is amazing how much this 41% brew really DOES still taste like an IPA.  With a bite of Anise and Sambuca, Bismarck! is very close to hoppy whiskey.

Sink the Bismarck! is definitely not a beer for everyone- a real acquired taste.  It is, however, a very well thought out and quality brew that should be slowly sipped and thoroughly enjoyed.

And so, as you can see- there are many different types of IPAs out there to try- and each with very different tastes.  I hope this piece has inspired you to get out there and try something new!


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He Said/She Said #2 – Troegs Scratch #28 (2010 Troggen Roggen), Eve’s Cidery Bittersweet Cider & Alaskan Brewing Company’s 2009 Smoked Porter

He Said/She Said #2

Don't try no shakin' on the wild ride...

Welcome to stage two of the He Said/She Said beer review journey.  Again, I have joined forced with Lee Norman Williams of Hoptopia.  If you haven’t checked out his site yet, do so.  Now.  Your palate will thank you.

Our night started out with a 12 oz bottle of Troeg’s Scratch Beer #28.  (Blogger’s Note: The linked up website shows the thought process behind Troeg’s Scratch Beer series, however, the brew described is actually the next in the series, #29, and has not been released yet.) #28 has affectionately been code named “Troggen Roggen” and is a Roggenbier, or German Rye beer.  Neither Lee nor I had ever partaken in this style brew before, so we were both excited to delve into Scratch #28.

The brew poured golden and full of sediment.  Lee immediately got collard greens cooked with bacon on the nose, while I got a whiff of natural clay (the kind you would find as a kid playing in the muddy dirt).  Instead of bacon, I smelled super salty pork rinds.  Lee rounded out the aroma with cloves and a bit of rhubarb crumble.

We agreed that the brew was very effervescent and tingly.  Lee noted that it was super bitter, but that the intense carbonation (up there at the level of big champagne bubbles) balanced the bitterness very well.  He also tasted grilled bananas, which, paired with the cloves he smelt, as well as date and golden raisin undertones, caused him to compare this Roggenbier to a light abbey ale.  He also called out sharp, sour black current and gooseberry undertones.  I found a tiny taste of citrus at the turning point of the swallow- as if adding a powder packet Crystal Light Grapefruit-ade to a bottle of water- watered down, sugary grapefruit hints.  I would drink this beer again but am not a huge fan- it’s definitely not at the top of my list.  Lee, on the other hand, really liked Scratch #28, stating he could easily drink more than one.

We moved on to Bittersweet by Eve’s Cidery.  While cider is NOT a beer, they are often close to beer in complexity and fermentation and are sometimes found in the beer aisle.  While the bottle says that this cider is 10% ABV, that is on the high end of the spectrum for ciders, which usually top out at about 8%.  While some ciders are full of sediment, this cider poured clear and golden, like a champagne style apple juice.

Lee smelled suntan lotion with aloe, wet gravel, the marshmallows from Lucky Charms and melted butter on this cider.  The obvious aroma for me on was fresh rain in an apple orchard– a clean, crisp, organic apple smell.  Also among the nose was gasoline.  Lastly, a smell that brought me back to my childhood, was the scent I would get upon opening one of those huge Popcorn Factory popcorn tin full of buttery popcorn, cheesy popcorn, and caramel popcorn.

The massive, soda-like bubbles on Lee’s tongue complimented the lemon Jolly Rancher taste.  The clean, refreshing apple juice base gave nothing of an alcohol content away.  I thought it tasted more like green apple Warheads than of lemon Jolly Ranchers.  Whatever the case, the large carbonation and clean citrus taste lent the cider a palate cleansing vibe, much like a sorbet in between courses.  Lee compared it to a French table cider, stating that, although the cider is decent on its own, he would like it better with a large meal- and any kind of large meal at that.

Last, but certainly not least, we popped open a 22 ounce bottle of Alaskan Brewing Company’s 2009 Smoked Porter.  At 6.5% ABV, this brew poured out a beautiful russet rust color with lots of creamy head.  Lee even commented on the head, (uncommon for Hoptopia), stating that it looked like a gorgeous root beer float.

Lee’s first reaction to the nose was “really, really, really smoky burnt bacon.”  From there he added candied carrots, chipotle, roasted red pepper, and red pepper flakes.  I took thickly burnt charcoal and overdone steak fillets marinated in teriyaki and soy sauces as well as sesame oil.

Both of us agreed that our taste buds were assaulted with an onslaught of ash upon the first sip.  Lee described it as “chewing sketching charcoal” and ashy and volcanic, like cindered rock.  The beer overwhelmed us both with its hoppy bitterness and lack of any sweet malted flavors.  To me, it was almost as if the beer could be made smoky due to roasted hops and could forgo malts altogether.  Lee thought that the brew will be far to overwhelming for some people- even including the most seasoned of beer drinkers.  As an avid smoked beer fan, I was not completely sold on this porter. While the ashy and bitter tastes were definitely amazingly extreme; the two giant tastes compete with each other, leaving no room for the tiny complexities that I love so much about smoked beers (chocolates, caramels, spices, oh my!)

While Lee admitted to liking the Smoked Porter, he said that he would have to be in a specific frame of mind to order it.  I liked it a lot but the dual flavors were so intense that I would nurse the brew all night (not always a bad thing!)  Even with the lower alcohol content, this beer is one for sipping.

As they say, two heads are better than one, and, well, three beers are better than two.  I couldn’t have asked for a more diverse and complex set of brews to taste on this He Said/She Said (Part Deux!) extravaganza.  Lee and I both had a blast doing this tasting.  Again, we hope that you can walk away from reading this a few beers smarter and ready to talk about what you taste in your drinks in the following nights to come.


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He Said/She Said #1 – BrewDog Paradox Imperial Stout & Hoppin’ Frog Mean Manalishi Double IPA

A whole new spin on "His" and "Hers"...

I was lucky enough to join forces with Lee Norman Williams of Hoptopia for the launch of this new series- He Said/She Said- comparing and contrasting the thoughts and ideas of men and women who love craft beer.  Lee is a beer blogger with a straight forward style and a penchant for breaking brews down into their finest components.  Because of this fact and the obvious diversity between our reviewing styles, I suggest that you prepare for an interesting journey…

The first brew that we sampled was BrewDog Brewery Paradox Isle of Arran (Batch 016) Whiskey Cask Aged Imperial Stout.  Whew, what a mouthful!  At 10% ABV, Paradox is actually somewhat tame for a BrewDog stout- their Tactical Nuclear Penguin clocks in at a whopping 32%!  BrewDog is known for their extremist styles that create a hit or miss situation where drinkers either love what they’re tasting or loathe it.

Lee’s immediate reaction to the aroma of Paradox was malted milk balls followed by flan (creme caramel) and that it was lighter in weight and more hoppy than he had expected.   My gut reaction was that of chocolate covered raspberries or dark chocolate raspberry truffles.  I also found the Paradox boozy, albeit smooth, whereas Lee insisted he had previously tasted brews with a lower percentage ABV that had a much boozier taste.  The back end of Lee’s sip brought him a bitter espresso bean taste- “like chewing on them,” he said.  Although I experienced much bitterness, I did not find espresso beans in my brew, but a straight up hoppiness unexpected for an Imperial Stout.

As our glasses warmed up, Paradox let out more and more of its complex aromas.  “Wood forward” is what Lee called it; based on the fact that the woody barrel smell surpassed any other scent.  This really brought out the single malt whiskey for him, and he finally admitted to smelling berries – Mulberries.  The warmer brew brought about even more of a chocolaty mocha smell to my nose.  Unfortunately, with more aroma came less taste from Paradox.  Apparently, with Paradox, it’s one or the other.

While Paradox is not my favorite BrewDog creation, I could definitely see myself drinking it again.  As an Imperial Stout, the brew did very little for Lee, who stated that Paradox tasted like a stout flavored American Strong Ale with a whiskey shot in it.  I agreed about the whiskey- the Paradox was a little too boozy for me, especially since I am not a huge fan of whiskey to begin with.  Lee and I both agreed that we like a sweeter stout; however, the hoppiness of the brew created an interesting flavor palate all the same.

Next on our list was the Hoppin’ Frog Brewery Mean Manalishi Double IPA, boasting a “mean” 8.2% ABV and, apparently, an IBU rating of 168.  With its hazy copper pour and minimal head, Mean Manalishi already looked to be completely different from the dark, heady Paradox.  Upon going in for the nose, the first words out of Lee’s mouth were “Hop damn!”, which summed up the experience pretty dern well.  While my more simplistic nostrils picked up the clear pine/basil combo bursting out of the glass, Lee delved further into the nuances of the scent- including items such as sage and onion stuffing, lemongrass and white pepper.  Proudly, I sniffed a hint of mashed potatoes or buttery popcorn on the tip of the aroma- my weirdest find yet.  In true Hoptopia fashion, Lee threw in stinky feet aroma to boot, but finished off with the thought that Mean Manalishi smelled like a savory roast chicken dinner (Blogger’s Note: Hey, Lee!  Does that dinner include mashed potatoes?)

Upon first sip, we both agreed that the brew was sweeter and more smooth than we had expected, almost as if a nitrogen cartridge had been utilized just as with Guinness.  Lee, lover of all things IPA (and creater of the Twitter hashtag #IbelieveinIPA,) broke out some strong words by calling it a “big double IPA” and placing it on the heavier end of the scale.  Lastly, we agreed upon the fact that citrus pushed through the super hoppy flavor.  However, Lee was set on yellow grapefruit whereas I felt more of a hint of lime.

Our review of Mean Manalishi ended with this discussion:

Lee: “This is one of the better Extreme IPA’s I’ve had – too often overly hopped IPA’s can be SO ridiculously bitter that they don’t have anything else going on.  This brew has a bunch going on!”

Red: “But isn’t that what the Extreme IPA style is about?  Extreme hoppiness?  That’s what you’re going to get when you ask for a large IPA.”

Lee: “Agreed.  However, Mean Manalishi is a good example of what can be done with an Extreme IPA- what kind of diversity can be achieved.”

In conclusion, I think that this first ever session of He Said/She Said was pretty successful.  Ironically enough, I am a Stout lover through and through while Lee’s favorite brews are IPAs; however, we both weren’t huge fans of the Paradox and loved the Manalishi.  There were some points we agreed upon and others we had completely different thoughts and opinions about.  One thing is for certain- there are so many different types of beer out there just waiting to be discussed, and one type of brew can mean something completely different to one person than it can to another.  So, beer peeps, get out there and start dialoguing about your favorite brews- who knows what interesting points someone may bring up that you had never before considered.

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