IPA Madness, Smuttynose Style!

If you live on the east coast and love IPAs, you've probably tasted Smuttynose Brewing's Finestkind IPA. I first tasted and wrote about Finestkind IPA two years ago. If you haven't tried it yet, you should!

The IPA has been the most popular craft beer style in America for over a decade and the brewers at Smuttynose are working overtime to satisfy our insatiable demand for hops! Three of their recent releases celebrate this deliciously bitter beer:

  • Rhye IPA:  Making its debut in the Big Beer Series, this IPA features rye, which can add a nice tangy flavor that plays nicely with the hop bitterness. I haven't tasted this yet, but will try it soon.
  • Cluster's Last Stand:  Part of the limited edition Short Batch Series, this collaboration with Stone Brewing features the seldom used Cluster and Bullion varieties. This is a re-creation of a pre-prohibition IPA. In terms of flavor, think grass (the lawn kind).
  • Big A IPA:  Now 10 years old, this double IPA started life as part of the Big Beer Series. It's well named, as this beer is a BIG IPA that's boozy and loaded with tropical and grapefruit hop flavors! I also wrote about Big A IPA back in 2011.

If this isn't enough hoppy goodness for you, Smuttynose's Durty (Hoppy Brown Ale) made a return appearance back in June.

What's your favorite Smuttynose hoppy beer?

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Full Sail's Hop Harvest Tour at Sodbuster Farms

On Monday, Full Sail Brewing hosted a tour of Sodbuster Farms, a hop farm in Salem, Oregon. Hop harvest is an exciting time in the craft beer world, and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to attend!  Here's a summary of some of the things we saw and experienced during the day. 

Upon entering the bus (at 10:15 a.m.) we were offered a beer. Since it was noon (somewhere), I chose Full Sail's newly released Oktoberfest Lager. It's now available and is expected to run out by the end of September. It's delicious and makes an ideal fall beer! Look for a full review soon. 

About 45 minutes later, we arrived at Sodbuster Farms and were set loose in one of the hop fields. The aroma of hops was literally in the air!

The hop bines (not vines), can grow up to 50 feet high! Cascade, the workhorse of Northwest craft beer, was being harvested during our visit.

I didn't realize the cones could grow so large! Some were nearly 2 inches in length. When I rubbed one in my hands, it left a resiny substance that smelled like pine and grapefruit. Delicious!

The harvesting process starts when a worker chops the bottom of the hop bine with a machete. Next, a machine comes through and cuts the hop bine from the top of the twine the supports it. After it's cut, the bine drops directly into a truck.  Click on the video to see this step in action.

The hops are then trucked in from the field.

A worker standing in the truck takes each hop bine and attaches it to a conveyor that takes it through the machines that separate the hop cones from the bines.

The separated hop cones are moved to a large kiln room where they are dried. Somehow, I missed this part of the tour. However, you can check out a hop harvest video I made in 2011 to see what happens in this step.

After the hops are dried, they're sent down a chute, compacted, and packaged into 200 pound bundles.

The packaged hops are stored in a refrigerated room, which is VERY cold. You can see your breath. The smell of this room was amazing! I wish I could capture and share it. Let's just say it smelled like a LOT of fragrant hops.

We actually ate lunch before we toured the facility. I tasted Full Sail's soon-to-be released 26 Cascade Pilsner, brewed to celebrate Full Sail's 26th Anniversary. It's light bodied and loaded with juicy hop flavor!

I would pair this beer with a plate of barbeque...

It's always a real treat to meet the people behind the beer. Full Sail CEO, Irene Firmat (middle), tells us about Full Sail's upcoming seasonal releases.

Jamie Emmerson, Full Sail Brewmaster (right) and Jeff Alworth are embroiled in a lively debate about who's the most awesome.

This was my second hop harvest tour. Even though I've seen the process before, it never ceases to amaze. Beer may be brewed year round, but hops are harvested, dried, and packaged in a very short 5 week window. It takes a tremendous amount of work and care! So the next time you enjoy a beer, raise a glass to the the folks that grow the world's finest hopsright here in Oregon!

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Rare Beer Club September Selections (Imperial Hofblues Stout & Bone Warmer)

The Rare Beer Club just announced their September club selections. Fall is rapidly approaching, and each of these beers are ideal for sipping on a cool autumn afternoon or evening!

  • Imperial Hofblues Stout, 't Hofbrouwerijke, Beerzel, Belgium:  Hailing from the West Flanders region, this Belgian Imperial Stout starts with sweet caramel in aroma and is followed by dark chocolate and spicy hops. Mild peppery notes are produced by the Belgian yeast. Most of 't Hofbrouwerijke's beer is sold through the brewery, but Imperial Hofblues Stout is available exclusively through The Rare Beer Club.

  • Bone Warmer, Grand Teton Brewing, Victor, Idaho:  Brewed for the first time in five years, this Imperial Amber Ale is part of Grand Teton's Cellar Reserve Series. I tasted Grand Teton's Black Cauldron and enjoyed it. Bone Warmer is a malt-forward beer similar to a dunkel. Dark German malts provide flavors of cereal grain and caramel. While higher in alcohol, it features a crisp mouth feel due to a long cold-conditioning period. Let it warm up to reveal hidden layers of flavor! Bone Warmer is a very limited release, but a quarter of production is being allocated to the club.
For detailed information about these beers, browse through the club's September newsletter. To learn more about The Rare Beer Club, and to see pictures of a beer shipment I received, click here.

If you'd like to try out the club, you can receive a discount by using the codes shown below during the checkout process. Memberships start at $32.95 per month plus shipping and handling.

  • NOTSOPRO5: $5 off any membership
  • NOTSOPRO10: $10 off any prepaid membership of 6 months or longer.
  • NOTSOPRO20: $20 off any prepaid membership of 12 months or longer.

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Stone's 17th Anniversary Götterdämmerung IPA

Each summer, Stone Brewing Co. releases a new anniversary ale. This year, for it's 17th anniversary, Stone has released Götterdämmerung IPA, a German-inspired IPA. For more details, check out the news release below.

Most popular IPAs tend use hop varieties that provide piney, citrus, and floral flavors. Götterdämmerung differs as the German hops varieties provide herbal, peppery, and spicy notes. Different is good and I look forward to tasting it soon!

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Stone 17th Anniversary Götterdämmerung IPA Released

ESCONDIDO, CA (August 12, 2013) – At Stone Brewing Co., new beer ideas from way-out-there to downright obscure are debated daily. When it comes to brewing a beer in celebration of Stone’s anniversary, it’s no-holds-barred for the brewing team. Case in point: Stone 17th Anniversary Götterdämmerung IPA. Gott-er-dam-er, what?! (The phonetic spelling doesn’t help much on the pronunciation; check out Brewmaster Mitch Steele attempting to pronounce it by watching the video.) Starting today, the anniversary beer will be available in bottles and/or on draft at select retailers, restaurants and bars across the U.S.

Stone 17th Anniversary Götterdämmerung IPA is a double IPA, brewed with malts and hops traditionally used in German pilsners. Steele has always been a fan of German beers, and proposed a West Coast-style double/triple IPA with German hop and malt characteristics for this year’s Stone Anniversary Ale. A departure from the citrusy American and fruity New Zealand hops the team primarily brewed with of late, the German hop varieties bring intensely hoppy character and floral, stone fruit, herbal, spicy, peppery flavors to the beer. Stone 17th Anniversary Götterdämmerung IPA is 9.5 percent alcohol-by-volume (ABV) and comes in at 102 international bittering units (IBUs). The beer pours a deep gold, and has a uniquely strong flavor profile that is balanced, clean and intensely bitter. It should be consumed before the “Enjoy By” date on the bottle to maximize hop aromas and flavors, as it’s quite hard to say how this will cellar if laid down for future consumption.

So, what does Götterdämmerung mean? Occasionally referred to as a disastrous conclusion of events, the name was chosen because Stone wanted to take West Coast IPA sensibilities and combine them with German ingredients. By unceremoniously mashing together one of the most traditional beer styles with one of the newest, Stone created a beer that well, may be the end (or perhaps the extension) of everything we thought we knew when it came to the range of uses for German hop varieties.

Review: Transatlantique Kriek, New Belgium

Transatlantique Kriek
New Belgium Brewing Co. — Fort Collins, CO

  • Style: Kriek
  • Bitterness: 8 IBU
  • ABV: 8%
  • Malts:  Pale, Red Wheat, Carapils, Roasted Barley
  • Hops: Willamette
  • Yeast: Lager

Description:  In a never-ending quest to create new beers and defy category, New Belgium Brewing and Brewerij Boon of Belgium have partnered together again to create Transatlantique Kriek - a spontaneously fermented lambic ale made with Polish cherries. This authentic kriek beer began life in the oaken vessels at Frank Boon's brewery in the Lembeek region of Belgium.  After more than two years aging, Boon's offering shipped across the Atlantic and found its way to the intuitive palate of New Belgium's Brewmaster Peter Bouckaert.  After much sampling and internal consultation, Peter and his brew staff created a full-bodied golden lager to round out the light-bodied kriek. — New Belgium Brewing Co.

Random thoughts:  New Belgium's Lips of Faith series produces small batch beers. Some are barrel aged, some use wild yeast, some integrate unusual fruits, but all are unique! I'm a huge fan of their Tart Lychee and hope it gets re-released soon. If it does, I'll stock up! I also love krieks and have been looking forward to tasting this.

The tasting:  Brilliant ruby red in color, clear with a frothy pink head that dissipates fairly slowly and leaves plenty of lacing on the glass. It's a nice looking beer! Aroma of sweet cherry and oak. From the first sip, the taste of cherry comes through. It starts out sweet and turns mildly tart in the middle. While it has plenty of cherry flavor, it reminded me of cough syrup. A light earthy hop bitterness and toasted oak also emerge in the middle. Alcohol isn't not noticeable in aroma, but a touch is present in the middle. Overall, it's stealthy for an 8% ABV beer. Transatlantique Kriek is light bodied, has a smooth mouth feel, and finishes with lingering cherry. 

Rating:  3 star. Good. I would drink this again if someone gives it to me.  If you're looking to sample the style for the first time, you should consider giving Transatlantique Kriek a try. However, for me, its medicinal flavor and nearly $15 price tag will probably keep me away should it make a return appearance.

Have you tasted New Belgium's Lips of Faith Transatlantique Kriek? What's your favorite kriek?

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Review: Summer Weizen, Smuttynose Brewing

Summer Weizen Ale
Smuttynose Brewing Co. — Portsmouth, NH

  • Style:  Wheat Ale
  • Bitterness: 15 IBU
  • ABV: 5.46%
  • Malts:  North American Two-Row, Wheat Malt
  • Hops:  Sterling
  • Special Ingredient:  Whole chamomile flowers
  • Sampled:  12 oz bottle (provided by brewery)

Description:  Light, tasty & full of character, our summer wheat ale is brewed with a combination of domestic and continental wheat and barley malts, lightly hopped & fermented with a Belgian wit yeast, resulting in a delightfully tangy & refreshing flavor. This beer is brewed for warm weather enjoyment. Bring some to your next picnic, barbeque or Frisbee game. — Smuttynose Brewing Co.

Random thoughts:  While great for year-round drinking, wheat ales are especially good summer thirst quenchers. Summer Weizen is Smuttynose Brewing's aptly named summer seasonal. I'm profiling it as part of my summer beer series

The tasting:  Bottle stamped with a best by date of October 17, 2013. Medium golden in color, clear, with a white head that dissipates fairly slowly. Aroma of wheat, lemon, and spicy hops. Taste starts with biscuit, bread, tangy wheat, and earthy hops. In the middle, the chamomile emerges. It's subtle, and does not overwhelm. A bit of yeast is also present in the middle. Alcohol is not noticeable in flavor or aroma and hop bitterness is very low. Summer Weizen has moderate carbonation and is light bodied. It's crisp and finishes with a light earthy hop bitterness and mild chamomile.

Rating:  3 star. Good. I would drink this again if someone gives it to me.  Personally, I'm not a huge fan of chamomile. However, as a homebrewer, I'm intrigued by beers that are brewed with herbs because they usually provide an unusual and interesting twist to a beer. If you're a fan of chamomile, be sure to try Summer Weizen!
Have you tasted Smuttynose's Summer Weizen Ale?

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Review: ZigZag River Lager, Portland Brewing

ZigZag River Lager
Portland Brewing Co. — Portland, OR

  • Style:  Lager
  • Bitterness:  25 IBU
  • ABV:  5.1%
  • Malts:  2-Row Pale, Wheat, and Munich
  • Hops:  Nugget and Tettnang
  • Sampled:  12 oz. bottle

Description:  ZigZag River Lager is an old favorite from the Portland Brewing archives. It’s a clean, easy-drinking golden lager brewed with Nugget and Tettnang hops and a touch of malted wheat to give it a crispness perfect for Portland summers. — Portland Brewing Co.

Random thoughts:  Back in February, Portland Brewing Co. was re-launched (after using the MacTarnahan's name for a decade). As part of the re-branding, they've dusted off some old beers from the archive. ZigZig is a beer from yesteryear that's getting a new lease on life. I'm drinking it as part of my series on summer seasonals.

The tasting:  Golden orange in color, slightly hazy, with an off-white head that dissipates slowly. Aroma of toasted malt and bread. Taste of caramel, biscuit, and spicy hops. The malts provide a mild level of sweetness in the middle. Alcohol is not noticeable in aroma or flavor and hop bitterness is moderate. ZigZag is light bodied, has an effervescent mouth feel, and finishes with caramel and spicy hops.

Rating:  3 star. Good. I would drink this again if someone gives it to me.  ZigZag is different from most summer lagers, in my opinion, because it features caramel malt flavors. Overall, it's a nice change of pace and worth a try.
Have you tasted ZigZag River Lager?  Are you glad it's back from they great beer beyond?

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Review: Header Topper, The Alchemist

Heady Topper
The Alchemist — Waterbury, VT

  • Style:  Double IPA
  • Bitterness:  Not specified
  • ABV:  8.0%
  • Malts:  Not specified
  • Hops:  Not specified
  • Sampled:  16 oz. can

Description:  We love hops – that’s why our flagship Double IPA, Heady Topper, is packed full of them.  Heady Topper was designed to showcase the complex flavors and aromas these flowers produce.  The Alchemist has been brewing Heady Topper since 2003.  This Double IPA is not intended to be the strongest or most bitter DIPA.  It is brewed to give you wave after wave of hop flavor without any astringent bitterness.  We brew Heady Topper with a proprietary blend of six hops – each imparting its own unique flavor and aroma. Take a big sip of Heady and see what hop flavors you can pick out.  Orange?  Tropical Fruit? Pink Grapefruit? Pine? Spice? There is just enough malt to give this beer some backbone, but not enough to take the hops away from the center stage. — The Alchemist

Random thoughts:  Heady Topper is not available in Oregon. A fellow beer blogger gave it to me at the Beer Bloggers Conference. I decided to crack this open on IPA Day. I've heard that it rivals Russian River's Pliny the Elder as one of the best Double IPAs. We shall see... 

The tasting:  Golden orange in color, very hazy, with a white head that dissipates fairly slowly. It looks a bit like orange juice. Aroma of pine, grapefruit, lemon, and juicy mango. Taste starts with a rush of  grapefruit and piney hop flavors that are strong, but not overwhelming. There's a light bready and caramel malt backbone that provides a touch of sweetness and helps to balance the hop flavors. Alcohol is not noticeable in aroma, but some is present in the middle and finish. However, it's stealthy and doesn't taste like an 8% ABV beer. Heady Topper is medium bodied, has a resinous mouth feel, and finishes dry with lingering grapefruit and tropical fruit bitterness.

Rating:  4 star.  Really Good! I want this again!  I'm so glad I had the opportunity to taste this beer! There is a lot of hype about it, and it's well deserved. This is one fine double IPA! Is it better than Pliny the Elder? I'll leave that for you to decide. But first, you'll need to find one of each!

What do you think about Heady Topper? 

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Homebrewed by Design: Pairing Homebrewers with Graphic Designers

In the three years I've been homebrewing, I've made about 15 different beers. I started with extract and graduated to all-grain. However, unlike most homebrewers, I've never kegged my beer and have always bottled it. I also never made the effort to design labels. I guess I've always focused on making and drinking the beer. I think it's about time I made some labels! 

I just learned about a new beer pairing event.  Instead of pairing beer with food, twenty Portland-area homebrewers will be paired with graphic designers who will create unique labels for each beer. The beer and labels will be shared with the public on October 10, as part of Design Week Portland.

For more details, and the event application, check out the links below. It sounds like fun! I think I may enter. With a little luck, my first beer label will be designed by a pro!

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Home Brewed By Design
Call for Participating Homebrewers
Design Week Portland

Homebrewed By Design
Homebrewed by Design is an event that pairs aspiring homebrewers with independent graphic designers in Portland to design them a label for their beer. We are currently on the lookout for twenty Portland-based homebrewers who would like to take part in a special event for Design Week Portland. Participating homebrewers will receive printed labels for their brews. The beers and labels will be shared with the public during on October 10th at One Grand Gallery as part of Design Week Portland. 

If you are a homebrewer in Portland and would like a chance to be a part of this program, please read through and fill out our application by the August 20th deadline. You can also find the application on our Facebook page and/or email us at homebrewedbydesign@gmail.com. 

Sponsorship Information
Labels provided by Rose City Labels: http://labelprintingportland.com/
The event is part of Design Week Portland: http://designweekportland.com/
The reception is at One Grand Gallery: http://www.onegrandgallery.com/ 

Home Brewed By Design links:
The homebrewer application form: http://bit.ly/homebrewed
Home Brewed By Design on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/homebrewedbydesign
Home Brewed By Design email: homebrewedbydesign@gmail.com 

About the people behind Home Brewed By Design
Home Brewed By Design is organized by Portlanders Jason Sturgill and Eric Steen. Jason is an artist, designer and educator with a background in advertising, graphic design and curatorial. He has worked with the likes of Wieden+Kennedy, Nike, Laika, Dark Horse Comics, and Modernista. Eric Steen moved back to Oregon after three years of teaching community arts and directing the Colorado based site Focus on the Beer. He has organized beer programming in Portland including Art & Beer, Beers Made By Walking, and a number of events for Portland Beer Week.

Beer Run: Summer Seasonals

Is summer nearing its middle? It must be true, as I'm already seeing "Back to School" sales advertisements. I guess I should start writing about some summer seasonals.  

Three of these (Rolle Bolle, Swill, and Superfuzz) are being released for the first time.  ZigZig is making a return after a very long absence.

The east coast is well represented as I'll be sampling beers from New Jersey, New Hampshire, and Delaware. 

Have you tasted any of these? What's your favorite summer seasonal? 

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Hydro Flask. The Ultimate Growler!

Growlers are one of the hottest trends in craft beer. Basically, a growler is a 64 oz. container (usually glass) that consumers take to beer bars, taprooms, or beer shops to have filled with fresh wholesome draft beer. Growlers have their advantages and disadvantages. For more details, I'll direct you to Eric Steen's excellent series on growlers in the Focus on the Beer blog.
You could buy a glass growler for $5-$12 bucks that would serve you well. Or you can upgrade! If you're interested in something more advanced than brown glass, you should consider Hydro Flask from Bend, Oregon. Hydro Flask makes a full line of beverage and food containers, including a 64 oz. stainless steel growler designed especially for beer!
I recently attend the Beer Bloggers Conference in Boston.  Hydro Flask was kind enough to give each attendee a free growler! Hydro Flask did not ask me to write this post, nor am I receiving any sort of financial or other compensation. However, I thought it was pretty cool of them to give me a growler, so I wanted to throw a little love their way.  Here are a few key features of the growler: 
  • Double Wall Vacuum Insulated
  • Keeps Hot Liquids Hot (up to 12 hours)
  • Keeps Cold Liquids Cold (up to 24 hours)
  • BPA-Free
  • 18/8 Stainless Steel
  • Lifetime Warranty
  • Patent Pending
I've been using the growler (pictured below) for a few days and there are a few things I really like.  First, it's solidly built and very sturdy. Second, it has a wide mouth which allows you to fill and empty the container quickly. Finally, I like the lid design. It's secured to the growler, so it won't get lost. It also screws on very easily and forms a tight seal.
After I put it my Hydro Flask through more rigorous use, I'll provide updated feedback. In the meantime, please visit the Hydro Flask website for more information.
Have you used Hydro Flask or other high-end growlers?

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Sierra Nevada's Launches Flipside IPA

Last week, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. announced the upcoming launch of Flipside IPA, a new seasonal Red IPA. Flipside will be available September - October and will be followed by the 32nd annual release of Celebration, an American-style IPA. A few personal observations:

First, Flipside is not replacing another seasonal and will be sandwiched between Tumbler and Celebration. Second, with the addition of Flipside, Sierra Nevada will be releasing back-to-back seasonal IPAs. Since IPA is the most popular craft beer style, I expect this news will be welcomed by many.

I was curious about the differences between Flipside IPA and Celebration, so I contacted Ryan Arnold from Sierra Nevada. Here's what he told me. "Celebration is an American-style IPA and doesn’t have quite the malt heft and ruby-red color of Flipside."

Sounds great to me! I'm looking forward to tasting it.

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Chico, CA—July 30, 2013—Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. has long embraced the unrelenting heat of Northern California summers. Its new seasonal, Flipside™ Red IPA, is an adoring sendoff to those months of river days and porch-sitting nights. Available beginning in September in 12-ounce bottles and on draught, Flipside Red IPA ushers out the mild-mannered beers of summer with a deep ruby-red hue and hop vigor.

“As fall approaches, some folks gravitate toward expressive malts and others want hops to do the work. This year we have both groups covered: we’ve again produced Tumbler® Autumn Brown Ale and we’re introducing Flipside,” said Ken Grossman, founder of Sierra Nevada. “When the Chico sun eases up and we drop below triple digits, I’ll take a Flipside onto the brewery patio.”

Flipside Red IPA prominently features tropical fruit and citrus hop flavors from the use of whole-cone Citra, Simcoe, and Centennial hops. These hops are used both as finishing additions and in the Hop Torpedo, a proprietary Sierra Nevada device that captures more hop aroma and flavor, but not bitterness, during the fermentation process. The interplay of pale, caramel, and chocolate malts firmly roots Flipside Red IPA and supplies its rich color. With just the right gusto—6.2 percent ABV and 60 IBU—this seasonal beer is perfect for the final flash of summer.

Following Flipside Red IPA in Sierra Nevada’s seasonal offerings is the 32nd annual release of Celebration® Ale, one of earliest examples of an American-style IPA.