Monday, August 25, 2014

The Best Thing I Swallowed on Sunday Episode 12

I'm Not Lonely Belgian Single, Hop Odyssey White IPA, 18th Anniversary Ale
Back with another wondrous episode of the Best Thing I Swallowed on Sunday. I had a lot to choose from this Sunday, as there were plenty of new beers on tap this weekend. After much pained deliberation, I finally settled on a local Belgian style single ale from Haymarket Pub and Brewery and two beers hailing from Southern California: Green Flash's Hop Odyssey White IPA and Stone's Eighteenth Anniversary Ale. As I'm kind of a sucker for white IPAs, the deck was definitely stacked in favor of Green Flash. On to the descriptions!

I'm Not Lonely Belgian Single is sessionable at 4.5% ABV. It has a hazy golden appearance with a fluffy head of foam. It also has a big sweet fruity aroma. This single is light bodied and coats the tongue with its sweet finish. It's not as crisp as the St. Bernardus Extra 4, but still a delightful beer, nonetheless. Another nice beer from Haymarket!

Another standout from Green Flash in the form of Hop Odyssey White IPA. This style of beer always piques my interest; but I think I'm a sucker for any variation of the IPA. Green Flash uses malted wheat in this beer, which gives it hazy golden appearance. At 7% ABV and 95 IBUs, this is a big, bitter beer that only the most citrusy of hops can counter. Simcoe, El Dorado, and Amarillo hops supply a huge citrus aroma and finish. As you can see from the above photo, I poured myself an entire pint, which I was all too happy to drink. Hop Odyssey White IPA is the best thing I swallowed on Sunday.

Another worthy entrant in today's event is Stone's Eighteenth Anniversary Ale. This is a golden-brown IPA that stands at 8.5% ABV and 75 IBUs. It is dark amber in appearance, with a head that dissipates quickly. The aroma is herbal, almost soapy. It has a really nice herbal flavor with a nice bitter finish that tastes like grapefruit. This is one of those beers that you like, but only in small amounts because of the unusual flavor profile.

Pipeworks Brewing Surrounded by Friends with Machetes Wheat Pale Ale

I'm getting right back on the Pipeworks horse after last week's disappointing beer by cracking open another of their collaboration ales: Surrounded by Friends with Machetes. Surrounded by Friends is a Wheat Pale Ale brewed with ginger, cardamom, apples, and black currants. Like all Pipeworks' beers, it's big at 9% ABV. This is Pipeworks collaboration with Bad Apple.

The long and short of it is that I liked this beer quite a bit. It's not great, but it is good and refreshing. As you can see by the photos, it has an almost apple-colored appearance with a nice foamy head. The nose is tart, but with really strong ginger and cardamom notes, which isn't surprising given these ingredients' overpowering aromas. The wheat tones down any hoppiness in this beer. It is sweet, medium-bodied, and nicely effervescent. Initially, it is apple sweet, with strong flavors of cardamom and ginger quickly followed by currants in the finish. All in all a very pleasant beverage.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Pipeworks One Horned Wonder And His Fanciful Flying Fresno

I hate to say it, but I think I found the first Pipeworks beer that I don't like. There have been a few that I wasn't thrilled about, especially some of the DIPAs. But this one I actually drank a bit of, and then gave the rest to someone else. Basically, it's like when you're cooking and you don't quite get the flavor right in a dish. It's disappointing, but you move on to something better.

One Horned Wonder is described as a "Big Ole Pale Ale with Fresno Chiles and Passion Fruit Added." It's a reminder that even the greats still put their pants on one leg at a time. Pipeworks hooked up with the Aviary (which you might not know about, but they make very nice cocktails) to generate this giant pale ale. The beer was released in January, so this is a bit late--I only found the bottle after getting a tip from someone at a great, but lesser-known liquor store. So it's quite likely that the hop and fruit aroma and flavors had faded by the time I got a taste.

The Wonder contains Simcoe and Citra hops, but then Pipeworks added passion fruit and rotary evaporated fresno chiles, which removes the heat, but leaves the taste. When I poured my bottle, I thought it looked great. It's really a double IPA, rather than a pale ale at 9% ABV. And one does not expect a pale ale to have so much sediment. In any case, it had a nice fluffy head that went away relatively fast, but left behind a bit of lacing. The color is golden. But the aroma is slightly sweet, though dominated by the chile. And this is precisely how it tasted. A bit of up front hoppiness, a little tropical fruit sweetness, and then chile. None of this is happening in a good way, mind you.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Best Thing I Swallowed on Sunday Episode 11

August 17, 2014

Today I opted to restore a bit of sanity to Sunday by not including a rare, world-class Belgian ale in my selection of beers--although some may disagree with my assessment of Straffe Hendrik. Today's choices are Great Divide Colette, Straffe Hendrik, and Founders Dissenter Imperial IPL.

Colette, Dissenter, and Straffe Hendrik

Great Divide Colette is an homage to the saison style using barley, wheat, and rice. I'm always excited to drink saisons, and Colette does not disappoint. While I wouldn't rate it among my favorite saisons, it is a great example of the admittedly wide-open style. At 7.3% ABV, Colette has that classic saison hazy golden color. It holds a nice head and leaves plenty of lacing in the glass. Its bready sweet aroma precedes a sweet flavor, followed by a dry finish.

Straffe, or Strong, Hendrik Brugs Tripel 9º is a traditionally brewed Belgian triple from the family-run brewery De Halve Maan (Half Moon) in Brugges. Founded in 1856, this brewery has been run by five generations of the same brewing family. As any self respecting triple should, it has a thick, fluffy head that leaves good lacing behind. It has a hazy, orange-gold color, with a fruity sweet aroma. It's flavor is somewhat sweet and a bit phenolic from the yeast. The 9% ABV really comes through in the rather dry and warmly alcoholic finish of this beer.

Lastly, I truly enjoyed Founders Dissenter, which is an Imperial India Pale Lager. The IPL has become a new trend of late, and I have to admit, I've enjoyed the results of creating complex lagers that bring a lot of flavor but maintain the light, drinkable body of a lager. Dissenter is a part of Founders' Backstage Series and is the first lager that Founders has brewed in twelve years. Brewed with several tropical and citrusy hops, it brings an amazing aroma. Typical for a lager, the head was nice but dissipated rather quickly. It has a clear, light gold appearance. The citrusy hop flavor is right up front, followed by the clean finish of a good lager. It is light bodied and very refreshing. Dissenter is big at 8.7% and bitter (70 IBUs). It's also delicious, which is why I chose it as the best thing I swallowed this Sunday.

Straffe Hendrik Brugs Tripelbier 9º

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Best Thing I Swallowed on Sunday Episode 10

August 10, 2014
Another rare and special treat from Belgium in today's episode. Rodenbach Grand Cru is currently on draft at the Hopleaf, and I couldn't be more excited to sample my favorite Flemish red ale. Once again, this edition has another clear standout that absolutely outshines my other two worthy selections. I'm also including St. Bernardus Extra 4 and something totally new and exciting from San Diego's Green Flash, Citra Session IPA. While the Rodenbach was my favorite ale of the evening, I really enjoyed drinking the Extra 4 and Citra Session.

Extra 4, Rodenbach Grand Cru, and Citra Session IPA

Let's jump right to the best thing I swallowed on Sunday. Rodenbach Grand Cru is a world class beer, but don't just take my word for it. Michael Jackson suggests that this beer "would feature in any connoisseur's list of the world's top ten beers." This red ale is aged at least two years in oak tuns, which creates sensational aromas and flavors. This is a dark red with a generous, chocolate-tinted head of foam. The aroma is wonderful, brimming with oak and tartness. But the flavor, of course, is where the real joy in drinking such a fine beer is to be found. The two years in oak mellows the tartness and produces a deliciously mild red ale that exhibits a range of flavors as it warms and travels across the tongue. Oak, a touch of vanilla, dark fruits, and of course, some funky sourness that makes this beer exceptional and distinct from other Flemish reds.

St. Bernardus is famous for its Pater 6, Prior 8, and Abt 12, all of which are superior beers. But the Extra 4 is also a special treat that I had not seen on tap prior to this month. This is a classic Belgian "single" with a light, golden hazy appearance and a very thin head. The aroma is very crisp and slightly bready. At just 4.8%, this slightly hoppy pale ale is filled with flavor. It is very crisp and with its soft mouthfeel and abundant carbonation, supremely quenching.

I will conclude with something that I was quite pleasantly surprised by: Green Flash's Citra Session IPA. This is a limited release from the Hop Odyssey series and is only available in August and September. At 40 IBUs and an ABV of just 4.5%, it is exactly what the doctor ordered for those hot days at the end of summer. I normally do not appreciate the admittedly few West Coast IPAs that I've tasted by Green Flash or Stone Brewing, for that matter. They are one note beers without any complexity, in my humble opinion. As an aside, I do like several West Coast IPAs, including Ballast Point Sculpin and Port Brewing Wipeout. I like a beer to do more than rake hoppy bitterness across my tongue. So I was initially reluctant to sample what I suspected would be another hop-bomb from Green Flash. Imagine my surprise when I smelled and then tasted Citra Session. The nose is wonderful: a bouquet of lemon, orange, and grapefruit. These flavors also dominate the palate. The best part about Citra Session, however, is the light body that accompanies such great hop flavor. This is not a palate coater, but rather a perfectly tasty beer that I would drink any time, any place.