Tag Archives: IPA

New Brew: Stone 14th Anniversary Emperial IPA

2 Jul

Another IPA from Stone Brewing? Not exactly Breaking News.  Long-standing standard-bearers of the West Coast-style pale ale, the thought of another amped-up IPA as a special release doesn’t exactly get the blood flowing.  Don’t get me wrong, they’re great at what they do and their IPA and Ruination are textbook examples of their styles, but when you see a special anniversary release, you expect something a little unique.  Stone’s 14th Anniversary Emperial IPA takes a page out of the Redcoats’ playbook and puts a decidedly British spin on a Stone classic.  The results?  A supremely big, exquisitely balanced beer that celebrates with style, 14 years of boundary-pushing, palate-crushing, quintessentially American brewing.

Stone 14th Anniversary Emperial IPA

Style: British-style Imperial/Double IPA

Vitals: 8.9% abv; Brewed with all British ingredients including white malt and Target, East Kent Goldings, and Boadicea hops; ~$6.99 at Barriques Wine and Spirits

Company line:

We went to England this past spring as self-styled “IPA Hunters” on a mission to learn more about the confusing and often contradictory history of India Pale Ale – to look for some certainty where those before us have found mostly mystery and mercantilism. While our success in this pursuit is open to debate, there can be no question that we returned home inspired by the ghosts of Burton and by the experience of poring over 150-year old brewer’s logs handwritten in (India?) ink. Stone Brewing Co., after all, traces its lineage back to the British Empire’s brewing history: we make ales, and all of our original offerings used traditional British styles as a jumping-off point. If this seems a roundabout way of letting you know that, yes, we are in fact brewing another IPA to mark our Anniversary, well, so be it.

This one however, promises to be different! From the imported white malt to the “Burtonised” water to the rare yeast strain to the most pungent hops Kent has to offer, we used all British ingredients to brew our “Emperial” IPA.* While we may have brewed Stone 14th Anniversary Emperial IPA with our own distinctively modern, San Diego-style touch, what good is history if you can’t rewrite it to suit your tastes?

In this case, our tastes called for highly intemperate quantities of Target, East Kent Goldings, and Boadicea hops, bestowing upon this dry-bodied ale a powerfully spicy, earthy aroma. On the palate, peppery hops assert themselves early and often, with malt sweetness making a brief appearance before being beaten back by a long, complex, and decisively bitter finish. What better way to contemplate the fate of empires past, present, and future?

My take: pours a striking goldenrod in the glass under ample white foam.  Aroma is intensely herbal with notes of bitter lemon, pepper, and sweet malt.  Cracked pepper and herbal, resinous hops slam the forepalate, with lightly sweet, slightly biscuity malt carrying through to grassy, bitter citrus peel finish.  Body is light and drinkability high for the strength.

This is certainly a different take on an imperial IPA for Stone.  Torch-bearers for the Southern California School of juicy, dank, super-hopped pale ales with amped up, sticky sweet malt backbones.  While no-less Super-sized on the hops front, the Emperial retains the grassy, herbal bitterness and dry, biscuity malt profile of more traditional British IPAs and the result is intriguing.  Much like our representatives on the football pitch, Stone has managed to play the strengths of the English and American camps to a perfect draw.  Extreme-minded American palates might be yearning for more punishment, but a little bit of balance goes a long way with this commemorative brew.


New Brew: Central Waters Illumination Double IPA

30 Jun

Today’s review will also be my first featured over at one of my new homes, Madison Beer Review. Don’t worry, loyal followers (you’re out there, right?), I’ll still be posting here with the same piss and vinegar as always.

Central Waters Brewing out of Amherst, WI has made quite a name for itself over the past couple years with a series of big beers that spoke to the then-current trend in craft brewing – bourbon barrel aging (it would seem that the Belgian-stlyle pale or IPA is the next big thing).  Barrel-aged versions of their imperial stout, coffee stout, and barleywine put them on the national radar with high ratings on both beer advocate and Rate Beer (if you’re into that sort of thing).

Hoppy styles have never been a focus for Central Waters.  While I know I’m not alone in bemoaning the loss of their excellent Lac du Bay IPA (replaced with the solid Glacial Trail IPA), CW’s strong point has always been their stouts and barleywines.  Their most recent offering, Illumination Double IPA, marks their entry into the extreme hops category.  Could a brewery known for their barrel-aged takes on rich, malty styles pull off a tongue-scorching DIPA?  I was certainly willing to put my palate on the line to find out.

Central Waters Illumination Double IPA

Style: Imperial/Double IPA

Vitals: 9% abv; 108 IBUs

Company Line: “Can you say palate wrecker?  This Double IPA comes in at 108 IBUs.  As hoppy as it gets with a mouthful of citrus flavors.  Grab one today and illuminate your tastebuds.”

My take: pours a vibrant amber in the glass, producing ample sticky foam that hangs around.  Aroma bursts with pine sap, grapefruit, mango and apricot.  Palate brings clean piney hops, citrus peel, tropical fruit and bready malt.  Mouthfeel softens considerably as the beer warms and the smooth, spicy malt shines through the brash hops edge.  Some cooling alcohol in the finish, but overall, the considerable abv is well-masked.

My first sample of this beer, shared among a group of considerable beer palates two weekends ago, gave many of us an impression of cooked vegetables reminiscent of Oscar Blues’ Gubna.  While not entirely unpleasant, it wasn’t exactly desirable and distracted somewhat from the purity of the hop profile and robustness of its malt backbone.  I didn’t get any of that in tonight’s bottle, however, leading one to blame either inconsistency or wonky palates for the aforementioned vegetal character.  Based on my latest experience, Central Waters has crafted a crisp, juicy double IPA that does well to cut through the sticky June air like the lightning that has illuminated the night sky for so many recent nights.

New Brew: Ale Asylum Bedlam! Trappist IPA

24 Apr

The Belgian-style pale ale fest continues with Ale Asylum Bedlam! Trappist IPA.  Ale Asylum has attempted to one-up your standard Belgian-style beer by evoking the holy aura of the Trappist designation.  While obviously not a true Trappist beer (Ale Asylum’s East Side warehouse digs are neither a monastery in Europe nor staffed by monks of the Trappist order), the use of the phrase summons a certain expectation of sublime complexity due to proprietary yeast profiles used by the famous breweries.  If nothing else, the word gets your average beer geek all hot and bothered.  Brewer Dean Coffey has exhibited a fairly deft hand with Belgian-style beers in the past – his Triple Nova, Diablo, Happy Ending, and Mercy all strong efforts.  Paired with a demonstrated love for hop-forward ales (Hopalicious, Ambergeddon, Balistic IPA, and Action Jacksin DIPA all tongue-scorchers), Bedlam! has the pedigree for New World-Old World nirvana.

Ale Asylum Bedlam! Trappist IPA

Style: Belgian-style IPA

Vitals: ~7.5% abv; Citra hops; Trappist-style yeast; ~$9.79/six-pack at Barriques Market in Fitchburg

Company line: “A chaotic blend of Citra hops and Trappist-style yeast give this IPA aromas of summer fruit and a bright hop presence with a plush finish.  Bedlam is unfiltered and all natural for superior flavor and quality.  It is brewed with passion and is best enjoyed that way.”

My take: pours a radioactive reddish-orange in the glass, echoing the hue of the mad bear-creature on the label.  Aroma is intensely citrusy and dominated by the lime-y hop profile, with ripe fruit and spice filling out the bouquet.   The aptly-named Citra hops are the first impression on the palate as well, followed by apricot, mango and yeasty spice.  Body is light and airy, which along with the dry, hoppy finish lends ample drinkability.  A beer and a style made for spring, Bedlam doesn’t quite deliver enough Belgian-style yeast character to overcome the brisk Citra hop profile, but makes a fine warm-weather quaffer nonetheless.  While Ommegang BPA and Flying Dog Raging Bitch might deliver more of the spicy/fruity Belgian yeastiness, Bedlam is a hop-forward foray into the posh, tradition-blending new style set to take the brewing scene by storm this season.

New Brew: Flying Dog Raging Bitch Belgian-Style IPA

21 Apr

Belgian beer and it’s domestic offshoots have been gaining traction in America for some time now, with bold Americanized versions of classic Belgian styles and Belgique American ales appearing more and more often.  It has become readily apparent that the Belgian-Style (India) Pale Ale is the trendy craft style du jour.  Houblon Chouffe and Urthel Hop-It were two early examples of hopped-up, American West Coast takes on Belgian Tripel-style beers.  More recently Ommegang’s BPA, Ale Asylum’s Bedlam (hitting store shelves now), and here, Flying Dog’s Raging Bitch carry the torch for a new era of Transatlantic style-mashing.  It also happens that these hoppy-yet-smooth and spicy beers are precisely what I’ve been craving as Spring takes hold.  Celebrating 20 years of bold beers with bolder packaging (Ralph Steadman’s labels drew me to Flying Dog beers early in my craft beer journey), Flying Dog chose the en vogue style with Raging Bitch.  Resistance was futile.

Flying Dog Raging Bitch Belgian-Style India Pale Ale

Style: Belgian-Style Pale Ale

Vitals: 8.3% abv; 60 IBUs; Malts – 60L Crystal; Hops – Warrior, Columbus, Amarillo (for dry-hopping); Yeast – El Diablo; $8.49/Six-pack at Barriques Wine & Spirits

Company line:

Bitches come in a variety of forms, but there’s never been something as sassy as Flying Dog’s Raging Bitch Belgian IPA.  An American IPA augmented with Belgian yeast, our 20th anniversary beer jumps out of the glass and nips at your taste buds with its delicate hop bitterness.  At 8.3% ABV, this bitch is dangerously drinkable.

My take: pours a vibrant tangerine orange under ample white froth in the glass.  Nose bristles with pine and citrus hops, subtle yeasty spice and mellow stone fruits.  The palate is spiked by the sharp resinous hops profile, but is assuaged by the soft banana and clove notes of the Belgian-style yeast.  The overall effect is a deft melding of IPA and a Belgian-style golden ale.  The softening effect of the amber malts and fruity yeast lends drinkability that belies the alcoholic heft within.  All bitch imagery aside, this is exactly the kind of beer I crave this time of year and a timely choice for Flying Dog’s 20th Anniversary.

New Brew: New Belgium Ranger India Pale Ale

9 Feb

New Belgium Brewing has quickly expanded its line-up since it first entered the Wisconsin market last year.  Initially just a few standards such as Fat Tire and Mothership Wit in bombers, Wisconsinites are now privy to much of their catalog including seasonals and special releases like La Folie, their well-lauded sour brown ale (you know I have a bottle chilling in the mini-fridge – holler!).  Their latest is Ranger India Pale Ale – their first venture in true American-style (read: hopped-til-you-drop) IPAs named after the ambassadors of beer they’ve enlisted across their empire.

Beer: New Belgium Ranger India Pale Ale

Vitals: 6.5% abv; 70 IBUs; Hops: Cascade, Chinook, Simcoe; Malts: pale, dark caramel

Company Line: “So, here it finally is – New Belgium’s foray into the true American India Pale Ales. Bring out the hops! This clear amber beauty bursts at the starting gate with an abundance of hops: Cascade (citrus), Chinook (floral/citrus), and Simcoe (fruity) lead off the beer, with Cascade added again for an intense dry hop flavor. Brewed with pale and dark caramel malts that harmonize the hop flavor from start to finish, Ranger is a sessionable splendor for all you hopinistas. Thank your Beer Ranger! -newbelgium.com

My take: crystal clear amber under loads of soapy, lacy foam in the glass.  Aroma bounces between herbal and tropical fruit hop notes.  Palate surprises with a brief strike of…watermelon? between the varied hop characters.  Dry herbaceous and citrus notes from the Cascade are countered by pineapple and apricot from the Simcoe.  Malt presence is light and biscuity, lending a smooth, dry finish that scrubs any lingering hops resin from the palate and invited further sipping.  Aside from the slightly distracting watermelon note, this is a highly sessionable and pleasantly balanced take on the American IPA.  Flavorful without being heavy-handed.  Ranger gives the drinker the benefit of the doubt in assuming a sophisticated and discerning palate that looks for more than high IBU values in an IPA.  At $4 a bomber, you really can’t go wrong.

New Brew: Founders Harvest Ale

30 Nov

Monday Night Football means a break from wine in favor of beer tonight.  In light of the season, a bottle of Founders Harvest Ale seemed appropriate.  After a string of rich, malty ales and lagers of late, the prospect of a juicy, crisp, fresh-hopped IPA sounded mighty tempting.  Wet-hopped beers are a seasonal fall specialty that, as you might predict, use fresh-from-the-vine hops instead of the more commonplace dried cones or pellets.  As such, they tend to emphasize the grassy and herbaceous characteristics of the hops and lend an overall “juicy” tone to the beer.  The use of wet hops has gained popularity recently with a number of breweries making fresh-hopped beers meant for immediate consumption, including Plover, WI’s own Central Waters, whose version I still need to try.

Beer: Founders Harvest Ale

Style: Wet-hopped IPA

Vitals: 70 IBUs, 6.5% abv

Description: “This liquid dream pours a hazy golden orange straw color with a large puffy white two-finger head. First sip of this beer rewards with a super juicy hop presence bursting with fresh orange and lemon citrus then continues to introduce toasted malt undertones. -foundersbrewing.com”

My take: The description above more or less tells the tale.  Everything about this beer screams fresh, bright, and juicy.  Citrus and herbal notes overwhelm the senses, leaving a light, grassy bitterness on the palate.  There is enough malty sweetness to bolster the luscious mouthfeel and counteract any medicinal bitterness that remains from the herbal hops.  This is a beer that, while full of flavor and rich on the palate, implores you to keep drinking.  A growler of this stuff could disappear mighty quickly.  Celebrate the harvest and pick some up while it’s fresh and available.

Heads/Up//New Brew: Ale Asylum Satisfaction Jacksin Double IPA

8 Oct

satisfaction jacksin

Word on the webs says the new Ale Asylum double IPA that debuted at the Great Taste this summer has been bottled and is on shelves now in extremely limited quantities for $13.50-15 a six-pack. Interesting that they didn’t 4-pack this one like their other bigger beers, Mercy and Tripel Nova.  $15 is pushing it for a six-pack these days, but if its anything like Ballistic, I’m sure it won’t gather any dust on the shelves.

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