Life and Limb Rhizing Bines from @SierraNevada and @dogfishbeer

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I’ve had good luck with beers from both Sierra Nevada and DogFish Head, but I’ve never had one of their collaborations. When I read about this release, I was eager to try it. It’s a double IPA and I’m a big fan. It’s using some expiermental hops, something as a homebrewer always piques my interest. You never know which HBC will become the next Amarillo or Simcoe.

The beer is sold in 750ml bottles, in the new Dogfish head bottles. I have to admit I’m not impressed with custom bottle molds, this one pours kinda funny, and looks strange too. However the label has a real nice look to it.

The beer glugs from the bottle, raising a foamy head, typical for a hoppy ale. The beer is not bottle conditioned and pours crystal clear and golden. There isn’t a citrus note from the it’s much more woody, floral, and earthy. It’s not your typical west coast ipa, citrus and pine, and I’m kind of disappointed. The body is fine, not overly thick, not syrupy, but the hop flavors I can’t get beyond. I taste mellon, and woody, and theres a faint soapy taste. I even dumped part of a glass, and washed my glass to ensure I didn’t have some sort of residue in my glass tainting the beer. Alas it was just the flavor. 

Vital Stats: Served at 45F in a willi beecher. 8% ABV.

Taste: B- Atypical for a west coast ipa, plenty hoppy, just not the right kind.

Drinkability B+: Subltle for 8%, not hot or too thick.

Packaging: A-. Some info, hop variety, bottled on date, and nice technique info (continuous hopping and torpedo). Missing IBU, and it’s got the funky bottle, that maybe I’m the only one who doesn’t like.  

Value: B. It’s a solid beer, some hop flavors don’t agree with some people, this is one of those beers for me.  

 

 

Shipyard Prelude – A Winter Warmer Dressed Up as a Barleywine

 

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On my continued quest to find delicious, seasonally appropriate beer I sampled Shipyard’s Prelude Winter Warmer. This is an ale aged in bourbon barrels, which sounds wonderful.

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The beer poured a dark cooper brown with a big head that quickly settled down and left some beautiful lacing. First sip was not at all what I was expecting – instead of complex aged ale I got a sweet, heavy beer, closer to the taste and feel of a barleywine. The predominant taste was dried fruit – raisins and prunes. The beer was overwhelmingly sweet. I could see liking this if the sweet fruitiness was tempered by a stronger malty or nutty flavor. I didn’t love this beer, but if you like barleywine I would check this out. 

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Vitals:  Poured from a 22oz bottle into a tulip pint straight out of the fridge. 6.4% ABV

Taste:  B- This was a very raisiny beer, something I’d not experienced before. If you love raisins or barleywine give this a shot. 

Drinkability: C I couldn’t get through more than half a glass. This is a thick, heavy beer. I think I would have liked it a lot as part of a flight, but a whole glass was too much for me. 

Packaging: A- Typical Shipyard. Tons of good info including malt, hops and yeast types.

Smuttynose Gets ‘Durty’

I think I have found my perfect winter beer. 

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I like Smuttynose. I think their Big A IPA is delicious. I like their branding. New Hampshire is my favorite state.  And, full disclosure: I know their brewmaster, he’s a friend of a friend.

All of this biases me toward their beer, but in their Smuttynose Short Batch #18 – Durty I found something I didn’t even know I was looking for: a hoppy brown ale, perfect for cold weather drinking. If you can get your hands on this remarkably small distribution (25 cases in NH and MA only, or on tap at the brewery) definitely try it. 

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Durty poured a gorgrous brown with a small, thick head. Smells super cirtusy with a hint of cocoa. First sip is a perfect mix of hops and caramel. It’s at once bright and warm, like some delicious brown bread with grapefruit zest mixed in. I would have drank this all night, but we only had one. 

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Vitals:  Poured from a 22oz bottle into a tulip pint straight out of the fridge. 8.4% ABV, 55 IBU 

Taste:  A- This was my first brown IPA and it was everything I think it should be: caramely, nutty and hoppy all at once. 

Drinkability: B+  At 8.4% ABV I’m not sure I could drink more than one or two but it’s smooth with no overwhelming alcohol taste. Perfect for splitting with a friend.

Packaging: Different from your typical Smuttynose branding. I wouldn’t have recognized it on the shelf, but I like it. Each bottle is labeled with the number from production. We drank #544 of 828. 

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More from the west coast, Drakes Denogginizer Dipa.

The saying goes, when in Rome, well, when on the west coast, buy hoppy ales.

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 So that is what I did. I picked this up along with a few others to bring back. I’ve heard good things about Drakes 1500 and Alpha session, so when I spotted this double ipa, I had to pick it up. With a name like Denogginizer, you get a good idea what the beer is going to about. This isn’t a delecate balanced ale, it’s bitter, piney, floral, and resinous. Golden orange in color with a tight head, and medium body, this beer is definately a sipper. 

 

Vitals: Served at 45F in a Willi Becher. 9.75% ABV 90 IBU. Organic, estate grown hops.

Taste: B. Simple, very bitter, medium bodied, not fruity, very piney.

Drinkability: B. This is not going to be followed up by another.

Packaging: A-. The label has everything you are looking for, with one minor exception, no bottled, packaged, fresh by date. The details about hop variety (simcoe, colombus, amarillo, cascade), and grains are apreciated, as are abv and ibu. 

Value: b. Under 7 for a bomber, and unavailable outside of CA.   

 

 

Russian River Brewing Supplication

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“Ale aged in pinot noir barrels with cherries added.” I’ve been wondering about this one ever since Shannon brought it back from a west coast business trip and presented it to me. “It was my favorite,” she offered. Oh, the pressure.

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As most of you know, Russian River Brewing Company is revered in craft beer circles. Vinnie “invented” the imperial IPA category with Pliny the Elder and has continued to push the envelope when it comes to craft beer. Their location in Northern California gives them access to the freshest hops and a multitude of other raw ingredients (including wine barrels) to make interesting beer. This is definitely interesting. I liken it to the bourbon barrel aged stout from Founders and others, in that it’s a combination of flavors and characteristics that challenge your thought of what beer is and/or is supposed to be.

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It pours with a beautiful, billowing head that quickly dissipates to a thin film and eventually to nothing. No lacing remains. It’s smells both funky and fresh at the same time, if that’s possible. The funk is likely from the wine barrels and freshness from the cherries. The first taste is tart. The second taste is tart. This is a tart beer. It doesn’t quite make my lips pucker, but it’s close. The balance is incredible. The alcohol is so hidden it may as well be 3%, not the 7% it says on the label. This may not be my favorite winter beer (it’s currently 30F outside), but it could easily be one of my favorite warm weather options.

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Vital Stats: Served at 45F in my trusty tulip. 7% ABV.

Taste: A. Perfect for the style.

Drinkability: A. I wish I had another one in the fridge.

Packaging: A+. Chock full of info. In fact, the info on the back of the bottle let me know this was originally a brown ale when it went into the wine barrels. It sure doesn’t taste like a brown now. That’s was a little Brett and sour cherries will do for a beer.

Value: B. Well, for folks on the East Coast like me, this is a tough one. If you know someone, it’s not too expensive to get, but it’s still hard. If I was in CA this would be a staple in my fridge.

Stone Brewing Company’s Enjoy By 12/21/12 Imperial IPA

I had originally tried this beer at Thanksgiving along with 2 other titans of the IPA world:  The Alchemist’s Heady Topper and Lawson’s Finest Liquids’ Hopzilla.  A veritable Monsters of Hops broke out in my in-laws’ kitchen that Thursday.

 

The Hopzilla had a much fuller malt character making it more balanced.  The Heady Topper, canned the previous day, was its usual fresh, sticky hop-bomb self.  The Enjoy By fit very nicely between the two, featuring a more grassy profile than the others, but the freshness was unmistakable.  Right up there with the day-old Heady Topper which is a feat considering this beer was probably brewered a month earlier and 3000 miles away.

 

Tonight I’m trying it a full three weeks later, mere days from the latest date it’s intended (at least for marketing purposes) to be enjoyed.

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This is a beer you smell the moment you open the bottle.  Bright, floral, grassy hop aromas fill the air right away.  You can’t ignore it. 

 

Enjoy By pours a beautiful straw color, very clear and with little carbonation visible (more on that in a minute).  I wish I’d paid closer attention when I opened the young bottle to see if the carbonation was any different with that one.  A thick, foamy head was easily achieved and the foam clung to the glass creating a lacy histogram of my pauses in sipping to type this review.

 

There’s nice prickly carbonation when you take a sip which didn’t match up with the few bubbles I saw.  Crisp and inviting without much in the way of sugary malts.  The malts that there are to balance it come at the very back end but do nice work to hold off-putting bitterness more or less at bay.  Fresh hops pretty much the whole way through each sip with grapefruit, orange, and grassy hops dominating.  A slight bitterness to the finish and some warming but that’s mostly well-masked.  Mouthfeel is on the light end of medium and slightly oily.  You feel like it’s really coating your tongue.

 

Is it the beer I’d want to see out the planet earth and my own existence with?  Not quite.  It could do with a slightly less bitter finish (at times there was a chalkiness to it which I’m not a huge fan of).  But that is a very minor quibble with this exceptional beer.  It mops the floor with 98% of this very fashionable beer sub-genre.

 

My apotheosis Imperial IPA would probably be Heady Topper or perhaps Lagunitas Sucks.  But this is a damn good beer.  A damn good beer.

 

It is bested by only a handful of other imperial IPA’s I’ve tried in my apparently soon-to-be-ending life, and that’s saying something.  Hats off to Stone.

 

Vitals:  9.4% ABV, poured at about 50F into a glass from the 22 oz bottle.

 

Taste:  A-  The care put into this beer is evident.  A few minor adjustments I’d make personally, but this is a special imperial IPA.  Well done, Stone.

 

Drinkability:   C+  It’s a big beer ABV-wise.  Best shared (as I’m sure you’ve heard us say many times on this blog), but you won’t mind doing so because there’s plenty to talk about with this one.

 

Packaging:  A  You pretty much know what to expect from Stone; they have their brand and they’re sticking to it.  The Gargoyle makes his appearance, and as usual, they ace the written portion of the label test.  In the world of craft-beer label text, I’d say 1 and 1A are Stone and Lagunitas.  Stone is long-form (almost to a fault) and Lagunitas is short-form with a sense of humor I love.  Stone :  blogs :: Lagunitas : Twitter if that makes sense.

 

Value:  Something supremely limited (until/if the Mayans are proven wrong) like this is hard to put a value on.  I’ll give it an A- because this is a good beer, and I need to make a few extra deposits in the karma bank just in case we are indeed slouching towards Ragnarök.

 

On a final note, I applaud Stone for making the effort to keep freshness a priority (a concept Sam Adams pioneered, but Stone has taken to a whole new level, giving their beer a few short weeks of shelf life).  I’m sure you could enjoy Enjoy By beyond the date associated with each batch, but it’s the principal of what they’re doing that I applaud.  This can’t be easy for a brewery with national distribution.

 

Have you tried Enjoy By?  If so, let us know the date and batch.  3 weeks on, it’s definitely not as bright and fresh as a few days after release.