Port Brewing High Tide Fresh Hop IPA

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Jim Storer has been somewhat of a craft beer scholar for me and has spent the last several months working me over to contribute to craftbeersocial.  I’m here, excited to be a part of it and looking forward to jumping in with the occasional review.  I’m no connoiseur but I’m learning and hoping to expand my proverbial beer palate.  I consider Heady Topper to be my gold standard, yet it’s been fun over the last year keeping on the search for the best of other genres of beer – not to mention trying to see if any IPA/DIPA can come close to HT.

Jim recommended this one from Port Brewing after a good discussion about the merits of dry hopped beers. I’d consider myself a hop head who appreciates balance – I usually like a little bit of age with really hop forward IPAs.  While this one has little room for more hops – it’s definitely a gem, fresh as can be. This was bottled on 10/2/2012 and consumed about 3 weeks later.

Popping the cap reveals a green, cirtrus aroma – my pupils dialated right away.  Love that fresh hops smell!   A big white head was unexpected with the pour, with lots of lacing.  The color is a nice pale yellow, a little hazy.  The taste is crazy hops – but leaning more citrus (maybe pineapple?) than pine and not as much carbonation as I expected after that big head on top.  Feels really light for an IPA and the bitterness of the hops makes it feel very dry.  

The label says “We hope this seasonal IPA will… be sought by hop heads everywhere seeking something a little more extraordinary.”  Count me in, I’ll be keeping an eye out for this one next year.

Vital Stats:  Served at 45F in a small stemless tulip (yep, that’s from the Alchemist).  6.5% ABV.

Taste: A-.  I love the hops, not as bitter as some really hoppy beers.  Really enjoyed this as my first experience with a fresh hopped beer.  

Drinkability: B+.  ABV isn’t too high, and once you get rolling the dry finish makes me want to keep coming back.  Not sure I’d have more than one growler in a sitting though.

Packaging: B+.  Port Brewing’s cartoon labels are classic, and this one makes me want to grab my surfboard and dive into the ocean of hops.  Love the explanation about catching the hop cones at their peak (pictured).

Value: B-.  $8.99 for a growler is pretty standard, and not bad for a more rare seasonal.  I might be jaded here.

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Initial Impressions

A – Smelled great, the most prominent bouquet of them all. smelled boozy. burnt caramel. Small bubble carbonation, dances on your tongue. smooth. clean finish

B – minimal bouquet. hint of milk on the nose. faint barnyard on the nose. Less carbonation than A. Wet hay. Nutty. Not as complex as A. 

C – Smelled the funkiest. Thought it might have turned. Tar-like smell. Great mouthfeel. Chewy. Dark chocolate. 

 

Smell – A

Taste – C

Changed as they warmed up. 

We were unanimous in deciding that A was the 2012, B was the 2010 and C was the 2011. 

We only got one right. 

 

Bouquet threw us off. 

Oldest was the best cold. Lost it’s luster as it warmed, to the point of almost being undrinkable. 

We’re getting smarter.

 

Dogfish Head Punkin’ Ale

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I did a quick survey of our tags today, and was a little surprised that we’ve only reviewed 2 beers by Delaware’s Dogfish Head.  And for all our opinions on pumpkin beers, we’ve reviewed a disappointing 5 (though I see another was posted as I write this, so we’re up to 6).  So I opted to grab this one out of the cooler to try tonight. 

As far as why we haven’t written many DFH reviews, I guess that’s down to their success.  In the 3 years we’ve been writing this blog, they’ve seen tremendous success and are now nearly ubiquitous it seems in any restaurant that has anything “craftier” than Sam Adams.  Maybe we’ve felt they didn’t need the press.  All that said, this one is worth a try.  

Punkin’ pours a nice orangey-copper color with blink-and-you’ll-miss-it head.  I had to move fast to reposition the camera to get a picture of it.  It laces the glass a little bit and otherwise appears fairly clear with little carbonation.  Some fairly typical pumpkin ale smells in the glass.  Pumpkin (duh), cinnamon, allspice, brown sugar, maybe molasses.  Not overpowering, but I definitely smelled it standing up with the glass on the table when I poured it.  OK, now for a taste.

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It’s got a little bit of an oily mouth-feel, and the carbonation is actually higher than I expected.  The spices are a little more prominent than I thought they’d be including some peppery notes I wasn’t expecting at all.  It’s got some bready sweetness, even a little vanilla towards the back and a nice hop bite.  The pumpkin flavor is there, but it takes a back seat to the spice notes and the hops.

At 7% it’s not exactly a session beer, but I’d definitely have a second if I were out and found it on draft.  I wasn’t bored or underwhelmed as I am with so many pumpkin beers.  I’ve stopped trying to predict which pumpkin beers people will like; I’m a fan of the bigger imperials in part because I’m usually one and done with flavor beers, and I like a lot of flavor, but I think this one is worth a try if you find it in the wild or want to venture off the Blue Moon/Shipyard Pumpkinhead bunny slope.

Vital Stats: Bottle poured at 48F into that thar DFH glass. 7.0% ABV. 

Taste: B+ An nice and unique take on this style, and like I said, I wasn’t bored.

Drinkability: A- Went down easy, almost sessionable but for the ABV.

Packaging: B  Dogfish has their recognizable label style for most of their 12 oz bottles (though some deviate from it inexplicably like the excellent Burton Baton).  A little info, a little swagger.  

Value: C- $10.19 for a 4 pack. It’s a pricey beer.  I didn’t like it enough to get it all the time at that price.  One four-pack a season is about where I’m at with this beer.  Now that I think of it, I can’t remember ever seeing it available on draft.  

 

Another from the Cellar, Rock Art’s Imperial Pumpkin Spruce Stout

Inspired by Jim’s posts, I decided to review something from my cellar, a 2011 Rock Art Extreme Imperial Pumpkin Spruce Stout. Rock Art is a northern VT brewery not far from some of our favorites, While I haven’t visted it yet, it’s only a matter of time. 

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I suppose I can talk about the beer. It poured with a single finger of capachunio like head, which lingers brieftly. The aroma is piney, and bitter. It’s hard to say if the pine is hops or spruce, as I’ve never had one. As the bottle says, don’t expect pumpkin pie in a glass, and they are right. I admit that I’m not the biggest stout fan, even though I am a big fan of pumpkin beers and there is not enough of that in this beer. Hard to tell if there was more there before aging, or if it was just never there. It also lacks some of the thick smoothness you might get from some other imperial stouts. I’ve only had one other pumpkin stout, which was on the sweeter side, more to my perference. I’ll say the beer held up well, even if it’s not my perfered style. It does hide it’s 8% and 50 IBUs well. 

I’ll also note that I generally don’t like to review ‘cellar’ beers because I find it hard for others to replicate the expierence.

 

 

Vital Stats: Served at 40F in Covered Bridge 5k Shaker. 8% ABV 50IBU

Taste: C+. Piney, bitter, roasty.  

Drinkability: B. 8%, and a bit powerful, and woodsy. 

Packaging: B. Plain, but all the details are there. I do like the food pairing suggestions. Only missing Bottled on date.

Others like it: Fishermans Imperial Pumpkin stout

 

Adventures in cellaring w/ @prettybeer KK (purchased in Nov 2010)

When I first starting buying craft beer to put away it was because I was intrigued by the possibility. Sure, I’d bought wine to set aside for years (I still have a bottle of Anderson’s Conn Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from 1997 down there – it was an epic year), but I’d never considered beer as cellar-worthy. 

That changed when I got my hands on the big beers from Founders Brewing. I think the first beer I put down in the cellar with a goal of getting it to mellow was Founder’s Backwoods Bastard (it’s still down there). The fresh bottle was a little too fiery for me, something I thought would mellow with age. 

As I talked with friends about aging beers, it became clear there are a lot of folks doing it. So I started putting away a few every once in a while and have built up a pretty sizable collection. I imagine there will be some misses, but also expect more than a few hits. Tonight’s selection is one I hope survived the journey. 

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I loved Pretty Things KK the first time I gave it a try. Loved it. The combination of the dark malt and smooth hops were perfect. It was a great beer to have on a cool Fall day. Since it sounded like it would be a limited release, I went out the next day and found a few more bottles to enjoy. I took two and put them in my cellar. 

Tonight I opened the first of those two. No off smells as I open the bottle… let’s see what it looks/tastes like. 

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It pours dark brown with an ample head. I’m not getting a lot from smelling it though… maybe a bit of molasses. The first taste is interesting. The hops have faded (not surprisingly) and the malt is soft and chewy with hints of vanilla. The finish has a bit of black licorice, which I don’t remember when drinking it young. The carbonation is fine, but not overpowering… it’s great how it coats my mouth with the flavors of vanilla, molasses and liquorice. 

Cellaring a hoppy ale, even a black ale that’s 7.8% ABV, probably is a questionable call, but I consider this a success. I’d love to have a fresh KK to try alongside it, but I’m not sure whether they’ll brew it again (What do you say Dann and Martha?). If they do, I’ll be sure to try a fresh one alongside cellared KK #2. 

Vital Stats: Served at 45F in my trusty tulip. 7.8% ABV

Taste: B+. Smooth and delicious, if not unexpected. 

Drinkability: B. Finishing a bomber is making me a bit woozy. 

Packaging: A. Everything’s here and then some. 

Value: A. $7.25 two years ago for a bomber!??!? That must be like $7.15 today!!

More pictures: 

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I haven’t decided what’s up next for “Adventures in cellaring” – let me know in the comments if you want me to try the Backwoods Bastard. 🙂 

Adventures in cellaring w/ @prettybeer Babayaga (batch #2)

For those of you following along, last night was not successful when it comes to trying a cellared craft beer. But I continue on undeterred… tonight is another night! Another chance for something magical to happen. It’s time to get on with it! 

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Tonight I unearthed a Pretty Things Babayaga from October 2010 (batch #2). It’s been stored at cellar temperatures for the last two years. At 7% ABV, I was a little worried it may have had a hard time weathering two winters, but I pushed forward like a good explorer. 

I cracked it open and immediately smelled the bottle… nothing off putting. All is good so far. The pour went well, beautiful color and appropriate head. A deep smell brings smoke/charcoal with hints of coffee and chocolate. A closer looks shows the head slowly fading away over the course of five minutes

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The first taste is delightful! My tastes are not betrayed by what I smelled and this is a really enjoyable beer. A treat! The malt is strong in this one, with deep chocolate and perhaps a hint of burnt sugar (ahhh Christina’s) in there too. Just a great beer made better (?) with a chance to sit in the cellar for a bit. With the latest batch of Babayaga on shelves now, I’m certainly going to taste the latest batch soon and lay down a bottle or two for a deep sleep. 

My adventures in cellaring continue… 

Adventures in cellaring

Over the last couple years, I’ve set aside a considerable amount of craft beer to give it a chance to age. The conventional wisdom is that higher ABV beers and darker beers will stand the test of time. Hop forward beers will degrade, but may soften, resulting in a more drinkable beer. Well, tonight I was bitten by holding on to a beer a little too long. 

Gritty McDuff’s Black Fly Stout is a favorite of mine. It’s relatively low ABV and tasty. Not a super huge stout, but a nicely balanced brew for a cool night. It’s not the kind of beer I’d expect to have a long shelf life, but for some reason I lost sight of it on my shelf until recently. This bottle had a 4/11 tag on it, meaning it’s 17 months old. Too long it would seem. Well, let’s see. 

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It poured a beautiful dark brown/black color and collected into a nice head. A quick smell showed no off aroma (it actually smelled delicious… nutty almost)… so I dove in. WOW… a lot of carbonation! Too much. To the point of an almost cider-like taste that just wasn’t right. 

I learned tonight that a low ABV stout can’t survive that long in the cellar. I think this is the lowest ABV beer I have down there right now. I will take a closer look and continue my adventures in cellaring. 

What have your experiences been in cellaring craft beer? Any winners? How long did you put them down? Losers? I look forward to your comments.