Review: Ballast Point @BPBrewing Dorado Double IPA

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San Diego’s Ballast Point Brewing produces one of the proverbial best IPAs out there, their Sculpin IPA.  I’ve had in it large and small bottles and on draft on the West Coast and it’s fortunately a staple in most craft beer stores locally in Massachusetts.  It’s in my top five IPAs and I recommend it all the time. Recently I had the opportunity to grab a bottle of their DIPA, Dorado, and have been saving it for a review.  

Dorado smells of a rich blend of pine and grapefruit and pours a deep clear orange color. Very little head faded away quickly leaving light lacing.  I’m also a fan of a heavy pour to evoke flavors and smells, and the grapefuit citrus smell did not disappoint.  On the taste buds this is no doubt a hop bomb – any subtle malt flavor gets overwhelmed with a tsunami of hops.  The label says “Mash hopping, kettle hopping & dry hopping” – not sure the IBUs on this one but it has to be fairly high.  I am a fan of big hops with malt holding back back just from the edge and this delivers exactly that.  I have had the bottle for a couple months, and even though the “enjoy by” date stands at 7/31/13 I hope to get the chance to try some fresh.  Interesting that there no mention of the beer on the company website – looks like this is part of their “Robust Series” that they rarely bottle.  

In the description on the bottle it says, “Hopheads rejoice!” – and rejoice we shall.  

Vital Stats:  Served at 45F in a small tulip (glass is from Russian River – I figure West Coast nod was appropriate).  10% ABV.

Taste: A-.  Hops, hops and more hops – probably as bitter as I would go.  Nice cirtus/pine combo for a classic DIPA.

Drinkability: B.  ABV is up there, not the most sessionable of DIPAs (I know that’s a non sequitor but there are some I could drink all day).

Packaging: B+.  I love Ballast Point’s artwork – the Dorado is another name for the dolphinfish and they kept this as a nice complement to their other beers donning aquatic names.    

Value: C.  $9.99 for a growler is pretty high. Same store on occasion has Heady Topper for $5 a can, making this look way too expensive even though it seems to be rare in New England.

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DRAFT My Personal Mecca: A Visit to Russian River Brewery

When my boyfriend’s brother moved to Napa, CA I was thrilled:I knew a visit would be in order and that meant one thing: RUSSIAN RIVER!! I know most people would have been excited to tour wineries and sample fancy wines; I just wanted Pliny out of the tap.

In late September we headed West and spent a glorious afternoon in Santa Rosa. I wasn’t prepared for the intiail look and feel of the Brewery itself, I was expecting a different vibe, but our approach left us apprehensive. Were we heading to the home of Pliny, or to a Buffalo Wild Wings? 

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Rest assured, inside was a brew-pubby as a place could be. Two giant chalkboards are the focal point behind the bar, loaded with all your delicious drinking options. Vintage signs from beer brands of yore cover the walls, and the place was packed. Granted it was 11am on a Saturday, but I understand it’s pretty much always busy. We wait 20 minutes for a table, and didn’t waste any time heading straight to the bar to order our first drink. 

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Recognzing the the afternoon was a marathon not a sprint I ordered a 1/2 pint of Pliny the Elder. The beer was delicious, a perfect Pliny. Piney, hoppy, cirtrusy and bright. If you love IPAs and are ever near Santa Rose pop in – I’ve had it on tap before, but this was the best I’ve had (straight from the maker’s teat, if you will.)

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(Cool note: to encourage sampling beers can be ordered in 1/2 pint, pint, ptichers and goblets, depending on the variety.)

 

We settled into a small table and perused the menu – I’ve included both sides of the beer selection here for you. Our server was vaery nice, and probably accostomed to pilgroms like me – when she noticed all the photos I was taking she said I should take the menu home. 

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 The beer was delicious, a perfect Pliny. Piney, hoppy, cirtrusy and bright. If you love IPAs and are ever near Santa Rose pop in – I’ve had it on tap before, but this was the best I’ve had (straight from the maker’s teat, if you will.)

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Of the 18 I wasn’t surprised by my favorites – I love the aged sours: Tempetation, Consecration and Supplication (my favorite) but it was nice to try everything they had on tap that day.

While this wasn’t a typical brewery experience (no tour, located in a strip mall type area) I would highly recommened it to any beer fan. The wide variety of beer on tap alone is a reason to go, if you’re in the Santa Rosa area don’t miss it.

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PS: The crowd was super diverse – including a group of bikers with sweet rides like this one!

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Life is uncertain. Don’t sip: Lagunitas Brown Shugga’

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A year after I missed out on trying Lagunitas Sucks! I’m still sad. When I saw a six-pack of Brown Shugga’ at my local beer store I picked it up, not wanting to miss out on this holiday release. I’m normally a hops-lover, but as the weather turns colder I like to sample some more robust ales and stouts, and I think Brown Shugga’ is a great example of a solid ale to keep stocked for visitors. 

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It pours a gorgeous coppery golden color with a big foamy head. This might be attributed to poor pouring on my part. Even my non-beer drinking boyfriend said “That doesn’t look like a proper pour.” As the head calmed down it left a beautiful thick lace along the glass. 

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The first sip was pinier than I expected, the hops were a pleasant surprise. As the beer warmed up each sip became maltier with tasty caramel, and yes, brown sugar notes. I really enjoyed this ale. It’s the perfect beer to try out on less outwardly adventurous drinkers; at first sip it’s pretty accessible, but over the course of the glass it becomes more complex. I’d definitely recommend this, but am still eagerly awaiting the return of Lagunitas Sucks!

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Vitals:  Poured from a 12oz bottle into a pint  glass straight out of the (regular*) fridge. 9.9% ABV

Taste:  B+  Tasty ale with a nice warm finish.  An ale is never my first choice, but I’d definitely recommend to ale drinkers, or to an IPA lover like me looking to sample something more winter-appropriate while still getting your hops fix.

Drinkability B+  I didn’t realize until after I’d finished the glass that it is 9.9% ABV. Doesn’t have a strong alcohol taste at all, but it sneaks up on you. 

Packaging  I love all the Lagunitas labels. Nothing fancy, but strong brand aesthetics with the usual fun tidbits: “Life is uncertain. Don’t sip.”

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Value:  B+  $10.99 for a six pack. I think this is a good value for a solid beer. 

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*In very exciting news we recently purchased a separate small fridge just for my beer collection! Merry early christmas to me!

Enjoying the Estate ale by Sierra Nevada

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It seems like every season Sierra Nevada has a release that’s interesting enough for one of us to check out. Jim’s earlier review peaked my interest in the fresh hop ales from Sierra. When I spotted this at my local craft beer store for 7.99 in a large format bottle, I had to pick it up. The Label, and wax dipped bottle are eye catching at a reasonable price point. While not as fresh as it could be, released in early October, but I don’t think this beer suffers for it. Beyond the label, and the fact it’s a fresh hop ale, the locavore in me is excited to note this beer is crafted from organic grains and hops grown on the Sierra Nevada Estate. This is Impressive, but not unheard of in this time of sustainability, and Sierra Nevada is known in the industry as one of the thought leaders in the sustainable brewing movement.

Light Golden orange, one of my favorite colors for a beer. There is lots of lacing, and a thin fine head that has persisted the entire time I’ve been drafting this review. This is a real easy beer to enjoy. It’s not hop forward, thin or watery. It has a slight grassy flavor, can be attributed to the use of fresh hops. The aroma of this beer is flowery, grassy, and midly grainy much like the flavor. As Derek pointed out fresh hop beers don’t generally have the same hop punch of traditional IPA’s or Pale ales, the roundness, and subtleness is more the calling card.

To summarize, this is another fine Sierra Nevada offering, if you find it fresh, it’s a worth while beer.

Vitals: Served at 45F in a Perfect Pint. 6.7% ABV. Organic, estate grown hops.

Taste: B+. Simple, enjoyable, neither fruity, or overly bitter.

Drinkability: A. No problem enjoying this large format bottle, looking for more.

Packaging: B. Elegant and beautiful, but missing what I’d consider the important details. No grain, hop varitals, or bottled / brewed date.

Value: B+ 7.99 a bottle bigger than a bomber is a reasonable price to pay for an organic fresh hop ale.

 

NEW REVIEW: Switchback Ale #craftbeer

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I’ve been to Burlington, Vermont quite a bit, and I’d heard about Switchback Brewing, but had never gone to the brewery.  Most of the hype seems to be centered around the Alchemist and Hill Farmstead (deservedly so).  But it seemed to be quite a bit deal that Switchback recently began bottling their flagship beer, Switchback Ale.  I was fortunate enough to have a bottle find its way to me over the Thanksgiving holiday, so here we go!

It pours a cloudy amber color with a very foamy head which settles down into nice sticky lacing on the sides of the glass.  There are very clearly bits of yeast floating in it (Switchback states quite clearly on the label, “After aging, we simply move this beer to the keg or bottle, leaving it unfiltered for the freshest, fullest most natural flavor possible.  the remaining yeast will slowly settle to the bottom of the bottle.  We ENCOURAGE you to MIX THE YEAST back into the beer to experience it as ORIGINALLY bottled.”  Alrighty then.  As you get to the bottom of the bottle, there’s obviously considerably more yeast.  Given what they recommend, I’d suggest ensuring proper mixing by sharing with a friend (not the first time we’ve recommended this!).  Pour one glass half full, then the other.  Then complete the pours for both glasses ensuring you get a balanced amount of sediment in each.

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Smell is nice, but not overpowering:  grass, hops, caramel.  Medium body and carbonation with a malt-forward flavor profile featuring caramel, grass and herbal hops.  Maybe a hint of brown sugar.  Very easy-drinking with a pretty clean finish.

Vitals:  Poured from a 22 oz bomber into a pint glass at about 42F.  5.0% ABV

Taste:  B  A very nice pale ale I’d be happy to have again, but I think it may have been a bit overhyped if I’m honest.  I’m hoping someone else on the CBS crew will have a chance to give this a try and see if I’m missing something.

Drinkability A+  Relatively low ABV and a very smooth-drinking ale.  

Packaging:  B  Nothing crazy here, but the label was informative.

Adventures in cellaring w/ @FoundersBrewing Backwoods Bastard

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When I first tried Backwoods Bastard in December 2010, I wasn’t a huge fan. In fairness, I was still finding my way in craft beer and this style was a bit more adventurous than I was ready for at the time. What I didn’t mention at the time is that I actually had two bottles and decided to set one down for a “nap” to see what a year or two did for it. 

Nearly two years later I decided to take this one out for a spin. It poured a deep, hazy, burnt orange and still smell of bourbon. The bouquet was subtle, with mollases and dark cherries in there. It definitely doesn’t have the carbonation of the ‘young’ version, what head I was able to coax out of it with a high pour, quickly disappeared. 

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The first taste still has a heavy bourbon flavor right up front, but it’s mellowed a LOT. The boozy profile is completely gone. There’s still plenty of carbonation to spread the flavors all over your mouth and the finish is very subtle… almost a burnt caramel and taste like fresh leather smells (if that’s possible). 

I’d still say this beer is not for everyone, but it’s more my style these days. I’m not sure if that’s me or the beer maturing, but I enjoyed it very much tonight. As Chad said in a comment after my initial review, “the Backwoods Bastard is like the guy everyone knew in college who was fun to hang out with in small doses. I like having him over to watch a game once or twice a year, but I wouldn’t invite him every weekend.” 

Well said!

Vitals: Served at 45F into my trusty tulip. 10.2% ABV. Bottled 12/2010. 

Taste: B+. It’s an intersesting departure from your standard beers types. Worth trying. 

Drinkability: D+. Put the car keyes away and prepare to sip. 

Packaging: B+. I like Founders bottles. The images tell the story and the vitals are there. 

Value: D. I can’t remember what I paid for this, but I recently picked up a couple recent bottles of BB and I think they were $8-9 for 12oz. No matter how you slice it, that’s expensive. 

Good Nature Brewing’s CNY Harvest Ale

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I’d heard about Good Nature Brewing before they’d even opened in the small town of Hamilton, in New York’s Central Leatherstocking Region.  They are a tiny 7 BBL operation run by two young newlyweds.  Their ingredients are locally-sourced and they are now beginning to become available in restaurants and taverns in Central New York.  I picked up a few bottles and growlers to review during a recent trip up there, and this time, it’s their Wet Hop IPA, CNY Harvest Ale.

 

It pours a beautiful reddish caramel color with a foamy head that laces very nicely on the tulip glass. It features a slightly pungent and minerally bouquet, and I thought I even picked out some notes of cheese almost like a cheddar as well, but nothing overpowering at first (I really had to stick my nose down in there an concentrate to identify the different profiles), but it became stronger as it warmed.  I was intrigued.  

 

Lots of tiny bubbles coated my tongue on the first sip and the mouthfeel is on the thinner side of medium.  It starts out a little oily (but offset by those tiny prickly bubbles) with some dryness and bite at the back end.  Not alcohol bite, mind you, but a dry hoppy bite.  The wet hop IPA’s are not as floral, citrusy or aggressively-hopped as their regular palate-thrashing cousins, but are a nice change of pace.  

 

Everything I’ve tried of theirs all have a very distinctive personality.  Drier, and with a minerally quality which I haven’t found in many other beers (Hitachino Nest Red Rice Ale would be the closest one I can think of).  Might be that the local water is quite hard, or a brewing method or ingredient they use.  This takes us into the realms of brewing techniques I’m not qualified to speak on.  

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What I can say is that I really love what this husband and wife team are doing and I wish them much success as they continue to grow and refine their craft.  

 

Vitals:  Poured from a 1L growler into a tulip glass and sampled between 48 and 55F.  6.5% ABV

 

Taste:  B+  Excellent, well-balanced beer with a unique character to it.  This wouldn’t be my top style of choice, but I’m glad I branched out to try it.  

 

Drinkability A  All day long with this one.  Smooth as silk.

 

Packaging  Well, it’s a growler, so not much to say.  I like the logo well enough, but no label art to review here.

 

Value:  B+  $8.00 for a little over two glasses of hand-crafted beer seems pretty good in my book.  Not including the cost of gas and lodging to acquire it of course.