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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Really missed the boat with this one; Boatswain American IPA by Rhinelander Brewing Co.

There is a new Trader Joes just over the NH border in Nashua. Which for me is a bit exciting for two reasons. First, it’s a new store, much less compact than their old Tyngsboro locaiton, but also because NH allows beer and wine sales in grocery stores, so I can now try the 2 buck chuck equovalent of craft beer. This is my first time trying their house brand Rhinelander Brewing Co. Which is just a rebranded Minhas brewing.

The beer pours amber, with a nice looking head. I don’t pick up much in the aroma, but some light citrus. Not the hop punch I hop for in an IPA. The first taste, I get a lot of medicinal flavors, along with a chemically sweetness that is distracting. No real hop bite, or flavor. This is not what I would describe as an IPA at all. Big disappointment, but at least I’m not out much.

Drain pour.

 

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Vital Stats: Vitals: 6.7% ABV. Served in a willy beecher at 35. 79 IBU

Taste: D. You’ll be hard pressed to find a worse American IPA. 

Drinkability: C. Drain pour. 

Packaging:  B simple branding, useful info, including apv, and description of the beer. No born on date,.

Value: C. It’s cheap, but I’d rather be drinking a PBR if I’m going to have a bad beer.

 

Triple Play IPA from Lawson’s Finest Liquids

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When I noticed Aaron posted about a Vermont beer last night, I was compelled to break out this one and give it a proper review. I haven’t been able to try too many of Lawson’s fine liquids, but I’ve been excited to give this one a try since my sister gave it to me a few weeks back. 

Triple Play IPA is an American IPA brewed and dry hopped with three different hop varieties – Citra, Simcoe and Centennial. It pours a hazy orange with an ample head that leaves a nice lacing on the glass. 

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The first smell is rich citrus, grapefruit and pine (as expected). It’s not “stinky” like some other IPA/2xIPA from the NEK of VT, but it’s got a great aroma. 

The first taste brings mango and grapefruit, dancing across my tongue on tiny bubbles. The balance in this beer is phenomenal. From first taste to the last, it’s just smooth and great tasting. It opened up a little as it warmed, bringing out more pine than citrus, but I’ve noticed that tends to happen with most IPAs. 

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I don’t hestitate to give this my highest recommendation. It’s a highly drinkable, great example of what an IPA should be. Love. This. Beer. 

Vital Stats: Served at 45F into my trusty tulip glass. 7% ABV. Generously hopped. 

Taste: A. You’ll be hard pressed to find a better American IPA. 

Drinkability: A-. The ABV is the only knock. It’s on the high end of IPAs and will eventually knock you on your ass. 

Packaging: B…. is for Basic. It’s old school, but lacking detailed info about the brewer/beer. 

Value: A+. Any time you are given a beer like this as a gift, it’s a GREAT VALUE!! 

A Hop Notch Above – @UintaBrewing’s IPA is a Winner #IPADay

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I have a confession to make… my glass is almost empty as I start to write this review. I really like this beer. It’s best when fresh (as most IPAs are), but I still love it with a little age. 

The color and clarity is excellent. It pours with a great head that hangs around for a bit and then dissipates and leaves nice lacing on the glass. The smell is a mix of citrus and malt, tremendous balance. Pineapple and citrus on first taste that finishes with a great dose of pine and malt. Just a solid IPA. 

When I don’t have Heady Topper in the fridge this is my go to IPA/2XIPA. 

Vitals: Served at 45F in my trusty tulip glass. 7.3% ABV. 

Taste: A-. Near perfect for style. A great IPA. 

Drinkability: B+. I have a hard time keeping this one in my glass, but they can sneak up on you. 

Packaging: B. I love the throwback look/feel, but they could put more info on the label. One reason they scored well here is having the “bottled on” date on the bottle. Can we all just agree that this should be the standard (vs. the “best by” date)? 

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Review at the source: @CiscoBrewers Super Hopped Indie IPA

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I stopped by Cisco Brewers this weekend to check out what was on tap and visit their new raw bar (and hot dog stand – they definitely know their audience!) I wanted to try a few new things (including their XVII Anniversary lager, which will show up in a different post) and in honor of #IPADay decided on the “Super Hopped Indie Pale Ale” as my first drink of the day. 

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I’d read a bit about how they were trying to make an East meets West, suppy hoppy IPA and I think they’ve made a nice beer but not totally suceeded. It pours a rich amber with a nice head and had great grapefruit aroma and a nice citrusy/hoppy taste. Had a slight bitter end, and was very smooth to drink. While it’s a hoppy IPA it didn’t had the real dank punch at some great ones have. I did like it, and I’d definitely pick up a six pack of the to share at a party with other hops-lovers. 

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Vitals: Poured on tap at Cisco Brewers into a plastic cup. 7.58% ABV

Taste: A-. Super delicious. Big grapefruit nose, tons of hops with a grapefruity, almost sweet taste. Very bitter end. 

Drinkability: B+. This is a solid IPA. I wouldnt be able to drink more than two but a six pack would be perfect to share. 

Packaging: B. I drank this on tap, but checked out the bottles they had on hand. Looked like a Cisco beer: high on brand identity, low on excitement. 

 

Meadowlark IPA is a @PrettyBeer

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There are so many great American IPAs out there, it’s hard to excited about trying another one. But this is from Pretty Things – it’s got to be good, right? 

Meadowlark pours a deep orange and forms a nice head that hangs around for a while and leaves nice lacing on the glass. I’m in the habit of going with a rough pour in the hope of bringing out some of the interesting smells and flavors that might stay hidden with a careful pour. This beer is very citrusy on the nose, I actually got a sweet/citrus that smelled distinctly like tangerine juice. 

The taste isn’t completely in line with the smell, less citrus and more pine and bitterness. The malt is there, but doesn’t come to the front like I find with beers like Racer 5.

This is a very enjoyable IPA… not the hop bomb of some other IPAs, but a very solid and fresh addition to the local line-up. You should seek it out before it’s all gone. Given the price, it’s a very good value for a local (to MA) IPA. 

Vital Stats: Served at 45F in a tulip glass. 7.0% ABV. 

Taste: B+. I’d be very happy if someone brought this over to drink with me. 

Drinkability: B+. Enjoyable and gone before you know it. 

Packaging: All the info you need and then some. Love the instructions: “Pour into your favorite cowboy glass and enjoy. No frills required, you can drink it out of the bottle if you need to, you saddle-weary, elbow-lifting traveler.”

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Having Lunch with @MaineBeerCo …for Dinner

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Lunch IPA from Maine Beer Company is a hot beer in the Northeast. It’s gone as soon as it hits shelves in my local MA store, so imagine my surprise (and delight) when I saw a few bottles on a shelf in NH. The dates were ok (less than a month old), so I bought two bottles to enjoy. 

What’s not to love about Maine Beer Company? They’re a small company doing it right, recycling everything they can, donating spent grain to local farmers and giving 1% of sales to environmental non-profits. Their packaging is simple and elegant and their beer is much the same. 

Lunch IPA is named after a Fin whale nicknamed Lunch that spends time off the coast of Maine. It pours a dark orange, darker than I’m used to seeing in a typical IPA. The smell is heavy on the malt and light on the citrus. Actually, I’m not sure I smell any citrus at all. It’s certainly not as hop forward as other beers in this category. 

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The first taste is surprising, if unremarkable. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it wasn’t what I tasted. Lunch is a subtle beer, not a “punch you in the face” hop bomb. There’s a bit of bitterness, but none of the citrus/stinky hop presence I’ve come to expect/enjoy with a good IPA. 

But to cast away Lunch with this observation is to do it a disservice. It’s a better beer than that. It’s simple and elegant… and BALANCED. If there’s one word to describe what they’ve put in this bottle, it’s balance. It’s ok not hitting you over the head with hops, instead it just goes down easy. 

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Lunch is a great tasting beer. The hops and malt aren’t fighting for center stage, they occupy it in complete harmony. There’s no metallic aftertaste that’s so common in lesser IPAs. I want to love this beer (and company), but I’m not sure I understand what it’s trying to be. It’s more of a pale ale than IPA (IMHO). Maybe being a month old has killed the magic in this beer? I’d love to get my hands on a fresh bottle to see how it differs. 

I’m also going to begin adding a new metric to my reviews… Value. As the cost of craft beer continues to rise, I think it’s important to identify good values. At $5.99 for 16.9oz, this is a pricey beer. That equates to ~$23 for a six pack. Yowsa! 

Vitals: Served at 45F into my trusty tulip glass. 7% ABV. 

Taste: B+. Nice taste. Nothing over the top, but good. 

Drinkability: B+. Very smooth and surprisingly easy to drink for the ABV. 

Packaging: B+. Minimalist, but it works. 

Value: C. This is an expensive brew.