Tag Archives: Citra

Revolution Brewing Fist City Chicago Pale Ale

Revolution Brewing is my favorite Chicago brewery—that disaster with the hibiscus ale being excluded—now has new to me—it was available this spring in cans—called Fist City Chicago Pale Ale:

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Described as “a supremely drinkable brew for those who love hops” and I would argue that it is the ideal craft beer replacement for schwag macro lagers that populate dive bars. Yes, I am looking at you Old Style. While I respect the adherence to the Old Style cult that has gripped Chicago since the mid-1980s, which is about the same time the rest of America gave up on the brand, it is time to stake your taste buds to something a little better and a little more local. Firing down pint after pint of super hoppy pale ales does not appeal to everyone, but Fist City could easily slot in as the “go to” replacement for forgettable canned lagers that come in thirty packs. Life is too short to drink beer based on its per can price.

The beer is really drinkable at 5.5% ABV and “just” 40 IBU. Yep, it’s about a percentage point higher in alcohol content than a basic macro lager but it is not a beer that is going to put you on your ass after drinking three of them.

Somehow the brewers managed to squeeze in every hop beginning with a C: Centennial, Citra, Chinook, Cascade and Crystal. Too bad there is not a Chicago hop variety. This leads to a somewhat muddied hop profile where none of the characteristics of any variety stands out. It’s not bad, per se, but it leaves the drinker looking for a particular flavor or aroma wanting something different. Call me a hop head or a beer snob. I like to taste and smell individual and unique hop notes. Yeah, I sound like one of those ass clowns in “Sideways” talking about notes of oak and udon.

Back to the matter at hand. If you need a six pack or thirty pack to take to your next event and want something that can please a lot of people without being boring—yes I am looking at the guy who always beings a twelve pack of Blue Moon to a party—give Fist City a shot:

Purchase 3 Mug Rating

See what others are saying about Revolution Brewing Fist City at Beeradvocate.

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Deschutes Brewery Fresh Squeezed IPA

HyVee’s Fuel Saver program is the devil. You walk into the liquor store thinking you are going to pick up a fifteen pack of All Day IPA and instead you end up with something completely different because you saved $0.25 off per gallon of gas. This is how I ended up with two six-packs of different beers from Deschutes Brewery. In my defense, a total of $0.50 off per gallon of gas ends up saving me $10 when I fill up with the maximum of twenty gallons. Easy to do when road trip summers are here.

When Deschutes Brewery first came into the Iowa market I tried several of their beers and came away liking them in general. It’s been a while and I have not been tempted since for various reasons. The first beer I cracked open was Fresh Squeezed IPA:

Fresh SqueezedI had passed this beer on numerous occasions, read the label, and thought that with a name like Fresh Squeezed it should have been a fresh hopped beer. Damn marketing.

The beer pours a darker amber color than most IPAs, which makes me consider this more of an American Pale Ale. What does that mean? Whatever marketing wants it to mean, but in general I think it means more malt and body than a traditional IPA.

All of this extra body means that the beer drinks a lot easier than its 6.4% ABV and 60 IBU would suggest. Being near the golden ratio—in my opinion—of ABV to IBU the extra body of the beer hides some of the downsides of having more bitterness and bite. It essentially mellows out the more extreme elements of the alcohol and hops.  Fresh Squeezed is brewed with a combination of Citra, Mosaic, and Nugget hops. None of these really stand out as the driving element leaving the profile a little muddled or muted. Again, I was kind of bummed that this was not a fresh hopped beer.

In summary, you can do a lot worse in terms of mainstream pale ales and you ought to give Fresh Squeezed a try if you are looking to broaden your pale ale palate:

Two Mug PurchaseSee what others are saying about Deschutes Brewery Fresh Squeezed IPA at Beeradvocate.

Revolution Brewing A Little Crazy Ale

What is an American Pale Ale? Better yet, what is a Belgian American Pale Ale? When will this insanity stop? We should just start calling beers with crazy varietal names by something completely arbitrary so that it no one is any more confused by sign posts like pale ale or porter or stout or pumpkin peach ale.

Revolution Brewing brews a so-called Belgian American Pale Ale called A Little Crazy Ale:

A Little Crazy Ale

This beer will surprise you at a somewhat boozy 6.8% ABV. Even more surprising is that it drinks a lot more balanced than its middling 35 IBU would lead you to believe. Dry hopped with Citra and Cascade hops there is the presence of hop resins and aromas that do not contribute to the bitterness and help in balancing out the beer’s alcohol.

A Little Crazy is definitely “malt forward,” which accounts for the Belgian in its name. The brewery says that it is golden in color, but I would aim for a little darker hue like copper or amber when describing this particular brew. It is also carbonated a little lighter than more common American Pale Ales, which again I think contributes to its Belgian character. There is definitely some old world influence on this hybrid.

Be careful with this beer because it can sneak up on you. After a few you realize that this is not a session ale and you will find yourself wishing you had ordered a water that last round to clear your head a little bit. Grab a six pack and enjoy on a cool summer evening by the fire:

Purchase 3 Mug Rating

See what others are saying about Revolution Brewing A Little Crazy at Beeradvocate.

Upslope Brewing Company India Pale Ale

I recently wrote about Upslope Brewing’s Pale Ale and today I am going to regurgitate some thoughts on the same brewery’s India Pale Ale:

Upslope India Pale Ale

What? A pale ale and an India pale ale? What the heck is going on here in the world of generously hopped ales?

The general difference between the two beers is that an IPA will be hopped to a higher degree and contain more alcohol relative to volume, e.g. the IBU and ABV ratings will be higher. This is not true in all cases as the style guides for beer have been blown apart in the past few years.

Upslope’s IPA actually tastes like a breed of beer I am going to refer to as Colorado pale ale. Why restrict ourselves to monikers created during a time when there were not 3,000 breweries in the United States? The beer has a little more body than a traditional pale ale, but it’s also hopped more and comes in with a greater boozy punch than a lighter pale ale. Colorado pale ales have a bigger hop bouquet than a traditional IPA, which is the result of using newer varieties of hops like Citra, Amarillo, and so on. It’s a distinct beer, in my opinion, that is typified by Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale.

Upslope’s IPA falls short of the benchmark set by Dale’s Pale Ale in one primary area: the hop aromas and flavors are kind of muddled, which when you think about it is the sole reason for an IPA to exist. It’s about the hops, man! There is some resin and some citrus, but nothing really shines through as the signature note of the beer. Honestly, it’s the same problem I have been struggling with recently when it comes to my homebrew recipes for a House Pale Ale. The hop profile is either over the top—usually from a single hop recipe—or muddled—the rest of my recipes using a blend of hops.

That is not say that Upslope’s IPA is a bad beer in any way shape or form. Quite the contrary, but the bar for this particular “family” of beers is pretty high in the U.S. right now when you consider how much effort is being expended to brew varying pale ales. Overall, it’s a middle of the road result:

Two Mug Purchase

Summit in Cans

With two vacations coming up and no time at home during the weekend for the next month—yes, four straight weekends of time away from home—I have been hesitant to tap into any kegs of homebrew for fear of leaving them sit too long. Even with Perlick forward sealing faucets the mechanism can get gummy and it seems silly to leave beer under pressure with no one home to drink it.

To slake my thirst for beer I trudge down to the liquor store and wade through the cooler of craft beer hoping to find something to my liking. Imagine my surprise when I came across Summit Brewing’s offerings in cans. Apparently, Summit just began making its beer available in cans in late-May 2014. Here it is in June in eastern Iowa where I went home with a six pack of Summer Ale and Saga IPA.

Summer beers are an interesting breed and Summit’s Summer Ale is no exception:

Summer Ale

Like television networks dumping sub-standard shows on summer audiences rather than risk damage to fall slates I am beginning to believe that breweries do the same thing with summer brews. What is normally a rock solid brewery pumping out solid beer after solid beer and frequently producing outstanding beer will produce a summer beer that is a real letdown.

This is the case with Summer Ale. Billed as a beer for sunny days Summer Ale has odd notes that make me think it could not decide if it wanted to be a lager or an ale. It’s made like an ale, but the aroma and flavor that lingers in the back of my throat makes me think it is a lager. Plus it’s light (4.5% ABV) and not particularly bitter (32 IBU) give it more of a lager like profile.

Summer beers are also saddled with carrying citrus or fruit flavors. Although it is supposed to have a “fruity and floral aroma” I missed that characteristic entirely. At least Summer Ale did not try and pull off any potent fruit flavorings:

Purchased One Mug RatingSaga IPA should really be named Epic:

Saga IPA

This is a hell of a beer. Named after the Norse goddess who was the drinking companion of Odin—I am taking this word for word from the Summit website—this beer could also easily have been named Thor’s Hammer. Coming in at 6.4% ABV and 80 IBU Saga is packing a hell of a punch, but it is not a story about in your face bitterness or booze.   There is so much flavor with this beer.

The menu of hops employed is extensive– Centennial, Amarillo, Citra, and Rakau which is a variety I was heretofore unfamiliar—and dry hopping was also employed to amp up the flavor. With so much resinous aroma and flavor bursting forth you completely ignore the alcohol. This is a moment when I need to warn others not to drink an entire six-pack in a sitting because you will feel it hit you quite quickly. Learn from my mistakes young Jedi.

The only downside that I can think of with this beer is that it was not suited for a hot, humid weekend in June. Saga would be oh so perfect on a crisp to cold fall day with a plate of smoked meat and football on the television. Sounds like a vision. Saga is available as a year round beer for those of you who do not mind the incongruous melding of hoppy beers and high temps.

The verdict on Saga is an uncompromising recommendation on its excellence:

Purchase 4 Mug Rating

House Pale Ale #2

It’s been a rough go of it lately in terms of quality homebrew. I have not put forth a batch that I loved since I finished my keezer. Is it the keezer or is the brewer? I am inclined to place the blame squarely on my own shoulders.

Granted, part of this has been the process of refining a “house pale ale” recipe. Initially, I thought that I wanted to go with something that was similar to Toppling Goliath’s pseudoSue with its big punch of Citra backed flavor. However, I think that flavor profile is better suited to an occasional beer that is enjoyed for its unique quality rather than an everyday, drinking beer.

After a departure to make a Pale Wheat Ale, it is back to more traditional American-style pale ale. #2 differs in several ways from #1. The biggest difference is that Cascade hops are the primary bittering hop and Citra is used toward the end.

I also used one pound of Briess 2-Row Caramel 40L as a steeping grain prior to the sixty minute boil. A fairly simple extract ale recipe that was as follows:

  • 1 lb. Briess 2-Row Caramel 40L, steeping grains
  • 3 lbs. Munton’s Extra Light DME, 60 minutes
  • 1 oz. Cascade pellet hops, 60 minutes
  • 1 lbs. Munton’s Extra Light DME, 20 minutes
  • 1 oz. Citra pellet hops, 5 minutes
  • Whirlfloc tablet, 5 minutes
  • Safale S-05 yeast

iBrewMaster figured that the beer came out at ~3.7% ABV and ~32 IBU. Fairly mild numbers, but how did it taste:

House Pale Ale 2

It is a good, if unspectacular, beer. The lack of any real Citra flavor confirms my personal suspicion that the hop is better suited to dry hopping as opposed to being used in the boil. I think it is a great addition as a dry hop. Something just gets lost when it is exposed to any kind of heat for any period of time. This leaves the beer dependent upon a small amount of Cascade hops to really “bring the lumber” in the aroma and bitterness department. In the end, the amount of Cascade hops was not up to the challenge.

The body of the beer, however, was nice and neutral base for which to experiment with hops of varying kinds in a variety of ways. I believe that this will be the standard base recipe going forward.

I feel like I am making progress on my house recipe.

Beer Ratings

Summit Extra Pale Ale

Finally, I got my hands on the six-pack of Summit Brewing’s Extra Pale Ale after my last trip to the liquor store ended up with me grabbing a totally different beer. Whoops!

Was it the beer of my memories?

Summit Extra Pale

This beer has been made continually since 1986 and there is a reason why: it’s damn delicious. Like I have said about other seminal beers of the craft beer movement in the United States, beers like Extra Pale Ale must have been revelatory to a drinking community raise on straw colored swill. I know that for me this was the case.

It is interesting to note how a beer with 45 IBU and 5.2% ABV is now considered to be a mild beer in relation to the much more high gravity and hop forward beers of the moment. My new favorite beer-in-a-can, Founders All Day IPA, comes in at 42 IBU and 4.7% ABV. Granted, a beer is not just the product of its raw statistics as anyone who is a fan of dry hopping will tell you. A beer can hit you with a blast of hop aroma and flavor, yet carry none of the distinctive bitterness.

Extra Pale Ale almost seems reserved in its use of hops. Horizon, Cascade, and Fuggle hops are not known as being “in your face” hops like the more in vogue hop varieties that are popular with commercial and home brewers alike. Therefore, when the beer is described as having a citrus finish the flavor is much more subtle than what would be left on the palate with a beer utilizing Simcoe, Amarillo, or Citra hops.

The only downside to Extra Pale Ale that sticks with me is that biscuit notes can come out well done or burnt. It might be like banana notes for me in that I cannot stand the slightest amount so I automatically veer toward hating that aspect.

Extra Pale Ale is a great example of the beginnings of the American craft beer movement and n excellent starting point to examine the evolution of our beer:

Purchase 3 Mug Rating

As an aside, Summit’s head brewer Damian McConn has a hilarious BuzzFeed video where he “reviews” a flight of cheap wine. Oh yeah, there is some Boone’s Farm in the house. Check it out here.