Tag Archives: dry hop

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.

New Belgium Slow Ride IPA

When you cut back on drinking beer you begin to curate your selection a little bit more because each bottle seems like part of a zero sum game. I did not give up drinking so much as curtail it down to a few bottles per week. Moderation if ever there was such a thing.

If there is one trend that has made it easier for me to stop brewing my own beer—never mind the entire drinking a lot less beer—has been the emergence of “session” IPAs. The adjective session has lost a lot of meaning in the past couple of years, which is no surprise given the wide ranging style differences that can occur under previously well understood definitions like IPA or stout.

New Belgium Brewery recently came out with Slow Ride IPA. It was debuted at Winter Park in January and made its national appearance soon after. BTW, New Belgium is now the official craft brewer for Winter Park. I think once craft breweries start becoming the “official brewery” of anything it means they are not really craft in the manner that many of us think.

Slow Ride is definitely a lighter IPA coming in at 4.5% ABV and 40 IBU:

New Belgium Slow Ride IPA

Slow Ride uses Mosaic, a well known hop variety, and Nelson Sauvin, which I had never heard of until visiting New Belgium’s website. It’s a hop grown in New Zealand. A lot of the descriptors sound like “Sideways” wine guy words, but it seems like the main current of description is that it is a fruity hop that imparts white wine like notes. Okay, I’ll bite but it seemed like a pretty standard dry hop profile to me when I drank a couple of bottles. Call me unsophisticated. It won’t hurt my feelings.

Slow RIde comes close to the golden ratio of 1:1 ABV to IBU that I have been fiddling with for a while now. If your beer is 4.5% ABV it should be 45 IBU. It seems to hold true that beers like this are very balanced if the body of the beer can hold up its end of the bargain.

This is where I feel like New Belgium beers have really been falling down lately. The body of the beers has been lacking. You could say the beers are thin, but for a product that is mostly water even in the thickest instances it is not really the most appropriate descriptor. What is lacking is interest. Some beers have it, even if the alcohol and bitterness are not at stratospheric levels, and a lot of other beers do not. This is where true brewing talent shines.

Overall, this is a solid effort and if you want something easy to drink on a warm day that actually tastes like beer grab a pint of Slow Ride:

Two Mug Purchase

New Belgium Ranger IPA

It was Memorial Day and I was looking for a beer in a compliant container. I needed beer in cans to satisfy The Man and his desire for safety. Okay, I think that if people are going to be drinking in a public place, like a park, it is a good idea to drink from cans so that no one ends up taking a spill onto some broken glass.

Unfortunately, my go-to canned beer—Founders Brewing’s All Day IPA—was out of stock. Sucked back into the unenviable position of choosing amongst the masses of options my hand fell onto a twelve pack of New Belgium Brewery’s Ranger IPA.

Making its debut in bottles in the first part of 2010, Ranger IPA was part of a wave of beers that started to increase the hop content in somewhat more mass market beers. Prior to this time a lot of hoppier beers were reserved for taprooms and more localized markets.

Several years later, how does Ranger IPA hold up:

Ranger IPA

This beer does not drink as bitter as its 70 IBU rating would suggest. Chinook hops are a smooth addition to any beer and seem capable of imparting a resinous bitterness without overpowering every other flavor. One of my favorite extract recipes from Northern Brewer is the Chinook IPA, which is a single hop beer showcasing that particular variety. In fact, I have a keg of Chinook IPA that should be ready to serve in the first week of June or so.

Ranger IPA is also dry-hopped which leads to a burst of aroma when your nose first hits the glass. With the very resinous notes of Cascade hops you expect a more bitter punch from the beer, but because dry hopping does not contribute to the bitterness it is just not there. It’s kind of a trick that is common to many dry hopped beers. I used to think this was a gimmick, but I have come over to the side of dry hopping and believe that it allows for another layer of complexity in the beer without going down the tastes/smells like a headshop route. No one wants to think they are drinking bong water.

If you can overlook the campy Beer Ranger marketing ploy give it a try. It’s a very good exemplar of a modern American version of an IPA.

Recently I have been pretty harsh on the beers coming out of New Belgium Brewery, e.g. Snapshot or Spring Blonde, but Ranger IPA is somewhat of a redemptive beer for the brewery. It shows that a properly focused beer can come out of a rapidly expanding brewery with national distribution intent.

Purchase 3 Mug Rating

First Pour from the Keezer

Here is the first pour from the keezer:

First Pour

Okay, that’s a lie.  It’s actually the second or third pour because I had to purge the liquid lines of any residual sanitizing solution.  Looks pretty good, eh?

iBrewMaster puts the vitals at 4.45% ABV and 48.85 IBU.  The alcohol sounds right given how the beer drinks, but the bitterness seems low because a lot of hop flavor lingers in the back of your throat.  Not in a bad way, per se, but more than I would have thought from a beer that was not dry hopped.

I am working on developing a “house” pale ale and this was my first attempt.  The recipe that I began with was modified from a very common extract recipe for American pale ale.  It’s pretty simple:

  • 1 lbs Briess 2-Row Caramel 20L steeped for 20 minutes prior to boil
  • 3.3 lbs Munton’s Light LME boiled for 60 minutes
  • 2 ounces Cascade pellet hops boiled for 60 minutes
  • 3.3 lbs Munton’s Light LME boiled for 20 minutes
  • 1 ounce Citra pellet hops boiled for 5 minutes
  • Safale K-97 dry yeast pitched after wort cooled
  • Primary fermentation for ~2 weeks
  • Keg conditioning for ~2 weeks, assuming that my ability to seal a keg was up to par

My plan was to produce a base pale ale recipe that was easily replicable and that could serve as a platform on which to experiment with dry hopping, different varieties of hops, etc.  I do not think that this is the base recipe from which I am going to work for a number of reasons.

First, the two ounces of Cascade hops boiled for 60 minutes gave the beer an overwhelming wallop of both bitterness and aroma.  Normally, this is a good thing but it totally overpowered the subsequent addition of Citra at the end of the boil.  I am a big fan of Citra hops and was disappointed to taste little of that variety in this recipe.

Second, the steeping grains definitely added body but little else to the beer.  No complexity or depth of flavor, so it really begs the question about the necessity of the addition.

Last, canned liquid malt extract (LME) just does not do it for me because I feel the product is generally not as fresh as it could be.  One of the primary reasons that I brew my own beer is to make sure that I have fresh product oozing forth from my faucets.  Starting with a product that is old makes for a beer that is preternaturally old.

If this sounds like a loser of a beer I am sorry because the beer is a very drinkable pale ale and a good first effort to come out of my kegs.  It’s just not what I was going for:

One Mug Homebrew

SMASH American Session Ale

2014 is going to be the year of session beers.  You cannot swing an empty growler without hitting another variation of the theme.  You know how I know it is going to be the hot trend?  The term session has become almost meaningless like IPA before it.

Why meaningless?  You see brewers calling beers session ales that have alcohol levels ranging from under 3% ABV to over 8% ABV.  Bitterness levels are equally all over the map.  This is okay, but it does confuse the beer drinker.  It just requires a little leg work and tasting.  First world problem, I know.

Keeping myself on trend, I brewed up a batch of Northern Brewer’s SMASH American Session Ale:

SMASH IPA

iBrewMaster calculated the beer to be 3.8% IBV and ~48 IBU.  Ignoring the voluminous head of some of the bottles in this batch, it’s a pretty well balanced beer.  The bitterness is about perfect and the dry hopping adds a resinous after taste that lingers just long enough to enjoy without becoming annoying.

The beer could use a little more body to it to balance out the bitterness and “hoppyness.”  I would not suggest upping the alcohol content because I found this to be a very drinkable ale, but I would rather find a way to incorporate a malt structure that has a better chance of supporting the excellent flavors present.

I am a recent convert to the powers of dry hopping.  Between this beer and my recent dry hopped Chinook IPA  I am prepared to forgo my former opposition to the practice as gimmicky and embrace the effort to enhance the flavor or beer.

I did not like this beer as much as the second Chinook IPA, but that is not to say that I did not like this beer a lot.  I have been drinking this beer for the past couple of weeks and the great flavor has been appreciated during this recent cold snap and holiday break.  Even when I was sick and nothing tasted like much else there was something refreshing about a glass of dry hopped goodness bursting through to my taste buds.

In the past I have been leery of the Simcoe hop variety.  Beers I have tried using this hop always tasted like something was burnt or ashtray like.  It was not a flavor in the body of the beer, but something that sat in the back of the throat.  After drinking this beer I am going to chalk my suspicion up to the execution of the brew rather than the ingredient.    It would be interesting to duplicate this recipe using a different hop variety.  Citra, perhaps?

The verdict?

3 Star HomebrewMy New Year’s “beer resolution” is to develop a so-called house beer to have on tap in my newly constructed keezer setup.  The idea is to refine a single recipe rather than trot out singular attempts—dubbed a series of one night stands by a beer writer—in order to really nail down the finer points of that particular recipe.  Brew on.

The St. Louis Sampler

Okay, the title sounds like something you might find on the Urban Dictionary.  Nope, this is about beer.

In about a week I am going to be spending some time down in St. Louis, Missouri.  It seems like a good idea to prepare myself for the local beverage scene.  In the past this would have meant steeling my taste buds for the offerings from the legendary Anheuser Busch brew kettles.  Since the acquisition of Anheuser Busch by InBev, the meaning of a “local” beer in St. Louis has taken a totally different turn.

For many people a Budweiser is no longer a local beer.  It may be made in town, but it is not part of the fabric or identity like it once was.  This would have been unthinkable not too many years ago.  Ask for a local beer in St. Louis and someone will hand you a Civil Life or a Four Hands or very likely something from Schlafly Beer.

Opened about twenty years ago, Schlafly claims on their website to be “St.Louis’ largest locally owned independent brewery.”  It’s good enough for me.

My local HyVee liquor store was kind enough to stock a twelve-bottle sampler pack that contained four bottles each of Schlafly’s Kolsch, Pale Ale, and Dry Hopped APA (American Pale Ale).  I am going to talk about them in order of “perceived” strength, which for reasons that will become obvious that perception owes more to my taste buds than anything else.

So, we start with the Kolsch:

Schlafly Kolsch

When I think of a Kolsch style ale, called golden ale by a lot of American craft brewers, I think of non-threatening beers.  This is not a style that someone makes when they want the hop bitterness or aroma to smack you in the teeth.  It’s a style that rewards a steady, sure hand when brewing because balance is very important.

The example for Schlafly is very good.  It comes in at a drinkable alcohol (4.8% ABV) and mild bitterness (25 IBU).  All of this makes for a beer that you can have more than one without feeling like you have smoked a pack of cigarettes every time you burp a little.  Yes, I am looking at you Arrogant Bastard Ale.

I said perceived strength earlier in the post because I would have sworn that the Pale Ale was a stronger beer:

Schlafly Pale Ale

In color perhaps, but it comes in at a lower alcohol (4.4% ABV) and the same bitterness (25 IBU).  Had the Pale Ale been brewed with a typical American craft hop (Cascade or Willamette) I could understand the difference in perception because of the strong aroma those hops can have when added later in a boil.

This is considered the flagship beer of the Schlafly Beer lineup and it performs well in that role.  It’s not a niche or experimental beer meant to push the boundaries of what is possible with the dark arts of beer brewing.  Instead, it is meant to be a reliable drink.  Pint after pint.

The Dry Hopped APA is a different animal:

Dry Hopped APA

If you asked a beer aficionado to describe a dry hopped American craft beer, an ale clocking in at 5.9% ABV and only 50 IBU would not probably be the first description you got.  It would likely be something stronger and definitely more bitter, probably closer to 100 IBU which seems like the goal line of “cutting edge” brewing.  However, the Dry Hopped American Pale Ale shows what is possible by combining new techniques to deliver balances and drinkable beers.

It is because the beer does not clock in at some exorbitant IBU that the dry hopping is really allowed to shine as a component of the flavor profile.  More traditional American hops—Cascade and Chinook—make their appearance here and the flavor difference is noticeable compared with the Pale Ale.  By not being overly bitter, the dry hopped aromas hit your palate as you first drink the beers but little lingers as an aftertaste.  Try that with something that has an IBU closer to a Texas speed limit.  I prefer not to spend my night thinking that I mistakenly drank bong water in the back of a Denver head shop.

If you get a chance while you are in St. Louis order a Schlafly to enjoy a true local beer.