Tag Archives: hops

Well Said Mr. Brookstein

Jesse Brookstein, one of the co-founders of Call to Arms Brewing Co. in Denver, sat down with Jeremy Meyer of the Denver Post to offer his assessment of “beer scene” in Colorado and predict the trends that will define craft beer in 2016.

I have not seen, read, or heard a more accurate assessment of what things will look like in 2016 than the following statement from Mr. Brookstein:

The continued fear-mongering of the craft beer hype-machine. As the industry grows, so grows the legions of beer writers — and what truly drives their creativity is doom, gloom, and not-so-original (and often wrong) opinions and predictions. There isn’t a craft beer bubble about to burst. Hops will remain readily available — not everyone will get Citra, but they will get hops. It’s not the can or bottle itself that leads to oxidation, it’s the environment in which it’s packaged. IPAs are not a fad; fads don’t last decades. Sours are not a fad; fads don’t last centuries. Oft-repeated opinions don’t necessarily reflect facts.

Craft beer will be fine because what these brewers are doing cannot be duplicated at a macro level.  There will be challenges, but the industry will adapt and-dare I say-thrive in the face of these challenges.

Again, well said Mr. Brookstein.

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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:

IMG_0521

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.

Friday Linkage 8/14/2015

I know I originally said I was not going to publish any links today, but there were a few good stories about renewable energy costs that I wanted to highlight. Plus, it’s been a slow couple of days for work here in Boulder.

On to the links…

Cost of Producing Wind Power Reached a New Low in the U.S. Last Year—It is very cheap to deploy wind power.

‘Tipping Point’ for Florida Solar? Orlando Utility Buys at Under Fossil Generation Prices—Remember for a moment that this is in not very renewable friendly Florida. If that state can have renewables at parity or below with fossil fuels it has to be a cinch for other states to do the same.

Another Low-Solar-Price Record: Saudi Electric Company Lands Solar PPA Under 5¢/kWh—This is some seriously cheap solar.

Axa Boss Henri de Castries on Coal: ‘Do you really want to be the last investor?’—This has to be one of the most damning statements I have seen about the future viability of coal company stocks. Remember, publicly traded stock is how many large companies achieve capital goals in the modern age. Without access to this capital it is very hard, if not impossible, to achieve scale.

Cloud Peak Energy Fights To Preserve Loopholes, Ability To Rip Off Taxpayers—So, not only are these companies increasingly bad investments but their financial security rests on ripping off the American people. Why exactly do people like Mitch McConnell defend coal companies with such vigor?

New Zealand to be Coal-Free by 2018, 90% Renewable by 2025—Now these are some goals I can get behind. Imagine if the U.S. said that we wanted to be 90% renewable in ten years?

Coca-Cola-Funded Scientists Say Overweight Americans Are Too Worried About What They Are Eating—The “crap food industry” has been pushing the line that exercise is the reason people in the Western world are increasingly obese, but the reality is that our diets are to blame for our round midsections. How stupid does Coca-Cola believe that we are?

Mmm, Beer: Brewers Are on a Quest to Breed a Better Hop—This is perhaps the best line about beer and wine drinkers that I have read in a long time:

Hopheads are embracing diversity,” says Myles. “Wine snobs are viticultural racists.

New Pioneer Coop Hoppelganger IPA

Collaboration beers are an interesting lot. Sometimes the idea is to bring together a brewer with a non-beer partner. Think about someone brewing a barrel aged stout using wine or bourbon barrels from a vintner or distiller. Other times it is about a few brewers getting together and bringing forth something off the wall that might not be economically or technically feasible by each on their own. Think about your local breweries getting together to make a seasonal brew like marzen or kolsch.

There is another category that feels a little more gimmicky. Recently New Pioneer Coop teamed up with Madhouse Brewing in Des Moines to brew an IPA using Iowa grown hops and Iowa malted barley. The result is Hoppelganger IPA:

Hoppelganger

If there is one thing that will strike you about this beer it is a slick sweetness that is the undertone of every other flavor. I am not a sweet beer guy—no raspberry radlers or blueberry whatevers—and there is a lot of sugar crossing your palate with this beer. There is so much sweetness that it really overpowers the malt and hop profiles.

The hops poke through occasionally, but nothing is particularly memorable. This may be a fault of the beer or the hops. In other beer brewed exclusively with Iowa or Midwestern grown hops I have found that the flavor and aroma is not the same as the varieties grown by the larger operations in the Pacific Northwest. Like a franchise latte, Cascade hops should be like all other Cascade hops. Whether this is due to terroir or the infancy of newer hop operations in the Midwest I do not know, but there is some ground to make up relative to the commercial hop products in other parts of the country. I applaud the effort to bring local producers along. However, I hope in the next few years that the results are stronger.

I also cannot get a read on Madhouse Brewing. I have had several of their beers, but I have not tried anything in a couple of years nor have I visited their new taproom in Des Moines. What is missing for me is their brewing point of view. Why would I pick a beer from Madhouse Brewing over say Big Grove in Solon or Peace Tree in Knoxville or any of the other fine establishments in the state of Iowa? This may be the question that bedevils the thousands of craft breweries in operation and the many others in the planning stages as customers get confounded with the paradox of choice.

Overall, I am left wondering why the collaboration had to exist for someone to bring Hoppelganger IPA to market:

Purchased One Mug Rating

New Belgium Long Table Farmhouse Ale

Beer from New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins, Colorado used to be like a revelation. A twelve pack of Fat Tire Amber Ale was treated like a gift when someone was thoughtful enough to bring some back from the Front Range. Times have changed and I have not been impressed with their recent exploits. Nonetheless, nostalgia will get me from time to time and I picked up a six pack of the recently released Long Table Farmhouse Ale:

Long Table

This a beer that drinks boozy (6.2% ABV) with little bitterness (20 IBU) or body to balance it out. When I think of “farmhouse ale” or a saison I am generally thinking that it will be a lower alcohol beer that is easy drinking. Think light beer with soul.

Long Table has none of that soul. With a small amount of bitterness and no dry hopping there is little hop aroma or flavor. With nothing hitting your nose or tongue your palate is left to deal with a thin beer hitting you in the face with alcohol and esters. There are a lot of peppery notes in this beer, but it comes across like someone just cracked a peppermill over the bottle before packaging.

Long Table tastes like it is a derivative of other similar New Belgium beers. The plan out of Fort Collins seems to read like Hollywood’s—reboots and sequels. When is the reality of what New Belgium is brewing—thin variations on a theme—going to overcome the perception of the brewery—pioneering spirit of American craft industry, environmentally friendly, socially conscious, employee owned, etc.? With breweries in two states and a near total coverage of the continental United States it feels like New Belgium is brewing and marketing toward the middle ground where it is offering little different from the craft labels owned by the macro brewing giants.

If you are an aficionado of thin, boozy beers with little else to tickle your palate crack open a Long Table:

Purchased One Mug Rating

See what others are saying about New Belgium Long Table Farmhouse Ale at Beeradvocate.

 

Deschutes Brewery Pinedrops IPA

The second beer that I ended up with because of HyVee’s evil Fuel Saver program was Deschutes Brewery’s Pinedrops IPA:

Pinedrops

This beer pours a lot lighter than Fresh Squeezed IPA. Therefore, I would classify this as a more traditional IPA versus the emerging American Pale Ale style of beer.

However, the light body does not provide a good sounding board for either the alcohol (6.5% ABV) or bitterness (70 IBU). Perhaps it is from the wide variety of hops used— Nugget, Northern Brewer, Chinook, Centennial, and Equinox hops—or the general level of bitterness, but this beer leaves a lingering after taste that is not particularly pleasant.

It reminds me, unfortunately, of a lot of early craft beer IPAs that left you with the feeling of having drank some bong water with your beer. Those brewers were trying to mask deficiencies in skill by piling on flavors and aromas. Having drank well done beers from Deschutes Brewery before I know there is no need for these brewers to be hiding because the talent is present in the brewhouse.

Also, with a name like Pinedrops I was expecting a heavy, resinous profile that almost made you think you were breathing in the air of a temperate coniferous rain forest. Was that too much to ask?

At this stage of the craft brewing industry in America we expect more from our IPAs:

One Mug Homebrew

See what others are saying about Deschutes Brewery Pinedrops IPA at Beeradvocate.

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.