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:
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:
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Tagged ale, Amarillo, beer, Boulder, Citra, Colorado, Colorado Pale Ale, craft, Dale’s Pale Ale, hops, India Pale Ale, IPA, micro, Oskar Blues, Upslope Brewing Company
The first beer I drank from Steel Tow Brewing was big and brassy—Size 7 IPA—but Provider Ale was a totally different experience:
At only 5% ABV and 15 IBU there is little “big” about this beer. It is also hard to categorize. It’s not a wheat beer, even though it pours with a golden straw color and is unfiltered. It has some sweetness and the hop notes are floral as opposed to resinous.
If you were looking for an analog I would suggest a cream ale like New Glarus’ Spotted Cow or Galena Brewing Company’s Farmer’s Cream Ale. These are both light beers that pour like a wheat beer but have a very different flavor that is hard to categorize.
These beers are actually quite hard to pull off from a technical standpoint because there is little hop flavor and aroma to “hide” behind when off flavors present themselves in the malt body of the beer. I have also found these beers to be heavily influenced by the temperature at which they are fermented. It might be the exact same recipe, but the fermentation spent a few days at a temperature higher or lower than ideal which leads to a totally different beer. Trust me, I have brewed Northern Brewer’s Speckled Heifer partial mash kit a few times and each batch tastes noticeably different. Not bad, but definitely different.
If Provider Ale and Size 7 IPA were poured side by side a person would be hard pressed to know that these beers were from the same brewery. It is a very different approach to beer in each glass:
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Tagged ABV, ale, craft, cream ale, farmhouse ale, IBU, micro, Minnesota, New Glarus Brewing, Northern Brewer, Provider Ale, session, Speckled Heifer, Spotted Cow, St. Louis Park, Steel Toe Brewing, unfiltered, wheat
Amber ale is one of the founding styles of the craft beer movement in America—think about Fat Tire Amber Ale or Samuel Adams Boston Lager which shares a lot of traits with amber ales while being a lager—but it has gotten overshadowed in recent years with the explosion of IPAs and derivative pale ale styles.
Dry Dock cans an Amber Ale:
The beer may carry the title Amber Ale, but the brewers describe it as an extra special bitter (ESB). This may be a stylistic choice as most consumers see the word bitter in a beer and run the other way. While that is an unfair critique, this beer does have a muddled character.
Overall, the beer lacks life. The malt body comes across flat, the hops are indistinguishable, and there is an unpleasant sour taste. Not tart like a true sour beer. More like something was spoiled. Not pleasant.
I find it fascinating that I really liked the beers I had in Dry Dock’s Aurora taproom, but I have so far found the beers from its production brewery to be lacking or stylistically something I find offensive. Yes, I am looking at you hefeweizens.
Whatever it was Dry Dock’s Amber Ale failed:
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Tagged ABV, ale, amber ale, Aurora, Colorado, craft, Denver, Dry Dock Brewing Company, ESB, extra special bitter, Front Range, hops, IBU, IPA, lager, micro, pale ale
What is a pale ale anymore? Is it an IPA or an ale or something different? What is an American ale? I do not know, but I see the term pale ale get put on a lot of different beers.
Upslope Brewing’s Pale Ale definitely pours like you would expect:
Is apple pie a weird vibe to get from a beer’s aroma? The first few whiffs of this particular ale and I was thinking about fall baked goods. I get strange aromas from beer and it definitely puts me in a mood when drinking. Apple pie is not bad, per se, but odd.
The malt body of the beer is really light, so it does not support a ton of hoppiness which is not present. I would contrast this with a Dale’s Pale Ale that was much hoppier, maltier, and darker all while retaining the name pale ale. Interesting.
It makes you think how far craft beer has come in the U.S. in a few short years when a fairly well made pale ale in a can, like Upslope’s example today, is not catching the industry on fire because so many other breweries are putting out well made beers. It also helps that stylistically this ground has been trod pretty well by late-2014.
This was a real solid play on the pale ale field:
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Tagged ABV, ale, apple pie, Boulder, Colorado, craft, Front Range, IBU, IPA, micro, pale ale, Upslope Brewing Company
During my marathon tour of breweries in the Denver metro area—one day, six breweries, two visits to the Basic Kneads food trucks, and a wicked good falafel—I visited Dry Dock Brewing Co. in Aurora, Colorado. I came away with a good impression of the beer even though my stay at the taproom was relatively short for a variety of reasons, flagging endurance at the midpoint of the brewery marathon being the prime suspect.
I was pleasantly surprised to see Dry Dock’s beers in cans, so some of that golden liquid came home with me. First up is the Hefeweizen:
I am reluctant to say anything about a hefeweizen because I never have anything good to say. This beer came in a sampler, so considered it a sunk cost of getting the other three beers.
Here is the deal: hefeweizens are known for having prominent notes of banana. I loathe bananas. I can’t stand the smell, taste, texture, and almost sight of that ghastly fruit. It’s probably bordering on a phobia.
Hefeweizens taste like banana, clove, straw, and barnyard ass that has been left to stew for a few weeks in the mid-summer heat of a county fair. Nasty. Other people with opinions on beer that I trust do not come away with this impression at all, so I know that the problem lies with me.
I refuse to even offer a rating of a hefeweizen because I will be less than objective in my criteria. Your experience may vary.
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Tagged ale, Aurora, banana, Basic Kneads, beer, clove, Colorado, craft, Denver, Dry Dock Brewing Company, hefeweizen, micro, straw, unfiltered
Anything other than India Pale Ale that skews toward the “lower” end of the beer scale is a good thing. Increasingly, you see “session” pale ales and generally easier drinking pale ales cropping up all over the place. It’s nice to have an option to supplant the curse of insipid light lagers as the summertime beer of choice.
I had some of these same hopes for Upslope Brewing’s Belgian Style Pale Ale:
Sure, it’s heavier than a lot of “session” pale ales at 7.5% ABV but the mild bittering (30 IBU) meant that it might drink a little lighter. No such luck. This beer was packing a spicy punch that was the direct result of coriander being prominent in the ingredient list.
Coriander needs to come with a warning label when used as a brewing ingredient. It seems like there is a knife edge “bliss point” with this particular spice. Too little and you do not taste it among the other flavors. Too much and it feels like coriander, coriander, coriander…
In this particular example we have a case of going too far over the edge in comparison to the rest of the beer. Coriander is supposed to have a citrus character and the flavor may have been enhanced by a Belgian strain of yeast that highlights those same flavor notes. Think about it like a flavor supercharger.
Brewers need to be careful when incorporating spices into their beers that can provide a lot of flavor punch similar to hops. Prior to the use of hops beers were spiked with lots of spices like wormwood in a style called gruit. Gruit fell out of favor as hops came into play because hops have a preservative quality that helped ensure beer was drinkable past a certain consume by date. However, some of these ingredients get used in addition to a normal hopping and the impact is overkill. It’s a lot similar to beers that get dry hopped. Sure, the IBU rating is not very high but there is a ton of hop flavor and aroma that amplifies the effect.
High hopes crashed themselves on the shoals of coriander overkill:
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Tagged ABV, ale, Belgian Style Pale Ale, Boulder, Colorado, coriander, craft, gruit, hops, IBU, lager, micro, Upslope Brewing Company, wormwood
Upslope Brewing Company from Boulder, Colorado was a new name to me as I perusing the refrigerated cases at the liquor store in Steamboat Springs. My knowledge of Front Range breweries runs toward the Denver metro and ends about there and as a non-resident I am not too unhappy with that performance.
Started in 2008, Upslope Brewing has a year-round lineup consisting of five beers and a rotating lineup of special releases. One of the year-round beers is Craft Lager:
It’s a light lager with middling alcohol (4.8% ABV) and almost no bittering (15 IBU). When it’s cold it goes down easy and that is about all that you remember.
Utilizing a mild hops like Saaz for such a small amount of bittering leaves little aroma or non-bitter flavors to be exhibited. A light lager seems like a perfect blank canvas to experiment with some subtle flavors that might get lost in a beer with a more malt heavy body. I have seen this style used to showcase rose hips, ginger, peppercorns…the list goes on for a while. Some of these experiments were successful and others were less so. Some were even non-qualified disasters.
This beer was inoffensive to the point of being boring. It’s really no different than a hundred other lagers out there. If what you want was the bare minimum in beer flavor just pick the cheapest option out of the cooler and call it a day. This lack of any character is actually something that experts think is afflicting the German beer market. Sales of beer and consumption have fallen a lot recently. Experts peg the reason being the wide proliferation of a few similar styles of beer. Basically, beer is boring in Germany and consumers want something with a little excitement.
I was hoping that after a good experience with Oskar Blues Mama’s Little Yella Pils that I would feel warm and fuzzy about lagers. It was just not to be:
As a note, Upslope Brewing Company has committed to donating 1% of the revenue from Craft Lager to Colorado Trout Unlimited through the 1% for Rivers Campaign. If you are into that sort of thing.
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Tagged 1% for Rivers, 1% for Rivers Campaign, ABV, ale, Boulder, Colorado, Colorado Trout Unlimited, craft, Craft Lager, Denver, Front Range, hops, IBU, lager, Mama’s Little Yella Pils, micro, Oskar Blues, Saaz, Upslope Brewing Company