Tag Archives: Nugget

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.

Goose Island 312 Urban Pale Ale

Getting ready to be gone nearly every weekend for the next month, including nine days in Colorado, means that I am not tapping a keg for the better part of a month. To get my beer fix I have been trolling the beer cooler at the liquor store looking for something new.

Amazingly, the shelves are full of new beers from new breweries all of the time. Some of them are good and, of course, some of them are not quite up to snuff. It’s easy to pass over beers from breweries that have been on the shelf for a while. This is the way it is with me and Goose Island.

John Hall, the founder of Goose Island, is a Hawkeye having graduated from the same MBA program as me, but his career path was decidedly different. During b-school we made a trip to Chicago to visit the brewery and have a reception at the brewpub in Lincoln Park. I remember being amazed at some of the beers being made under the Vintage Ales appellation. Matilda, in particular, was a revelation in that a beer with low bitterness and fairly high alcohol could be so drinkable. For a short time I was a big evangelist of Goose Island, but lost some of my fervor as so many new breweries have come on line.

To rectify the situation I picked up a package of 312 Urban Pale Ale:

Urban Pale Ale

This is a well-crafted and balanced pale ale that comes in on the lighter side of things. Of low bitterness (30 IBU), especially for a pale ale in America, and middling alcohol (5.4% ABV) there is not a thing out of place when you drink this beer. It is akin to a “house beer” that is always on tap and always in demand, but not something that people think of when considering a signature beer of the brewery.

Craft beer is odd that way anymore. Gallons of ink and thousands of hours are spent extolling the virtues of increasingly esoteric styles of beer—including by me on this very blog—but the vast majority of craft beer consumed in America is of a very narrow range. It’s not the Pareto principle per se, but I imagine that 20% or less of the labels account for 80% or more of the craft beer sales in America. Think about what you saw people quaffing over the holiday weekend? I remember seeing a lot of Samuel Adams Boston Lager and New Belgium Fat Tire Amber Ale. This was in Minneapolis where great local beers are available widely.

Nonetheless, we should not discount the appeal of a well-crafted and balanced beer that you can purchase without fear of offending anyone’s tastes. Try that with a sour beer sometime. Overall, well played Goose Island:

Two Mug Purchase

New Belgium Brewery’s Spring Blonde

The liquor store can be a frustrating place for me.  Given that I brew almost all of my own beer now the few times a year when I find myself pacing the beer cooler is an exercise in frustrated decision making.  I want to try something new—a new style of beer or a different brewer—but it seems like the cooler is just filled with derivative beers from a few larger craft brewers.

I went to the section populated by New Belgium Brewery’s offerings hoping to find the newly released Snapshot, an unfiltered wheat beer, or Accumulation, a white IPA.  Instead, the only new beer was Spring Blonde:

Spring Blonde

It’s described as a Belgian-style ale with “drinks malty, sweet and wonderful. And the easy Nugget hopping pedals towards a dry, lightly bitter finish.”  Forgetting for a moment the constant use of cycling metaphors in New Belgium descriptions, I found that the beer was really lacking in delivering any of those defining characteristics in a way that might have been considered intentional.  Sure, there were elements of maltiness and hoppiness but nothing that anyone would write home about.

According to New Belgium, Spring Blonde is a “seasonal” beer so if you want to try your hand at a six-pack you might want to jump soon because it may disappear from shelves quickly as more summertime seasonals round the bend.

In all honesty, the beer came off like a well-executed version of a pale American lager.  Overall, I thought this was a very weak outing from New Belgium.

Purchased One Mug Rating

On the Iowa Beer Trail: Big Grove Brewery

The thing that blows me away about pulling up to Big Grove Brewery in Solon, Iowa is that it sits on the location of the infamous Joensy’s.  For those of you not familiar, Joensy’s was a grease pit of a restaurant famous for the ridiculous Iowa delicacy known as the pork tenderloin.  Yes, this is the sandwich where the meat patty is three or four times the size of the bun.  I do not know why it is done this way and in over ten years of living here I have not been given a satisfactory answer even from people who have spent their entire lives living in eastern Iowa.

That despicable eatery closed and the building was torn down to make way for Big Grove Brewery.  The same group behind several area eateries is behind this establishment and the professionalism shows. It’s a beautiful space inside.  You can get a great idea of what things look like at the Facebook page.  I did not want to be that guy taking pictures of a place while people were drinking and watching the Iowa Hawkeyes play a lackluster game against Wisconsin.  When the weather goes back to warm I will look forward to enjoying the patio space as well.

I wanted to get a sample of everything that Big Grove had to offer.  Five 6.75 ounce glasses of each house beer seemed appropriate, but too bad for me neither Solon Wheat nor the IPA were available.  Popularity is a helluva thing.  I was able to get pours of the dry stout, Dirty Little Secret, and DIPA (in order from left to right):

Big Grove

Dry stouts are a hard nut to crack.  As beer drinkers we have lots of expectations about what a dry stout should be like due to a large quantity of Guinness being poured down our throats from a young age to the great examples from both Irish and American brewers.  Big Grove’s version hits all the right notes and does not try to be gimmicky in any way.  I find this to be the best way to honor the style because a dry stout is a beer you fall back onto when the weather turns a little colder and you want something that is heartier than a light lawnmower beer but not veering into heavy winter beer territory.  Who am I kidding?  I could drink a dry stout in just about any weather because the style is surprisingly light given its color and the alcohol is never so much that a second pint will not get you into trouble.

I was not a fan of Dirty Little Secret.  It is a strong beer (~9% ABV), but the alcohol just seems to be amped up by the sweetness of the beer.  It was described as being a strong ale with a fruit profile.  It was fruity all right.  Like so many strong “sipping” ales this beer was crossing over into the territory occupied by wine and that has always been something that I did not like.

DIPA was a complete success.  Described as a “double” IPA, the beer oozed with a resinous hoppy goodness.  The beer uses a mix of Simcoe, Chinook, and Warrior hops.  That is a good thing because at 9.7% ABV there needs to be a lot of flavor to balance out that kind of alcohol.  There is also some sweetness present that lingers in your mouth for just about the right amount of time.  I am going to give credit to the locally sourced honey.

As a consolation prize I was also able to get the same size pours of Toppling Goliath’s Golden Nugget and Millstream’s Oktoberfest( in order from left to right):

TG_Millstream

Toppling Goliath is always putting out excellent brews.  If you have a chance to be in Decorah—which if you like mountain biking it is a must do for the region—take a side trip to the taproom.

Golden Nugget fall right into my wheelhouse in terms of beer.  It’s got the alcohol (6% ABV) and bitterness (56 IBU) that are just about ideal for an IPA.  The use of Nugget hops is interesting because I do not know of another craft brewer using this variety.

Recently, Toppling Goliath began packaging their beer for distribution.  This is going to be great because so much of what I drink is consumed at home.  A trip to the brewery or bar is an undertaking with two small children in tow.

Millstream is getting to be like Old Man River of the beer scene in Iowa.  When there were no other local craft brewers Millstream was in operation in Amana putting out a variety of traditional styles.  In the past I have found the beers to be hit or miss, but with the increase in competition I feel like the quality has improved to something much more consistent.

Okotberfest is proof of this growth.  The beer is solid in every way possible.  I do not have a lot to say about Okotberfest style beers because I find them to be the lawnmower beers of fall.  A good one is easy and satisfying to drink without requiring you to put on your thinking cap to decode just what it is that you are drinking.

Another thing that I want to mention is food.  Unlike the simple vittles offered at a lot of taprooms, Big Grove is as much a restaurant as a brewery.  The selection could best be described as upscale or re-imagined American.  Neither my wife or I was in the mood for a meal, so we stuck to some snacks.

Parmesan fries and a tater tot casserole were perfect for a late afternoon lunch replacement before picking the kids up from grandma’s house.  Yes, I said tater tot casserole.  This is not your average Ore Ida tots in some gloppy sauce.  The tots were extra crispy—the sign of fresh and hot oil—over a simple base of local ground beef and sharp cheddar.  Perfect food for a crisp fall day.

The Parmesan fries were fried well, but I do have to say that the Parmesan was probably shredded too early in the day and lost some of its signature bite.  There is a delicate balance with Parmesan and time is not its friend.  Disregarding the lifeless cheese on top, the fries below were excellent—again a sign of a fresh vat of oil maintained at the proper temperature.

I may sound like I am repeating myself, but there is no greater sin in bar food than a poorly maintained fryer.  Oil is not some ever bearing liquid of myth.  It needs to be replaced frequently or it will take on a bad set of flavors that will be passed on to every subsequent dish that is delivered to its maw.  Just watch an episode of Bar Rescue to know how ill-maintained most fryers actually are and it will make you appreciate the times you come across food that has come from oil that was loved.

When I get a chance I will be making a return trip to Solon to try the Solon Wheat and IPA as well as any other specialty beers that are tapped.  It was well worth my time on a glorious Saturday afternoon and it will be worth your time as well.