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randomness, truth, and burritos

Craft Beer: Highland Brewing Co. Kashmir India Pale Ale

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So as prolific as IPAs are, even making fun of how often I seem to review them is starting to get old.  I don’t have it in me to come up with something else witty for tasting yet another IPA.  That isn’t to say anything negative about this IPA itself.  My experiences with Highland Brewing have been very favorable.  I’m also pretty sure I’ve had this beer in the last year and can’t remember any negative qualities, so I am holding out hope for a good review.

 

I do have to root for Highland Brewing because it is a North Carolina beer, and being brewed in Asheville, is not terribly far away from where I currently live.  According to local legend, Asheville has become one of the major craft beer capitals of the nation.  It seems like Charlotte is working to catch up with that title, but that is another post.

Kashmir IPA is 6% ABV, so it’s strong enough to have a kick, but not enough to knock you completely on your butt.  It pours out a light golden color and had a head that started small but hung around for a good long while after the pour.  It did not seem to coat the glass like some of the others I have tasted lately, but it is far from unimpressive.

The smell is very unique.  This isn’t an aromatic beer, but the aroma has a very light hint of sweet strawberry.  It makes me think of jam or preserves.  There is a sweetness that cuts into this beer’s scent that makes it very intriuging.

The flavoring of this beer reminds me of a melody from a piece of classical music.  It feels like it dances around from one end of the scale of tastes from sip to swallow.  It has a neutral tartness at the beginning that is hard to define, yet quite refreshing.  It seems to sizzle on the tongue, indecisive of where to go.  It reminds me of throwing a slice of lemon in your drinking water.  You know it’s there, and it’s changing the flavor, but it’s so subtle that its hard to identify if someone didn’t point it out.

As this beer slides along your tongue as you go to drink it down, the intricacies of the flavor blossom out.  There is a hint of cranberry in there.  Also maybe a touch of blueberry.  I would also go so far as to say a touch of butternut or pumpkin squash was hiding about in there also.

The finish definitely reminds you that this is an IPA.  The body of the hops makes its presence known and gives your tongue, if not a pop in the nose, definitely a slap in the face.  It’s a bit of a wake-up call that blends well with the sweetness this beer tapers off to.

This is a finely crafted beer, but I do not think i can list it as a casual drinking beer.  It’s complexities almost make it too exhausting to drink regularly throughout a night, and the flavors are too loud for me to recommend for a casual night out drinking with the guys.  This is a beer to be savored.  I would drink this at home after a hard day’s work, with nobody around to interrupt the experience.  Maybe I would watch the sunset, or read a good book on my balcony.  I wouldn’t want to interrupt this beer, it just seems to have too much to say.

Filed under: India Pale Ale, , , , ,

Craft Beer: Boulevard Brewing Co. Single-Wide IPA

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You know, i normally give IPAs a lot of grief.  Not because its a bad beer, I have found some real winners in the IPA scene.  I have more issues with IPA being a trendy beer.  It seems like the beer novice brewers can cover up their mistakes with by adding god-awful amounts of hops to the batch.  I still stand by the fact that there is something wrong with the craft beer selection when over half of my reviews end up being IPAs because it makes up nearly fifty percent of the craft beer market.  There is such variety in craft beers, its disappointing that the majority of the beers are just overdosed with hops and labeled an IPA.

Now, with all that being said, I have been rather excited to try this IPA from Boulevard Brewing Co.  It is brewed in Kansas City, MO, and surprisingly, it is fermented a second time in the bottle, adding a bit more carbonation and head to the mix.  I am actually quite surprised they do this, as a bottle fermentation can be a bit unstable and cause the bottles to explode if exposed to extreme temperatures (re-starting fermentation and adding increased pressure to the bottle).  Perhaps Boulevard Brewing has a way to avoid this, as a novice brewer I can’t say that it’s not possible.

Pouring the glass was an exciting experience. The head remained thick and frothy through the entire poor.  I practically got impatient as it took forever to settle enough for me to empty out the rest of the bottle. The hops smell amazing.  The smell, while definitely hops, does not have the tart astringency that I’m used to finding in an IPA.  It’s almost sweet in its scent, reminding me of caramel and granny smith apples.  There is a citrus presence in the background as well that keeps the smell fresh and lively.

First tastes are equally surprising.  The flavor is also substantially milder than your typical IPA.  The presence of hops won’t let you forget this is an IPA, but it’s like a seasoning that compliments all the base flavors of the beer, as opposed to being the primary flavor itself.  The intensity of the flavoring is moderate at best, but the complexity keeps me interested.  The first flavors are crisp and cool, reminding me of watermelon rind.  As I continue to drink a body of sweetness rises up to contrast the tartness of the hops.  It makes me think of sweet grapefruit juice, or unsweetened raspberries.  The finish washes back in with a more savory flavor, making me think of italian seasonings and just a hint of lemon bite.

I think it’s a testament to the quality of this beer that I nearly finished it in the first ten minutes of writing this post.  It’s an excellent mix of flavors without being too overpowering.  I would almost consider it an all-weather beer, with perhaps the exception of the coldest months of winter.  It is one of my favorite IPAs to date, though the true disappointment comes in that it’s almost impossible to find in this area outside of my specialty beer store.  ah well.

Filed under: India Pale Ale, , , , ,

Craft Beer: New Belgium Ranger IPA

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Despite being a bit overdosed on IPAs with this blog, I have been very eager to try this New Belgium Ranger IPA.  New Belgium is a brewery that has produced some good beers that I can always turn to when I am out with my friends.  They’re big enough to be found in most bars that cater to craft beer, yet still independent enough to be fun to look for when you’re out.

The Ranger IPA is made in Fort Collins, CO and is 6.7% ABV.  This is a bit higher than normal, but I would not worry about it catching me off guard while drinking out with the guys.

Like the Fat Tire, when pouring this beer I noticed that it produces a very strong prominent head (see the picture, I got impatient waiting for it to settle).  It also does a very good job of coating the glass as it comes down.  The carbonation does a great job of giving loft to the aromatics of the hops and malt with this beer.  It smells absolutely delicious, with strong hints of sweet orange.  It makes me think of biting into an orange that’s been floating in fruit punch all day.

When Ranger first hit my tongue, I was shocked at the sweetness that comes from it.  It is not a standard feature in the many IPAs that are on the market today.  For the briefest of instants, it gives you this sweet kick, like the icing on an orange cinnamon roll, before the hops roll in and remind you it’s a full-strength IPA.  The kick of the hops is a unique contrast to the sweetness and on some level reminds me of sweet/tart theater candy (take your pick of which).  It’s a contrast that adds great complexity to the beer and keeps it a refreshing option in an industry practically overrun with IPAs.

The flavors feel like they zig-zag back and forth before finally finishing on a sweet note.  The final sweetness is another welcome change from  your typical IPA and keeps me quickly coming back for another sip.

As far as IPAs go (and this blog shows I’ve been sampling my fair share)  this is one of my favorite to date.  I would generally keep my IPAs for warmer weather, this one is especially great because the flavor isn’t too astringent and unlikely to leave you feeling parched because of its strength.

Filed under: India Pale Ale, , , , ,

Craft Beer: Great Divide Brewing Co., Rumble IPA

Rumble ipa

In another return to the wonderful world of IPA’s I am sampling another Colorado beer that has piqued my interest.  This one is an “Oak aged IPA” from Denver, CO.  I like that Great Divide Brewing has listed food pairings on the bottle.  They recommend skirt steak, sweet potatoes, brie, and apple crisp with ice cream.  This all sounds fantastic by the way, and even though I don’t have it to pair with this beer, I will probably be eating all of it in the near future.  Lastly on the “what’s writting on the tin” front, this beer is a little higher than standard, at 7.1% ABV.

The beer is a nice dark amber color with a very small head.  The head never really frothed up like i expected, but it let out such a pleasingly sweet aroma as I poured it I’m willing to overlook it.  The smell reminds me of when I tried a recipe for a carmel-butterscotch sugar cookie.  It’s incredibly rich and complex with hints of caramelized sugar, vanilla, and a hint of cinnamon.

It’s funny, I often start off my reviews with strict commentary on how the beer smells.  However, it seems more often than not when I taste it I am very surprised at how much the actual flavor varies from the initial smells.  This isn’t always a bad thing, but it does tend to surprise and shock the senses a little.  I might qualify this as one of the most magnificent beers I’ve had to date because it completely lives up to all the expectations you get from the initial scents of the beer.  The first sip was this amazing thick nectar of vanilla wheat with a hint of hops.  There are so many different experiences in the taste-profile of this beer I feel like I’m going to miss something and do an injustice to this beer.  I will try anyways…

As I take my first swallow, the citrus-essence of the hops pops out and wakes up the taste buds.  It makes all the flavors shimmer like a kaleidoscope before settling into this amazing butterscotch-sweet aftertaste, with just enough bite from the carbonation to remind you you’re drinking beer and not an amazing dessert.

This beer is a healthy craft-beer and as such is a bit on the heavier side.  I want to be drinking this with a half dozen friends with big beer mugs, clinking them together and making a real ruckus at the bar.  As rich as this beer is, I could drink at least 3-4 before even contemplating switching to something else.  (be careful with that though, it’s strong enough to get you in trouble if you don’t stretch them out over a long enough time!)

I have had some great beers since I have started this blog.  I will say, this is one of the first times I’ve regretted only buying one bottle of this beer as part of my pick-a-pack selection.  I have to give some major kudos to Great Divide Brewing Co. for a truly superb beer.

P.S.  I keep having to read the label to remember it’s an IPA.  The hops are there, but are just a fragment of the entire experience.  regardless, this beer is definitely worth trying.

Filed under: India Pale Ale, , , , , , ,

Craft Beer: Anderson Valley, Spring Hornin’ IPA

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I am slowly coming to terms that if I wish to continue trying out this pick-a-pack isle at my local liquor store, I better get used to sampling a lot of IPAs.  Can I ask for people’s opinion, are IPA’s just really big right now or does my stockperson have an unfair biased towards them?

Anyways, this IPA is looking rather interesting.  This is one of my first beers from California (specifically, Booneville), and the bottle alone has a different character to it than most beers I’ve tried so far.  It’s a 6.8% ABV Spring IPA.  It pours as a rich golden copper color and maintains a healthy froth of head for a good while after having been poured.

The scent coming off the beer as the head settles is very complex.  There are multiple sweet overtones that come out before the smell of malt and hops.  I get smells of honey, and  nutmeg, with just the barest hint of blueberry.  While the scent is dominantly sweet, it isn’t overwhelmingly sweet, and has a very balanced personality.

My first impressions of the taste fall right in line with the scent from pouring this beer.  It has a very complex and balanced flavor.  A perfect blend of the sweet malts and flavorings with the tart dry flavor of hops.  The sweetness still reminds me of honey and blueberries, but this definitely is not a blueberry ale.  Another fruit that comes to mind is a slice of cold fresh peach.  It has a body to it that reminds me of eating a handful of fresh juicy fruit.  It’s sweet and refreshing, but the flavors are not overwhelmingly distant from a good traditional beer.  The hops are definitely present, but they don’t really kick in until the last few drops are sliding down your throat.  At the very last instant they bloom for just a fraction of a second and cleanse the sweetness off of your palate.  It helps remind you that this is definitely an IPA.

This is a very drinkable beer, and at 6.8% ABV I would say be careful when you drink it.  If I had a cooler of this next to me at a camp out I could easily see all of them disappearing before I had planned.  It is that tasty.  I say this for two reasons, I don’t want a high-alcohol content to creep up on anybody, and it is certainly no fun when  you burn through all your beer at a camp-out before you’re ready.

One last comment, this beer is remarkably complex and flavorful, without being too intense.  It is great for both beginners of IPAs and beer in general.  Aficionados of craft beer and IPA’s will also find this to be a remarkably enjoyable beer to try.

Filed under: India Pale Ale, , , , , , ,

Craft Beer: Thomas Creek Brewery, Trifecta IPA

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Wooo!  Yet another IPA for me to try from my liquor store’s pick-a-pack.

I guess this is my own fault really, I should pay more attention to the beer bottles I’m picking up when I shop.  This IPA does have my interest for the evening, as it is another somewhat local beer, brewed in Greenville South Carolina at the Thomas Creek Brewery.  At 6.9% ABV it’s a pretty stout IPA, and could potentially end your night a little early if you drink too many of them too quickly.

The beer pours out as a warm light amber color.  It has a small head that fizzed down reasonably quickly, releasing an amazing scent that was a cross between vanilla wafers and a sweet croissant.  There is also a warm overtone of nutmeg to this beer that has warmed me up to wanting to try yet another IPA.

My first taste of this beer was absolutely incredible.  It went down with a silky smoothness that I would never have expected from an IPA.  It starts off sweet, with a blend of gingerbread and molasses.  I would say it reminds me of a heavier  dark brown ale or a stout, but it lacks the weight/fill of some of those darker beers.  I wouldn’t go so far to say it’s light and refreshing, but it is pleasantly rich and full-bodied.

As you swallow the beer down the hops really take over and allow the beer to end on a very surprising up-note.  While the hops wash past, there is a scent that almost qualifies as sneaky.  I had to take several sips just to get an idea of what it reminded me of.  It reminds me of that cinnamon/pumpkin spice scent from when you’re baking christmas cookies/pies/etc.  It isn’t very distinguishable, but it’s present just enough to give you a nice warm feeling as you work through this beer.

As much as I love this beer, it worries me that this is a beer that could sneak up on you.  It’s so smooth and sweet that it’s hard to believe you’re drinking a beer that is almost 7% ABV.  From the starting-line, I’d say I’d be ready to drink three to four of these at a long event.  The problem with 7% ABV is that by number three or four…. the idea of drinks five and six might start to sound more appealing…

Regardless, this is a fantastic beer and I would highly recommend it for any craft beer drinker to try.  It’s also a great introduction to the complexities of flavor of a number of darker beers, without carrying all the weight of a darker beer.

 

 

Filed under: India Pale Ale, , , , , , ,

Craft Beer: Red Brick Brewing Co., Hop Circle India Style Session Ale

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At some point my liquor store is going to run out of IPA’s, or in this case India-style Ale’s for me to sample.  I guess I shouldn’t really complain, I have found a number of truly fantastic beers.  I am hoping the selection starts to vary up a little the next time I head there though.

Hop Circle is a India Style Session Ale made by Red Brick Brewing Company in Atlanta, GA.  It’s 4.21% ABV, which is a touch lower than the content I’m used to in a craft beer.  It poured a light-amber/dark-gold color with almost no head to speak of.

The smell of the beer is almost the complete opposite of what I was expecting.  It has a very dark, rich, sweet smell like a dark brown ale, or even a stout.  It reminds me of the scent of cherry cordials with dark chocolate.

My first sip makes this one of the more perplexing beers I’ve ever had.  I have yet to drink a beer that smells so dark and sweet, but that still tastes exactly like a hoppy IPA.  It’s almost an unorthodox Salty-sweet contrast like chocolate covered pretzels.

I wish I could come up with a better description of the taste, but all that comes to mind is “hops hops hops”.  Maybe I could stretch and say it reminds me of tart green grapes, but without being overly sour?  That’s all I’ve really got at this point.

This is an interesting beer, and definitely one worth trying out simply for the experience.  I doubt I’d drink more than one or two at any given time though.  It’s also so hoppy, I’m not sure it’d be a great beginner-craft beer to start with.

Filed under: India Pale Ale, , , , , ,

Craft Beer: Natty Greene’s Brewing Company, Elm Street English Style IPA

Elm street

So apparently, the stock person who sets up the pick-a-pack shelf at our local liquor store really really likes IPAs.  I have another IPA for a review here, another craft beer local to North Carolina.  This one is brewed and bottled in Greensboro.  As you can see in the photo, it’s a dark gold-amber color with a healthy head on it.  I was able to find the six-pack price of this beer, at $9.99 just over the border in South Carolina.  The beer is 6.4% ABV, so a little bit above average in strength.  I also noticed the “seasonal” label at the top of the bottle, so it obviously won’t be available year round.

As I poured the beer, the aroma that was released had a healthy hoppy scent to it.  It has a brisk chill to it like a cool dewey morning.  The wheat has a strong presence as well, reminding me of toffee or carmel overtones.

The beer has a very smooth taste to it.  It doesn’t have the bite that some IPA’s have as a trademark flavor.  It seems to glide smoothly over your tongue with a slowly rising sweetness of the malt being the first flavor to experience.  It has a very very slight essence of pear or apple to the flavor.

After the initial flavoring, the wheaty-ness of the beer seems to billow out and flood your taste buds and nose with the essence of good rich beer, before being washed away with the thick molasses flavor of the malt.  It is a much richer flavoring than many IPA’s I have had before, yet it isn’t overpowering.  It reminds me of a high quality brown ale, but with a much stronger presence of hops.

As rich as this beer is, it doesn’t go down very heavy and is very drinkable.  It is a bit intense, so I don’t think I would want to drink it exclusively all night, but it’d be a great six-pack to share with one or two friends.  I would probably drink at least two or three of these before I’d want to trade off for something else.

Overall, this is another great example of an IPA for both new and returning India Pale Ale drinkers.  If you’re used to your standard american beer, this might be a bit rich for you, but if you appreciate any of the complexities of craft beer, this is a brew you don’t want to miss out on.

Filed under: India Pale Ale, , , , , , , ,

Craft Beer: Big Boss Brewing, High Roller IPA

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Here is yet another IPA I am sampling from my pick-a-pack.  I swear the next time I do this I will do more in-detail homework and find the 6-pack prices.  Not knowing exactly is starting to bother me now.  When I go back I will try to find these last few and update the posts.  The pick-a-pack price was $2.49, so it would be near-average but on the higher end of that range.

What I have here is Big Boss Brewing’s High Roller India Pale Ale, brewed in Raleigh, NC.  at 6.5% ABV it has enough extra strength for me to warn any beer drinkers to be cautious.  a little extra %ABV doesn’t hurt if you only have one or two, but if you’re out with your friends for a long night, you might end up consuming a whole phantom-beer and not realize it.  Being a craft-beer lover, I’ve made this mistake a few times myself.  Fortunately the last few were when I lived three blocks from downtown and I could stumble back home.

The beer pours as a beautiful amber color, and without even leaning in I can smell the hops and the sweetness of the malt.  The head never got terribly high, and did not stay foamed up for very long.  I know some purists may say this is not the best sign, but I’ve found enough great beers that buck this rule to not be troubled by it personally.

From the smell, this beer seems a bit stronger on the sweet/malty side than the last few IPA’s I’ve had.  The smell’s sweetness reminds me of iced molasses cookies, with the hops floating in the background to give it a cool refreshing bite.

The flavor of the first sip is as beautiful as the glass of beer looks.  It’s equal parts bold and refreshing.  The flavor has tones of licorice and caramel in it.  I want to say the tastes in this beer are reversed from many of the IPA’s I’ve reviewed lately.  It starts off with a rich sweet old-timey flavor, and then finishes on an upswing of bright refreshing hops.  I really like this, as the brightness at the end seems to cleanse the pallet of the thick sweetness some beers have, leaving you ready for your next sip.

One thing I like about this beer is that the hops, while present, are not overpowering.  IPA’s remind me of the spicy salsas of the beer-world.  People who like salsa and eat it a lot tend to acclimate and want the hotter/spicier blends to get the same kick.  I think the same thing happens with IPAs.  Drinkers get used to the kick-in-the-face hops presence, and keep looking for more punch.  I’m not faulting this, I love spicy food and IPA’s, but it makes it confusing for people coming into the IPA world.  Their IPA drinking friends give them the “nuclear hot-wing” version of IPA, and their shocked and turned off to the brew because what they tried is so intense.  If I had to draw a direct parallel, this beer is the zesty “roasted corn salsa” of IPA’s.  It’s not too strong, yet it’s beautifully flavored.  It would make an excellent example of an incredible IPA to friends who are unfamiliar with this type of beer.

And just to be clear, while I say this is a great beer for an introduction to IPA’s, it will also be a refreshing and enjoyable IPA to committed IPA fans as well.

Filed under: India Pale Ale, , , , , , , ,

Craft Beer: Southern Tier, Farmer’s Tan Session India Pale Ale

farmers tan session ipa

As I perused the liquor store’s selection for my pick-a-pack, I must have been staring at the IPA shelf. A lot of the popular IPA’s tend to be very strongly flavored. While I do love their hoppy flavor, I have long been on a quest to find one that’s just a touch mellower than most. Well, mellow this beer is not… but a fantastic IPA? Most definitely.

I was very excited to try this beer after my last IPA experience. Farmer’s Tan IPA is brewed by Southern Tier Brewing Co. based out of Lakewood, NY. It advertises itself as “brewed with 2 varieties of hops and 2 types of malts”. As part of a pick-a-pack I bought the individual bottle for $1.99. This was slightly below average, and if that holds true for the 6-packs, it’d be an absolute bargain. The beer poured very neat and clean with no fuss (Thank you Southern Tier!). The head wore off a bit quickly, but the scent that was released reminded me of standing next to an energetic waterfall and the stout presence of hops.

On my first sip, I could certainly say that the stout scent of hops is understated compared to the actual TASTE of hops. The hops are boldly flavored and nearly makes my tongue tingle as the beer slides past. The hops is perfectly balanced with the wheat flavor of the beer. The follow through is on the short-side and only deviates from the flavors of malt and hops with just the slightest hint of lemongrass.

On several of my tastings, I have commented on the complexities of the flavors I have found while drinking. I can truly appreciate when an artisan brewer develops new flavors and creates a brand new experience for his customers. The other side of that coin is that I can still appreciate having a sense of the traditional. This beer is an IPA, and it’s character seems to say, “I’m an IPA, just an IPA, and you better be damn well ok with me being an IPA.” (spoken in the voice of a crotchety old farmer), and in that regards, it is a fantastic IPA. There are few bells and whistles to clutter things up and it stands strong with its simply amazing traditional flavor of malt with extra extra hops.

Come to think of it, the name “Farmer’s Tan” is very fitting for this IPA. This is a seasonal beer and feels perfect for a cool refreshment after a day out in the hot sun. The hops give it a tartness that isn’t quite citrus-y, which makes sure you completely avoid that sensation of drinking “one of those heavy craft beers”.

For an IPA I could maintain through this for quite a while. I could work through a 6-pack (over multiple days) and not get tired of such an honest refreshing flavor.

Filed under: India Pale Ale, , , , , ,