Wet hop beers have become an early-fall ritual. Hop harvest season comes around and brewers everywhere scramble to get the hops in the kettle as quickly as possible after they are picked, buy cialis often within hours; minutes even for those who have hop yards outside the brewery. The practice reportedly brings brighter, livelier hop aromatics. I must admit that I have never really found this to be the case. Instead I taste an unpleasant level of grassy/vegetal flavors from the addition of all that green, leafy matter. I have yet to figure out what all of the fuss is about.
For Fresh Harvest IPA, Summit brewer Tom Mondor has chosen to use both “fresh” and wet hops from the Pacific Northwest. Another admission – I always thought these were the same thing. As he explains in the video below, they apparently are not. A hop grower in Oregon has initiated a pelletizing process using lower temperature kilning and immediate processing and shipping to get the freshest possible hops out the door to brewers. Still, aside from rapid shipment, once they have been processed like most other hops, it’s hard for me to understand why they would be called “fresh.” I guess I’ll have to investigate further. For now, I’ll let Mr. Mondor explain.
Here’s my notes:
Unchained #17: Fresh Harvest IPA Summit Brewing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota
Style: American IPA
Serving Style: 12 oz. bottle
Aroma: Hops clearly dominate – Tropical fruit, limes, mint, hay, grass. Low grainy malt aromas with some caramel and biscuit character. Some orange high notes and English-like fruity esters.
Appearance: Full, creamy, just-off-white head. Excellent retention. Medium orange/amber and clear.
Flavor: Balanced and English-like. Tongue-tingling bitterness is moderate with full emphasis in hop flavor. Loads of fruit – orange, tropical fruits, grapefruit, even blueberry. Malt sweetness is medium-low. Some caramel and toasted-biscuit malt flavors. Malt provides ample balance to the hops. Again there is an English estery character to it. Finish is off-dry, lingering on fruity hops.
Mouthfeel: Medium body. Medium carbonation.
Overall Impression: An easy-drinking, balanced IPA. Despite the use of an American Ale yeast strain, the malt complexity and fruity hop character give it a pleasant English character. There is little of the grassy/vegetal flavor that I normally associate with fresh-hop beers.
A lot of brewery collaborations seem pointless. They give the sense that the brewers simply cobbled together a recipe over a couple of emails. There is no convincing reason for the collaboration – at least none that is apparent. There is no sense that some piece of each brewery has come together in some way in the finished beer. Marketing gimmick? Perhaps, casetry but I’ve never been able to get a brewer to admit to that.
They don’t all seem pointless, pilule though. In some cases the joint project really does tie the two breweries together. Avery/Russian River’s Collaboration Not Litigation is a good example. Two brewers selling beer of the same name in the same markets decided to blend their beers rather than engage in sticky trademark litigation.
In another example the brewers from Avery, Russian River, Allagash, and Lost Abbey decided to brew a lambic after traveling together to Belgium. The beer was brewed at Russian River and barrel-fermented with the house lambic bugs from each brewery. The four beers were then blended into the final product; a true coming together of the breweries.
Boulevard Brewing Company’scollaboration with Brewery Ommegang is one of those that seems genuine. Having started as independent companies, both are now owned by Belgian brewing conglomerate Duvel-Moortgat. They are sister breweries so to speak. Ommegang brews only Belgian inspired ales. While it was built on other brews, Boulevard has made a splash with its Belgian styles such as the delicious Tank 7 Saison. And Boulevard’s brewmaster Steven Pauwels comes from Belgium.
The collaborative process involved brewing separate batches of a saison recipe that used pale malt, oats, rye, corn and wheat and was spiced with coriander, grains of paradise and lemon peel. Each batch was fermented with the house yeast from the respective brewery and then the beers were blended. To me, that’s a collaborative beer.
Here’s my notes:
Boulevard Collaboration #4: Saison Boulevard Brewing Company, Kansas City, Missouri with Brewery Ommegang, Cooperstown, New York
Serving Style: 750 ml bottle
Aroma: High fruity esters – orange, mango, lemons, banana. High peppery phenols. Medium-high noble hop character – lemon and spice. Low biscuity malt.
Appearance: Full, rocky, ivory head with excellent retention. Medium-light amber and very hazy.
Flavor: Banana, clove, and zesty black pepper with high notes of lemon citrus. Bitterness is high, accentuated by very high attenuation. As it warms other fruits come through – blood orange, mango. Low malt sweetness gets a boost from the banana esters, but gives up past mid-palate. Some biscuity malt character. Alcohol adds some floral notes. Finish is extra dry with emphasis on peppery phenols, lingering bitterness, and alcohol.
Mouthfeel: Medium to medium-full body. Mouthfilling in a hefeweizen kind of way. High carbonation – effervescent. Moderate alcohol warming.
Overall Impression: A full-throttle saison. Big and filling, yet high attenuation leaves it refreshing. Zippy and spicy. A good saison for the fall season.
Sommelier Leslee Miller of Amusee and Certified Cicerone® Michael Agnew of A Perfect Pint are bringing the popular libation bootcamp back – not just once, but twice a year!
Each session we promise to mix up the fun & education, so you can build upon your repertoire of delicious wine and beer knowledge. If you made it to our last series, come again! It’ll be different each time around.
The next session’s fun starts on October 21st and runs three consecutive Tuesdays through November 4th!
When: October 21st, 28th & November 4th. Class starts promptly at 6:30pm and run until 8:30pm.
Cost: $40 per class session or sign up for all three at once for just $100!
Oct 21st: Beer for wine lovers, Wine for beer lovers
Let’s agree to come together! Wine lovers will find much to love about beer and vice versa in this interactive class taught by Sommelier Leslee Miller and Cicerone Michael Agnew. From grape varietals to beer styles, you’ll discover the right beverage for your palate. Are you a Cabernet drinker? Let us show the beer that best matches the complex bold flavors of this grape. A Pilsner drinker? We’ll give you the grape alternative for this crisp, refreshing beer style.
Oct 28th: Why oaking matters
Toast, caramel, macaroon, pancakes and crème brûlée. You guessed it! These are all descriptions for the impact of oak on a libation. Elevate your senses in this creative ‘why oaking matters’ class with Cicerone Michael and Sommelier Leslee. Not all oak is the same. The wood’s subtle nuances vary by country of origin and level of toast. Explore those differences and more as we examine the effects of wood on your favorite drinks from grapes to grains!
Nov 4th: Festivus for the rest of us!
A joyous, holiday feast – what else? Sorry, Kramer won’t be there, but we will! Come learn the art of combining beer and wine with food as two of the Twin Cities’ most passionate food and libation instructors, Sommelier Leslee Miller & Cicerone Michael Agnew, pair their way through three genres of holiday celebrations. From a traditional turkey dinner, to a full Festivus layout (spaghetti & meatloaf), to a Hanukkah feast with latkes and jelly doughnuts, you’ll sample the wonderful variety of the holiday table and pick up some tips on the best beverage accompaniments.
Cicerone Michael Agnew & Sommelier Leslee Miller
In May of 2009, Certified Cicerone Michael Agnew of A Perfect Pint and Certified Sommelier Leslee Miller of Amusee teamed up for the first time to teach a beer, wine, and cheese class at Cooks of Crocus Hill. It turned out that the pairing of the two of them was as magical as the ones they created with the cheeses. Since that night their professional relationship has grown to include joint classes and private tasting events, food-service consulting that encompasses both beer and wine, and the highly successful, bi-annual Beer & Wine University. The teaching chemistry between them is so strong that a class alum once told them, “you two are more recognizable together than separate.”
Working together allows Michael and Leslee to speak to audiences they might not otherwise reach. During the course of an event even the most hardcore wine or beer people find at least one sample that makes them want to know more about the other side.
Minnesota brewers racked up the medals at the Great American Beer Festival held in Denver, Colorado October 2nd through 4th. Summit’s often underrated EPA took bronze. Indeed’s Mexican Honey took silver. The barrel-aged Buffalo Bock earned a bronze for Town Hall. Bent Paddle took home a well-deserved bronze medal for 14° ESB. And Badger Hill and Steel Toe both won gold – Badger hill for their White IPA and Steel Toe for Wee Heavy.
Indeed, the Heartland region as a whole did well. Wisconsin garnered seven medals. Illinois took an impressive nine. And Iowa earned two. I’m thinking that our upper-Midwestern states will not be considered beer flyover country for much longer.
Photo courtesy of the Brewers Association.
Hops are still king in American beer. India pale ale was the contest category with the largest number of entries for the umpteenth straight year. There was no shortage of hoppy beers in the festival hall. Nearly every brewery had a hopped-up pale ale, IPA or double IPA. White IPAs, black IPAs, red IPAs, Belgian IPAs, and session IPAs were also in abundance. The increasing demand for hops has led to rumors of an impending hop shortage, but there was no sign of it in Denver.
Hops may still be on top, but the number of sour beers in the hall suggested that a slow-building trend is now finally blossoming. Beers fermented with 100% brettanomyces yeast were easy to find. The number of all-sour breweries like Jolly Pumpkin or Trinity Brewing out of Colorado Springs is growing. There were barrel-aged sours, stainless fermented sours, and spontaneously fermented sours. They ranged in profile from delicate and vinous to aggressively funky. The lovely thing is that they were mostly very good. In past years at GABF tasting sours has been an exercise in dumping. The few good examples were overwhelmed by others loaded with foot-funk and vinegar. This year I only tasted one or two dumpers. At the Trinity Brewing booth the brewer told me that I would taste all of their beers. I countered that I would taste one or two. I tasted them all.
Saison was another big trend at this year’s festival. Suffice it to say there were a lot of them – spiced, unspiced, strong, black, and every other way. Through the course of the weekend I easily tasted more saisons and sours than any other styles.
Historical revivals? That trend is growing as well. Several examples of the salty-sour gose style were to be found. Berliner weisse with and without fruit was everywhere. And Austin, Texas based Live Oak Brewing Company had a very respectable Grodziskie, a smoked and slightly sour wheat beer style from Poland.
An unusual tidbit that I noticed was the use of blood oranges in beer. I had several beers made with this fruit from IPA to hefeweizen. My favorite beer of the festival was a blood orange gose from Anderson Valley Brewing Company in Boonville, California. I went back for several samples of this beer during all three sessions that I attended.
Another burgeoning trend that I find particularly exciting is the use of foraged ingredients. A mini-festival held during GABF week called Beers Made by Walking was dedicated to foraged ingredient beers. Breweries like Scratch Brewing from Ava, Illinois or the newly opened Forbidden Root Brewery in Chicago are using a variety of botanicals like walnuts, sassafras, lemon myrtle, burdock root, and even mushrooms to flavor their beer. Scratch Brewing completely rebuffed the hoppy beer thing by bringing a lineup of all gruits. None of their beers contained any hops at all.
Photo courtesy of the Brewers Association
Not All Trends Are Good
But it wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns at the GABF. There has been a lot of talk in the industry lately about a possible decline in overall quality as the number of breweries mushrooms. 2014 marked the second year in a row that I have noticed a large number of so-so and not-so-good beers in the GABF hall. My mode of operation in the hall is to sample beers mostly from breweries that I have never heard of. I want to know what’s going on out there beyond the big names. And to be completely honest, I don’t like to wait in line for beer, especially when there are 3000+ other beers available. I tasted a lot of beers that just didn’t cut it.
I made a special point of visiting new breweries in the states that I covered in A Perfect Pint’s Beer Guide to the Heartland. Of the seven or eight regional newcomers, only one of them – Forbidden Root – was making beer that rose above the level of average homebrew. Fortunately that one was very good.
I was talking to a brewer friend who has judged beer at the competition for many years. He told me that he judged a lot of sub-par entries this year. I asked if this was the norm or something new. He said that this year was markedly different from past years. As new breweries continue to come on line, the industry is going to have to get serious about quality.