Archive for the ‘Tasting Notes’ Category

Summit Unchained #18: Hop Silo Double IPA

Thursday, February 26th, 2015

Summit Brewing Company held out for almost 30 years. They declined a ride on the über-hopped bandwagon. While everyone else was brewing big, bitter, IPAs and double IPAs (even some who shouldn’t, given their overall mission), Summit held strong. It was only a couple of years ago that they finally relented with the release of Sága. Now, with the eighteenth beer in the Unchained Series they have gone whole hog with a Double IPA.

I’m bored with hops, in case that wasn’t clear. I know all IPAs are not alike, but whenever I taste a new one I can’t help but say to myself, “Yeah, it’s another IPA.” They are not all alike, but they are all so very, very similar. And there are so damn many of them.

But I won’t harsh on Summit too much for entering the fray. It was bound to happen sooner or later. And Hop silo Double IPA is part of the Unchained Series. Brewers can do what they want. And brewer Eric Harper is mixing the style up a bit by combining all English malts with ample dosages of a variety of American hops, including a new one called Lemondrop. Even though double IPA is not my favorite style of beer, I was intrigued and anxious to give it a whirl.

Here’s my notes:

Summit Hop Silo Double IPAUnchained #18: Hop Silo Double IPA
Summit Brewing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota
Style: Double/Imperial IPA
Serving Style: 16 oz. can
8.3% ABV
101 IBU

Aroma: Hops dominate, but don’t explode from the glass. It’s an herbal/savory hop experience as much as a fruity one. Spearmint and herbs. Tropical fruit – mango and pineapple. A background of garlic chives. Light dry-hopped grassiness. Malt is very slight with a bit of a caramel tinge and a faint impression of sweetness. Alcohol is noticeable.

Appearance: Full, creamy, off-white head with good retention. Medium copper color and brilliant.

Flavor: Flavor follows the aroma but with a stronger malt presence. Hops still dominate. Bitterness is medium-high – relatively easy-drinking for the style. It intensifies as you sit with the beer. Malt sweetness balances well, but doesn’t overpower the bitter. English toffee and toasted biscuit define the malt character. Hop flavors are high with the same savory/fruity quality as the aroma. Herbs, mint, chive, garlic, ripe mango, pineapple, and a background hint of lemon. The finish is semi-dry with lingering bitterness and fruit.

Mouthfeel: Medium body. Low hop astringency. Medium carbonation.

Overall Impression: A moderately intense double IPA. The lingering bitterness has bit of a harsh edge, but isn’t overwhelming. I am particularly sensitive to the garlic and chive character that comes from certain hops – Apollo likely in this case. It’s not a flavor that I care for in beer and unfortunately I pick it up fairly strongly in this one. With the caveat that I’m not a huge fan of the double IPA, I will say that this is not my favorite beer of the Unchained Series. It’s well-enough made, but not to my taste for reasons mentioned. Your mileage may vary.

Your first chance to try Hop Silo will be at Winterfest this Friday and Saturday night at the Union Depot  in St. Paul. Apparently there are still tickets available. An official release will be held at the Summit Beer Hall on Saturday, February 28th from 4-9pm. You’ll be able to try the beer and chat with brewer Eric Harper. Further release events will follow all week long at locations throughout the Twin Cities.

O’hara’s Irish Pale Ale and O’hara’s Double IPA

Saturday, February 21st, 2015

The Irish Pale Ale and Double IPA from Carlow Brewing Company are sure to shock many American hopheads. They don’t scrape the taste buds from your tongue. They don’t knock you out with alcohol after just one glass. They are balanced, nuanced, and drinkable enough to have many. Both fall at the low end of the scale for alcohol and IBU according to the BJCP guidelines, but who really cares. Isn’t it all about enjoyment?

Here’s my notes:

beers-oharas-irish-pale-ale-mainO’Hara’s Irish Pale Ale
Carlow Brewing Company, Carlow, Ireland
Style: “Contemporary Style IPA” English IPA
Serving Style: 11.2 oz. bottle
5.2% ABV
50 IBU

Aroma: Citrus – orange peel and grapefruit. Earthy. Buttery, English toffee. Low notes of toasty biscuit with orange marmalade.

Appearance: Full head of creamy, off-white foam. Moderate retention. Broke quickly into bigger bubbles. Dark gold to light copper color. Slight haze.

Flavor: Peach and tangerine fruits ride over the top. Bitterness is high, but balanced with the rest of the beer. It doesn’t overwhelm. Bitterness rides through from start to finish. Hop flavors range from grapefruit pith and tangerines to earthy, herbal, and even slightly minty. Resinous. Malt is just underbalanced with the hops and bitterness. Toffee and toasty biscuit profile. English yeast character – butterscotch, orange. Finish is off-dry with lingering citrus and earthy hop flavors and bitterness. Slightly minty.

Mouthfeel: Medium body. Medium to medium-low carbonation. Slight bite of astringency.

Overall Impression: An English leaning IPA, but with the aromatic and flavor twist of citrusy American hops like Amarillo. Low alcohol is in keeping with modern English interpretations of the IPA style.

our-beers-double-ipaO’Hara’s Double IPA
Carlow Brewing Company, Carlow, Ireland
Style: Double/Imperial IPA
Serving Style: 11.2 oz. bottle
7.5% ABV
60 IBU

Aroma: Nearly even balance of malt/hop/yeast. Light biscuit and caramel malt. Butterscotch. Hops in balance – herbal, rosemary, mint. English fruitiness. Vaguely orange and toffee. Earthy.

Appearance: Full and dense head of off-white foam with excellent retention. Deep gold and brilliant.

Flavor: Full and rich, but still finishes off-dry. Caramel maltiness with biscuit and stone fruit syrup notes. Light toast. Bitterness is medium to medium-high – low by American standards for DIPA. More English style. Light alcohol sweetness, especially in the finish. Hops are earthy, herbal and orange citrus. Apricot and mango. Butter/butterscotch and English esters. Off-dry finish with lingering bitterness, earth, fruit, and alcohol.

Mouthfeel: Medium-full body. Medium-low carbonation. Low warming. Not astringent.

Overall Impression: Very balanced double IPA. Of course in the American context it falls in the range of a regular IPA in both ABV and IBU. But it’s not brewed for us. It’s made for the Irish pub culture that emphasizes knocking back a few pints. It may be a disappointing DIPA for American consumers, but I definitely prefer it to many American versions.

O’Hara’s Leann Folláin and Barrel-Aged Leann Folláin

Friday, February 20th, 2015

Carlow Brewing Company’s O’Hara’s Leann Folláin Stout fits into the BJCP category of foreign extra stout. You can think of it as a stronger, richer version of the Irish dry stout style. As the name might suggest, this type of stout that was originally brewed for export, often to tropical countries that were part of the British Empire. The BJCP recognized a fruitier, sweeter “tropical” version and a bitterer, roastier “export” version. Leann Folláin is definitely the latter. The brewery also makes a version of this beer aged for 90 days in Irish whiskey barrels. If you are looking for a St. Patrick’s Day alternative to the standard dry stout, either one might be a good bet.

Here’s my notes:

leann-folainO’Hara’s Leann Folláin
Carlow Brewing Company, Carlow, Ireland
Style: Foreign Extra Stout
Serving Style: 11.2 oz. bottle
6% ABV
45 IBU

Aroma: Bitter chocolate and a hint of dry, black-malt roast. Low herbal hops break through the malt. Low notes of caramel and orange citrus. Earthy – fresh loam.

Appearance: Rich, creamy, tan/beige head. Excellent retention. Opaque black. Appears clear. Slight ruby highlights.

Flavor: Some roast malt sour comes in the middle and stays to the finish. Dry, roasted-malt character and bitter chocolate give Oreo cookie impression. Subtle dried fruits – golden raisin. Low sweetness, very dry in the finish with attenuation accentuated by dry roast. Finish lingers on flavors of dry, roasted malt. Bitterness is medium to medium-low but with a bite at the end. Low earthy/herbal hop flavor, but very subtle. Licorice.

Mouthfeel: Medium to medium-light body. Surprisingly light for a 6% beer. Medium carbonation. Slight astringency.

Overall Impression: Like a stronger version of an Irish Dry Stout. Less creamy than expected, more dry and roasty like that style. They do call it an “extra Irish stout.” Very drinkable for its weight.

Barrel Aged Leann FolláinO’Hara’s Barrel Aged Series #4: Leann Folláin Irish Stout
Carlow Brewing Company, Carlow, Ireland
Style: Whiskey Barrel Aged Foreign Extra Stout
Serving Style: 750 ml bottle
8.1% ABV
45 IBU

Aroma: Dark, bittersweet chocolate. Faint hint of dry, black malt roast. Caramel and vanilla. Rich. Irish whiskey character is very subtle, not the intense bourbon of some barrel-aged stouts. Low smoke.

Appearance: Huge, creamy, beige head with excellent retention. Very dark brown, nearly black and opaque. Appears clear. Ruby highlights.

Flavor: Chocolate malt leads the way – bittersweet. Whiskey comes in much fuller than in aroma. Takes over from the chocolate shortly. Whiskey seems almost to be separate from the beer, as if the beer and the whiskey are sitting in my mouth side by side at the same time, but not mixing. This is interesting, not bad. Low acidity – barrel or roast? Light smoke. Whiskey has a sharp edge. Low, acrid, black malt roast add some dryness to the finish. Flavor of whisky lingers after swallowing. Whiskey remains somewhat subtle. Becomes more layered and complex as it warms and the carbonation drops. Some alcohol.

Mouthfeel: Very high carbonation – prickly. Some carbonic bite. Medium-full body, lighter than expected. Not creamy. Light alcohol warming.

Overall Impression: The high carbonation gets in the way. It smoothes out as carbonation wanes. Not a whiskey fan, I appreciate the subtlety of the whiskey character. It adds flavor without feeling like I’m drinking a shot.


Stone Japanese Green Tea IPA

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

Aside from beer there are three other beverages that I drink frequently. Water (I drink a lot of water), coffee, and tea. After my two early-morning, caffeine-kick cups of coffee I drink cup after cup of tea all day long. Earl Grey, English breakfast, Lapsang Souchong, peppermint, fruity herbal teas, I drink them all. I’m particularly fond of green tea. I love the herbal/nutty/fruity flavor blend of a well-brewed cup of good green tea.

When I received a bottle of Japanese Green Tea IPA from Stone Brewing Co. I was naturally excited. Not necessarily about the IPA part, that’s not my thing. But I could make myself imagine how the fruity and spicy flavors of hops might meld with those of the tea. I didn’t read the bottle or the press release too carefully before digging in. As I sipped I thought, “This seems a little thick and sweet for an IPA. How un-Stone-like.” After about a glass and a half the light headedness I was feeling led me to take a closer look. It was only then that I realized I wasn’t drinking a 7% IPA, but a 10% double IPA. I drank the rest. I wasn’t going anywhere that evening.

Japanese Green Tea IPA is a re-issue of a 2011 collaboration project with Japan-based Baird Brewing Company and Ishii Brewing Co. from Guam. It’s a bit stronger this time around than the first and they have subbed out some of the hops. With five different hop varieties in this beer you are unlikely to notice that small change.

So would this beer tantalize my tea-loving taste buds?

Here’s my notes.

2015-japanese-greenteaJapanese Green Tea IPA
Stone Brewing Co. Escondido, California
Style: Double IPA
Serving Style: 22 oz. bottle
10.1% ABV
75 IBU

Aroma: Low biscuit and pils-like sweetness. Moderate tropical fruit hops. Floral and herbal overtones. Nutty/herbal green tea character comes through clearly. Low notes of vanilla/caramel reminding me of crème brulee.

Appearance: Full, creamy, white head with excellent retention. Dark golden and brilliantly clear.

Flavor: Bitterness is high and lingering. It is backed up by medium malt sweetness mid-palate, shaped by that same crème brulee character from the aroma. Floral, perfume, and tropical fruit flavors like mango, pineapple and mandarin orange are in abundance. Nutty/floral green tea is clear. Faint notes of lemon. The early sweetness gives way to a just-off-dry finish with lingering bitterness and fruit.

Mouthfeel: Medium to medium-full body. Medium carbonation. Low hop astringency.

Overall Impression: This is a big beer with many layers of complexity. For the first few sips the tea and hop flavors didn’t quite meld, but as it warmed it all coalesced into something very nice. Comes off a little bit syrupy in the middle, but the dryness of the finish mediates that.

Alaskan Brewing Co. Big Mountain Pale Ale

Monday, January 19th, 2015

I remember well my first taste of Alaskan Amber Ale. I was on tour with my theater company. We were in one of those steak and ale chain places to grab a bite to eat after a show. They had this beer from Alaska that I had never heard of. From the first sip, I was hooked. It had all the toast and biscuit maltiness that I adore. I gushed so effusively that everyone else at the table ordered it as well.

Since then I’ve gotten to know Alaskan Brewing much better. I had the opportunity to do an extensive interview with founder Geoff Larson. I have tasted a ton of Alaskan beers. Alaskan Winter Ale is one of my favorite cold-season brews. And you can’t beat Alaskan Smoked Porter. Honestly, I’ve never had a beer from Alaskan Brewing Co. that I didn’t like.

I’m headed to Alaska for a couple of days in April. I’ll mostly be in Fairbanks, but I hope to take a jaunt up to Juneau to stop in for a visit.

Big Mountain Pale Ale is a new addition to the Alaskan lineup – at least here in Minnesota. The name pays homage to the mountains of Alaska and the climbers who scale them.

Here’s my notes:

Big Mountain Pale AleBig Mountain
Alaskan Brewing Company, Juneau, Alaska
Style: American Pale Ale
Serving Style: 12 oz. bottle
5.7% ABV
45 IBU

Aroma: Citrus hops lead – grapefruit peel, grapefruit juice, oranges. A bit of floral comes in as well. Low caramel malt. Medium fruity esters.

Appearance: Dark gold to light amber. Slight haze. Full, off-white foam with excellent retention.

Flavor: Good balance of malt to hops. Delicate. Malt character is toasty and toffee – dry like an English beer. Bitterness is medium-high – balanced by low malty sweetness. Hops give flavors of oranges, grapefruit peel and pineapple. The toasted malt flavors really set off the citrus. Some English-like esters with maybe a slight hint of butter. Finish is dry and quick with lingering toffee and minty hops.

Mouthfeel: Medium body. Medium carbonation. Slight astringency.

Overall Impression: Yum! An Anglo/American pale ale. Malt and balance are definitely English inspired. Hops are all American. It feels delicate. It doesn’t smack you in the face. Refreshing and balanced.

Stone Brewing Co. Delicious IPA

Thursday, January 15th, 2015

IPA, experimental hop varieties, gluten concerns – three things that are really hot in the beer world right now. So what happens when you put them all together? Delicious IPA from Stone Brewing Co. That’s what.

Delicious IPA is not actually gluten-free. It’s one of those reduced gluten beers like Omission or Two Brothers Prairie Path. It’s brewed with barley malt and then the gluten is removed with an enzyme that brings it below the federal guidelines for gluten-free of 20ppm. The problem is that gluten can’t be accurately measured below 20ppm, so there is no way of actually knowing with any certainty what amount of gluten remains. Therefore, if you really are a celiac sufferer, drink with caution.

El Dorado is the one and only hop variety used in this beer. It was released in 2010 and is grown exclusively by CLS Farms in Moxee, Washington. It is a high alpha-acid variety that is also high in essential oils, making it good for both bittering and character. The farm website describes its profile as tropical fruit and stone fruit. The folks at Stone say it reminds them of “lemon Starburst candy.”

IPAs are not really my thing. It’s not that I don’t like them, but the super-hoppy beers don’t tend to be my go-to. I have historically had issues with the beers from Stone Brewing Co. Not because they aren’t well made, but because to my palate they focus too much on bitterness and not on hop flavor and aroma. I’m not such a fan of the bitter.

That said, they have made some hoppy beers that I love. I’m crazy for Go-To IPA, even though there is nothing about that beer that I should like. Delicious IPA is a pretty audacious name. But then, audacity is what Stone does best. Does the beer live up to its moniker?

Here’s my notes:

stone-delicious-ipaStone Delicious IPA
Stone Brewing Co., Escondido, California
Style: American IPA
Serving Style: 12 oz. bottle
7.7% ABV
80 IBU

Aroma: Resiny, tropical fruit hoppiness – mango, pineapple. Some strong lemon citrus in there, too. Lemon Starburst is correct. Malt aromatics are very low – light toast. There may be some fruity esters in there, but the hops deliver such a fruity wallop that it’s really hard to tell.

Appearance: Dark gold and brilliant. Huge head of creamy, white foam with excellent retention.

Flavor: Flavor follows the aroma. Hops dominate, but bitterness is remarkably soft for 80 IBU – medium to medium-high. Hop flavors are the star – lemon, tropical fruit. There is an impression of tartness – almost citric acid. Malt character is low with light toast and just-balancing sweetness. The finish is dry with lingering bitterness.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light body. Surprisingly light body for nearly 8%. Medium carbonation.

Overall Impression: This is 7.7% and 80 IBU? If I weren’t reading those words on the bottle and in a press release, I wouldn’t have believed it. I thought this was some kind of session IPA. So light and drinkable. Despite the high IBUs, the focal point of this beer is hop flavor and aroma, a departure from my normal impression of Stone beers. I could sit and smell it for days. And it’s reduced gluten for those who have sensitivities.

Farnum Hill Semi-Dry Cider

Friday, January 9th, 2015

There is cider and there is cider.

Most mass-market ciders available in this country are sweet-ish, juice drinks made from concentrate or from culinary apples. This is true even for most of the “better” brands. To make really good cider you need the balance and flavor provided by different types of heirloom cider apples. Not for eating, these apples give sweetness, acidity, bitterness, and tannins that together create ciders of real depth and complexity. The problem is, most of these cider apple trees in this country were ripped out during prohibition. Not too many orchards still grow them.

There are a few. Poverty Lane Orchards in Lebanon, New Hampshire is one of them. Over half of their acreage in two different locations is given over to these odd-tasting fruits. They are the biggest grower of cider apples in the U.S.

The folks at Poverty Lane use the juice from these apples to make Farnum Hill Ciders. They take cider seriously. As their website states, “On Farnum Hill, we use the word ‘cider’ to mean an alcoholic beverage fermented from particular apples, just as ‘wine’ is fermented from particular grapes.” Also like wine, the idea of “terroir” come into play, as the same variety of apples grown in different places will exhibit different characteristics. Farnum Hill ciders embrace the idea of regional cider.

Farnum Hill produces a number of different ciders. I have only seen three in the local market – Semi-Dry, Extra Dry, and Dooryard. I discussed the Extra Dry and Dooryard ciders last May in my Star Tribune column. These do not seem to be currently available. [I’m told that Extra Dry and Dooryard are available. I just haven’t seen them in a while.] Semi-Dry is in stores now. I tried it last night.

Here’s my notes:

Farnum Hill Semi DryFarnum Hill Semi Dry
Poverty Lane Orchards & Farnum Hill Cider, Lebanon, New Hampshire
Serving Style: 750 ml bottle
7.4% ABV

Aroma: Minerals. Red apple skin. Pears and pineapples. So much fruit. There is even a hint of banana in the background. A suggestion of sweetness come in soft whiffs of honey and light brown sugar.

Appearance: Medium gold and brilliant. Low (nearly no) white head with no retention.

Flavor: Same slate/mineral note from the aroma. The fruit also carries over – Tart red apple. Pear. Peaches. Pineapple. Lemon juice and lemon zest. Very low green banana. Like the aroma, so much fruit. Low sweetness – honey. Medium bitterness. Very dry finish. Moderately high tannins grab the edges of the tongue after swallowing. Mouthwatering acidity – saliva floods the mouth.

Mouthfeel: Medium light body. Low carbonation (petilent). Moderate astringency.

Overall Impression: So good! “Semi-dry” is a bit misleading. There is very little that is “sweet” about this cider. It is dry, dry, dry. The tannins and acidity are high. Any perception of sweetness comes from the abundance of fruity notes that balance the bitter. As the website says, “On Farnum Hill, that much-abused word ‘dry’ is taken literally…”

Schell’s Noble Star Collection: Dawn of Aurora

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

Light, bright, and effervescent, with a touch of refreshing, acidic tartness, Berliner Weisse is one of the styles du jour of American brewers. In its place of origin however, the style is nearly dead. It was once the most popular alcoholic drink in Berlin. 700-plus breweries are said to have been making it at the height of its popularity in the 19th-century. Now there is only one – Berliner Kindl. Though tasty, it is a shadow of the complex brew that Berliner Weisse once was.

The history of Berliner Weisse is dim. Multiple stories give conflicting accounts of its origin. Some say French Huguenots brought the style to Berlin in the 1700s after picking up brewing techniques from the makers of red and brown ales in the Flanders region of what is now Belgium. Another story says that it is an offshoot of an even older style, Boryhan, which was popular in Berlin in the 1600s.

Early Berliner Weisse was made with a mix of approximately 50% wheat and 50% barley malt. The wort was not boiled. Hops were boiled separately in water. The boiling hop infusion was then added to the mash along with unboiled hops. The overall hopping rate was very low.

Malted grain is rife with lactic acid producing bacteria and other microflora. Because it was not boiled, the wort remained unsantitized, meaning that these organisms could work alongside brewer’s yeast to complete fermentation. The resulting beer would have been light and dry with little residual sugar. Fruity and sour flavors would have dominated.

Today we think of Berliner Weisse as a low-alcohol, nearly white, wheat beer. But there were once many types of Berliner sour beers. Some were brewed with darker malts. Others were brewed to a higher alcohol content. It is this high-gravity style Berliner Weisse that Jace Marti of August Schell Brewing Company is exploring with Dawn of Aurora, the latest release in the Noble Star Collection.

Like the other beers in this series, Dawn of Aurora is aged for an extended period in the 1936, cypress-wood tanks that were once the brewery’s main fermenters. It utilizes a Brettanomyces yeast “obtained” from a long-defunct weisse brewery in Berlin. This one is a different strain than was used in the other Noble Star beers. Dawn of Aurora clocks in at 8% alcohol, but has only 5 IBU.

Here’s my notes:

Dawn of AuroraDawn of Aurora
August Schell Brewing Company, New Ulm, Minnesota
Style: “Starkbier”-style Berliner Weisse
Serving Style: 750 ml bottle
8% ABV

Aroma: Bright acidity – both lactic and acetic. Fruity – yellow grapefruit, lemons, and apricots. Especially apricots. Low, bready malt with some toasty overtones.

Appearance: Dark gold/orange. Cloudy. Clears a bit as it warms, but maintains a haze. Full head of fluffy, white foam with excellent retention.

Flavor: High acidity balanced by low sweetness mid-palate. Fruit is in front. Lemons and grapefruit return from the aroma. Apricots take on a much larger role, becoming the absolute dominant player as the beer warms. Low biscuit and bready malt comes in mid-palate and stays into the finish, contrasting and accentuating the stone fruits. Finish is very dry, lingering on stone fruit, lemon and light biscuit malt.

Mouthfeel: Light body, but with a mouth-filling quality. High carbonation, effervescent. Champagne-like.

Overall Impression: Beautiful! Lovely stone fruit and baked crust impression, like apricot cobbler. Let it warm up slightly from refrigerator temperature to really let the stone fruit and biscuit develop. When it does, it sings.

Schell’s Fresh Hop: Equinox

Saturday, November 8th, 2014

Still more fresh-hop beers!

The August Schell Brewing Company is steeped in history. German brewing tradition is what makes it tick. True-to-style German lagers and ales are its signature. “Hops” is not the first word that comes to one’s mind when this brewery is discussed. Yet, for the last three years Schell’s has jumped on the fresh-hop train with a single-hopped, wet-hop brew.

But the brewers at Schell’s do it their way. No over-hopped IPAs from this brewery. They stick to their roots with a fresh-hopped pilsner. Lager fermentation leaves little yeast character to clutter things up. Soft, pilsner malt gives a neutral background against which the hops stand out.

And Schell’s is able to source some interesting varieties. This year’s fresh-hop pilsner features a new variety called Equinox. According to promotional material from the brewery, “Equinox’s high oil content and tight cone structure imparts pronounced citrus, tropical fruit, herbal and floral aromas and flavors to this beer.” Interesting choice for a pilsner. Does it work?

Here’s my notes:

Schell's Fresh HopSchell’s Fresh Hop
August Schell Brewing Company, New Ulm, Minnesota
Style: Fresh Hop Pilsner
Serving Style: 12 oz bottle
ABV: 5%

Aroma: A sweet, pils malt background offsets bright hop aromatics. A blend of herbal, minty, ripe stone fruits, and lime citrus. Somewhere between Tettnang and Citra. A low level of sulfur.

Appearance: Light gold and brilliantly clear. Moderate, fluffy white head with good retention.

Flavor: Very balanced malt to hop. Medium pils malt sweetness clears away for a dry finish. Malt flavor is grainy sweet with light notes of corn. Bitterness is medium to medium-high and lingers into the finish. Bright hop flavors start with herbal/floral character with light, lime-citrus overtones. As the beer warms, notes of lemon zest increase. Low grassy notes. Low sulfur.

Mouthfeel: Medium body. Medium-high carbonation.

Overall Impression: Bright and refreshing with lively and delicate lemon-lime overtones. It’s a great, balanced pilsner with a citrusy twist. It will make you want another one – at least it does me.

Summit Unchained #17: Harvest Fresh IPA

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

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, 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:

Brews_Bottle_Unchained17Unchained #17: Fresh Harvest IPA
Summit Brewing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota
Style: American IPA
Serving Style: 12 oz. bottle
ABV: 7%
IBU: 70

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.