Hop Heads Only

A celebration of humulus lupulus at the Blue Nile.

On Saturday the Blue Nile Restaurant was host to a heavenly array of hoppy beers. With twenty-two beers to choose from, including three cask selections, it was a hop heads dream. They were offering $7 flights consisting of four ounce pours of three beers of your choice. With so many beers on offer, this seemed the way to go. Between my own flights and the sips I took from my friends’ glasses, I managed to taste a good number of the beers available. Here are my favorites.

Founders Centennial IPA – This was hands down the best beer of the afternoon. Those who know me know that I like balance in my American hoppy beers. Founders has it in spades. This beer displays a beautiful grapefruit citrus centennial hop flavor and assertive bitterness to be sure.  The hop character is balanced by a malt profile more complex than any other beer I tasted that afternoon. Light toast and biscuit flavors add depth to the normal sweet grainy base malt to make this an exceptional beer.

Victory Wild Devil – Hop Devil has always been one of my favorite IPAs. Add a touch of Brettanomyces wild yeast funkiness and it’s just gotta be good. Wild fermented beers are not usually bitter. There is a danger that the hop bitterness and the wild yeast character will clash. That is not a problem in this beer. The wild notes are subtle, lending a light leather and barnyard to an otherwise balanced and delicious beer. Nice.

Alvinne Extra IPA – This offering from Picobrouwerij in Belgium was a delight. The bitterness is restrained compared to the American IPAs, but this is more than made up for by the delicious Belgian yeast character. Light clove and black pepper phenols blend with the hops rather than fighting with them as happens in many of these Belgian IPAs. This along with a huge peachy fruitiness really set this beer apart from the others. This is a subtle beer. The early sip I had from a friend’s glass was sublime. unfortunately I ordered my own too late in the game after my palate had already been destroyed by hops. Lesson learned.

Other standouts worth mentioning were Avery Maharaja Imperial IPA, Left Hand 400LB Monkey, and the cask version of Summit Horizon Red Ale.

There were really only a couple of disappointments in the selection of beers that I tried. Southern Tier Iniquity was one. I am not a fan of roasted malts in combination with loads of citrusy American hops, but this beer had been recommended to me by so many people that I had to try it. Unfortunately it tasted too much like roasted grapefruit for me to enjoy it. I was also not fond of the Double Bubble from Rush River. This tasted fine at first, but as it warmed strong banana aromas and flavors began to creep in. I also experienced a certain unidentifiable unpleasantness in the finish.

Overall, this was a great event. Thanks to Al for putting it on.

Hoppy Beer Night

A recap of the April meeting of the Twin Cities Perfect Pint Beer Club

On April 10th, the Twin Cities Perfect Pint Beer Club gathered again, this time to delve into the world of hoppy beers. Ten club members gathered at Jeff’s apartment on the fringes of downtown Minneapolis to get their bitter on. This event was the second of three monthly events exploring the main ingredients of beer, malt, hops, and yeast. If last month’s Malty Beers event was about the meat and potatoes of beer, this month’s event was all about the spice. As Perfect Pint’s resident CiceroneTM I guided the group through a selection of beers intended to showcase the full range of hop experience from no hops to over-the-top hops with several stops in between.

At last month’s event, the group had been pestering me about bringing one of my own homebrewed beers to taste. I acquiesced, pouring my own pre-prohibition American lager as the welcome beer. This is beer the beer your grandfather or great grandfather might have enjoyed. Full flavored with a grainy/corny malt profile, it is assertively hopped with native Cluster hops with their distinctive “catty” or “marijuana -like” flavor and aroma. Maybe they were just being nice, but many claimed this beer as a standout of the night.

From this historic beer style we moved on to another even more ancient, a 13th Century Gruit Bier from Weihenstephan and the Doemens Institute in Germany. As hops are a relatively recent addition to the brewer’s toolbox, it seemed to me appropriate to begin an exploration of hops with a sample of what beer might have been like before hops. This herb-bittered and wild fermented wheat based beer reveals complex menthol, citrus, and herbal flavors with just a hint of wild yeast funkiness. It received a mixed review from the group with one club regular commenting, “I didn’t say I liked it, but it does taste how I thought it would taste.”
Wells Bombardier

From there we entered a more familiar realm with Well’s Bombardier English Pale Ale. Exhibiting the typical English caramel malt and hay-like English hops with a bite of bitterness at the front, this beer was a favorite of those who do not tend toward the hoppy beers. Next we jumped the Channel to the continent to taste the European Noble hops, starting with the original light colored lager Pilsner Urquell. Because it comes in green bottles and is typically skunked by the time it arrives here in stores, many people don’t fully appreciate the beauty of this beer. Look for the cans to get the full rich malt and perfumy Saaz hop character that makes this a world class beer. The Düsseldorf Altbier style was represented by the regional pick of the month Headless Man Amber Ale from Tyranena Brewing in Lake Mills, Wisconsin. This was another good one for the non-hop-lovers with a rich caramel and toast malt balancing the peppery spiciness of the German hops; bitter and hoppy, but not over the top.

The big and bracing flavors of American hops were represented by four beers, Cane & Ebel from Two Cane & EbelBrothers, New Dog Town Pale Ale from Lagunitas, Three Floyds Dreadnaught Double IPA, and Old Horizontal Barleywine from Victory Brewing Company. These beers represented American hoppy styles of different intensities and flavors, from the bitter but balanced Cane & Able to the super-intense Dreadnaught, and from the grapefruit citrus of Old Horizontal to the straight-up Christmas tree pine character of the New Dog Town Pale Ale.

Like Malty Beer Night where I had malt samples on hand for tasting, for this event I had examples of English, Continental, and American hops on hand for smelling. Attendees were able to smell and taste the beer and compare that experience to the raw ingredient. Overall the event was great fun, with a good amount of education thrown in. I will say one thing for this group. We can go through some beer. Once again, there was not a drop of beer left at the end of the night.

Next up is Yeast!

Hoppy Beers Event

There is still room to sign up!

Hmmmm...hoppy beers!There is still room and time to sign up for the Hoppy Beers event of the Twin Cities Perfect Pint Beer Club. It will be a fun event showcasing hops in all their variety and wonderful bitterness. We’ll explore the difference between English, American, and Continental hop varieties. We’ll taste beers with different levels of bitterness and talk about how that happens. It’s a great group and we’ll have a great selection of beers including pale ales, IPAs, Altbiers, and much much more.

The cost is only $20, which includes beer, light snacks, and information from the Twin Cities only Certified Cicerone. You must be a club member to attend.

Click here for more information or to join and RSVP.