Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA

sierranevada_ipaBrewer: Sierra Nevada Brewing, Mills River, NC
Style: India Pale Ale
ABV: 7.2%
IBUs: 65

Description: This classic American-style IPA is part of the brewery’s year-round lineup, and was the first of their beers to feature the “Hop Torpedo” – a special dry-hopping device that controls how the level of hops infused into the brew. It is fashioned using Two-row Pale and Caramel malts, bittered with Magnum, Crystal and Citra hops.

Tasting Notes: Oftentimes, I get comments about my Best Of lists, usually by someone who is surprised their favorite beer didn’t make the cut. Alas, one commenter did make me realize that this is one beer that, though I have tried, I have never reviewed. And while it won’t be making my Best Of list just yet, it is certainly a good and faithful example of a solid IPA. Rich and slightly sweet malts compliment a hop profile that is powerful and varied, combining both dry-hops and finishing hops to give it a grassy, citrusy, and mildly tropical flavors – in short, all that North American hops are known for. A noble creation and one that makes me want to explore Sierra Nevada’s wares again. Thanks for the recommendation Brandon Kump!

Appearance: Deep amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Strong malt, big hop nose, grassy, citrusy, tropical fruit
Taste: Rich malt, syrupy sweetness, bitter and dry hop finish, grass, citrus rind, herbs
Aftertaste: Lingering hop bitterness, citrus rind and dry herbal hops
Overall: 8.5/10

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Red Hook ESB

redhook_esbBrewer: Red Hook Brewery, Woodinville, WA
Style: Extra Special Bitter
ABV: 5.8%
IBUs: 28

Description: As part of their regular lineup, this brew is fashioned in the style of a traditional British ESB. A mainstay of the brewery since 1987, it is fashioned using (what I assume are) caramel and amber malt, and lightly bittered with a combination of dry, earthy, and citrus hops.

Tasting Notes: This is the second time I’ve tried Red Hook’s ESB, which I first drank while visiting family in Seattle back in 2011. This time around, I am drinking it as part of a sample pack sent to me in exchange for an honest review. And honestly, I was quite pleased with the natural balance it struck. Smooth caramel malts mingle with dry, earthy and mildly citrus hop flavor, before finishing with a tang of minerals. In may ways, I was reminded of a Marzen. And, given my predilection for that style, that’s not a bad thing.

Appearance: Amber/orange, clear, medium foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malt, syrup, caramel, mild floral and citrus notes
Taste: Smooth, semi-sweet malt, tang, English shortbread, citrus and earthy hops
Aftertaste: Lingering malt flavors and mineral tang
Overall: 8/10

New Belgium Rewind India Pale Ale

New-Belgium-Rewind-India-Pale-Ale1Brewer: New Belgium, Fort Collins, CO
Style: India Pale Ale
Alc/Vol: 7%
IBUs: 64.5

Description: As part of their Hop Kitchen series, the Rewind IPA is brewed and named in honor of the brewery’s roots and the heyday of craft brewing during the early 90’s. Maris Otter and Special B malts give this beer its malt base, while Horizon, Willamette and Galena hops provide the hop flavoring. 

Tasting Notes: As India Pale Ales go, this beer is quite different, being rather subtle and complex at the same time. Rather than the sweet and coarse profile one typically expects from an American IPA, the Rewind has slight, subtle, and mildly syrupy malts. The hop pallet is also quite complex, combining earthy tones, grassiness, and traces of orchard fruit. I’m tempted to say it’s more akin to a British IPA, but its more of a standalone example really, and a quite interesting one.

Appearance: Deep amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Mild malts, grassy and floral hops, notes of peach and orchard fruit
Taste: Subtle malt flavor, slightly syrupy, apricots, peaches, grassy, earthy hops
Aftertaste: Relatively smooth finish, lingering hop flavor and mild fruit
Overall: 8.5/10

Visit to Pike Brewery!

Pike-SignHello all! I’ve just gotten back from an exciting trip to Seattle with the family. An annual, or semi-annual thing, the purpose of this trip  was to see my sister and brother-in-law and exchange our belated Christmas and birthday gifts. Due to the border between us, visits are not a regular occurrence, so every such trip is considered a very special occasion.

And in addition to spending time with the people I love, exchanging some choice swag and visiting a lot of interesting places, I finally got a chance to do some on-site sampling at the PIke Brewery this year. Last time I was in Seattle, I got to the front door, but was forced to double back with the rest of my troupe and wasn’t able to dine in. But this year, thanks in part to my darling wife, we managed to secure ourselves a table for some light lunch and some brews.

And let me tell you, it was an experience I would very much like to repeat. Not only is the decor very industrial-chic, punctuated by sculpted metal ceilings, columns, and art deco, it’s also got an unmistakably historic feel to it. Having been established in the early 80’s, only the third brewpub of its kind to open in North America before everybody and their brother was doing it, this place has been around for some time, but still manages to keep things honest.

pike_2Not only was our beer top shelf, we got some awesome food and some choice service. In fact, our server – Melanie, who’s kind of my hero right now – managed to score us some free pints because of a tiny error in our order. How cool was that? And just to return a small shred of that courtesy, I let her and the others know that they would be featured in this review. Hello Pike People! Anyhoo, onto our selection…

As those who follow this site may know, I have reviewed the bulk of Pike’s beers in another post, so I shan’t go over the same ground here. And while I did take the chance to resample some older favorites, I was sure to tackle a few I knew I hadn’t had the chance to review yet. They were…

Space Needle Golden Anniversary Vintage IPA:
Pike-Space-Needle-Golden-IPA-225x225Commemorating 50 years of the Space Needle being built, and roughly 30 years of independent brewing, this golden IPA is a multifaceted and pleasing take on the traditional India Pale Ale. Combining a variety of Yakima Valley hops – Cascade, Columbus, Centennial, Summit – the overall effect is an ale that is both citrusy, slightly sweet, floral and even tropical in nature. Since it is of such limited availability, I’m glad I got some while I could. No telling if it would be available north of the 49th parallel!

Appearance: Golden orange, cloudy, mild foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Varied hops, tropical and floral, heavy on the passion fruit
Taste: Immediate burst of hops, starting with citrus and moving to tropical, then bitter
Aftertaste: Lingering bitterness and citrus rind flavor
Overall: 9/10

Tandem Double Ale:
pike_tandem_labelNamed in honor of the Finkel’s tandem bicycle, this beer is a Belgian-style dubbel that is available year round. And like many dubbels, it is spiced with coriander and is double-fermented to get a deep, heavy flavor that is reminiscent of pudding and sweet breads. Though I’ve had this one before, I somehow failed to dedicate a review to it. Not sure why, seems so un-snob like of me! In any case, I made a special point to get some takeaway so I could give this standout its due!

Appearance: Deep brown, very cloudy and almost opaque, mild foam and carbonation
Nose: Ruddy malts, sugary and molasses-like, slight notes of spice
Taste: Immediate dose of mild spice, heavy malts, syrupy and pudding like, mild tang
Aftertaste: Slight notes of coriander and coarse malt
Overall: 8/10

Cask Conditioned IPA:
pike_ipa_labelThis beer was brought to me free of charge thanks to our heroic barwoman (Thanks again, Mel!), and was my choice for last call since Casks are the truest ales around, and hence the ultimate test of a brewer’s mettle. And I was very pleased that this beer was as consistently good with their standard IPA, but still managed to present a few surprises of its own. Served at cellar temperatures, low in foam and carbonation, unfiltered and unpasteurized, true ales are not for the uninitiated, but are a real pleasure once you get a taste for them.

Appearance: Deep amber, very cloudy, low foam and carbonation
Nose: Floral hops, slight citrus notes, mild malts
Taste:  Lighter malts, tawny and clean on the tongue, followed by notes of grapefruit
Aftertaste: Mild bitterness, relatively clean aftertaste
Overall: 9/10

wingsAnd of course, our food! As is customary for us whenever sampling lighter fare, my wife and I decided to get the chicken wings and the spinach salad. Naturally, Pike Brewery has their own twists on both, and they skyrocketed to the top of my list of the best wings I’ve had since moving to the West Coast! Baked, not fried, plump and juicy, with a spicy sauce that achieved a slow-to-build but powerful burn, and with a divine blue cheese dressing, these wings achieved a trifecta of wing perfection! I know nothing comparable to them except for what Craig Street Brewing used to do.

spinach_saladAnd the spinach salad was equally good, made up of mushrooms, pine nuts,sun dried tomatoes, garlic, Parmesan, dried bits of prosciutto, and a light vinaigrette. The merger of these elements achieved a sort of healthy, crunchy, salty goodness, equal parts health food and guilty pleasure! And as always, a good spinach salad is the perfect accompaniment to hot wings and beer!

All around, it was a great time and I’m glad my wife and I had the wherewithal to force the issue. There was no way we were going to miss out on this place a second time! And I look forward to going back someday. Hopefully it won’t take two more years this time!