Two More Americans…

In truth, I’ve been laid out these last few weeks with the flu, and this has effected my ability to sample beer. Luckily, I’ve been backlogged with a number of samples that I tried back in September, and just needed to provide a complete write up on. Two such samples were part of my ongoing campaign to drink all the beer that’s been coming up from the south of late. This time out, both come from the great state of Washington!

Diamond Knot Brown Ale:
diamondknot_brownThis is my second sampling from the Diamond Knot brewery. And much like the first, I was not terribly impressed with it. While it is certainly an inoffensive and decent enough American-style brown ale, it was a little on the light side, and had a rather strange flavor profile. This became evident with the smell first, which consisted of nicely toasted malts, a hint of sweetness, and then a strange herbal aroma that put me in mind of Jagermeister. And then the taste, which was lacking in the dark malt flavor department and instead was slightly sour, tangy, and quite light. Only in the aftertaste did I detect the telltale signs of chocolate and coffee that are common to this variety. And by then, I had lost a lot of interest.

Appearance: Deep brown/amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Mild sugars, toasted malts, trace herbal essence reminiscent of Jagermeister
Taste: Mild tang, mild sourness, slightly toasted malt flavor
Aftertaste: Lingering sourness, hint of cocoa and coffee
Overall: 7.5/10

Skagit River Gospel IPA:
Gospel-LabelThis second installment from the Skagit River brewery did better. As a special release IPA, the Gospel is certainly comparable to the Scullers, in that it boasts a good mix of strong malts, a highly respectable dose of floral, citrusy hops and weights in at a respectable 7.4% alc/vol (just slightly stronger than the Sculler). However, I marked it down slightly from its predecessor in that the hop bite tends to obscure the malts when you taste it. While you can certainly smell a good, syrupy malt base in this beer, its really not discernible on the tongue. What’s more, the hop bitterness can be a little too much all the way through. Citrus fruit is appealing, but citrus rind? Not so much.

Appearance: Light amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Strong floral and citrus aroma, good malts and sugars
Taste: Strong citrus bite, notes of grapefruit and citrus rind
Aftertaste: Strong and lingering bitterness with plenty of citrus rind
Overall: 8/10

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Two American IPAs

IPA_1This week, I managed to pick up an assortment of new beers, most of which are premiering at my local beer stores for the first time. And with few exceptions, just about all of them are from south of the border, coming to us from Washington state and Oregon. Given that these states happen to hold some of the greatest breweries in the Pacific Northwest, and perhaps even the world, they are certainly good company. Being new to me, they also had some rather stiff competition!

I started my sampling and reviewing with two IPAs, both of which are from Washington state. These were the Diamond Knot Brewery’s own IPA, and Skagit River’s Sculler IPA. The former comes from the craft brewing operation of the same name that owns two restaurants and a brewhouse in Mukilteo and on Camano Island, while the latter brewpub is located in Mount Vernon.

Diamond Knot India Pale Ale:
diamondknot_ipaAccording to the commercial description, this hop-forward IPA was designed with balance in mind, combing a solid malt base with good hoppiness. And for the most part, they accomplished this. But my initial tasting differed from what is advertised in some key respects. For example, the description also claims the beer possesses notes of grapefruit and cedar while the malt is characterized by caramel. While I certainly detected strong notes of grapefruit citrus on the nose and palate, the rest of the hops could only be described as lemony and grassy.

In addition, the malt was somewhat light in color, at least compared to what I’ve come to expect from an IPA. And though there was some caramel sweetness, it was largely coarse, perhaps due in part to presence of powerful hop flavors. Still, it was a pleasing beer and certainly not lacking in India Pale Ale characteristics.

Appearance: Light amber, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Sweet malt, citrus, lemony, grassy hops
Taste: Immediate bitterness, coarse malts, mild caramel, notes of herbs and lemon
Aftertaste: Lingering bitterness and grassiness, citrus rind
Overall: 8/10

Skagit River Sculler IPA:
scullers_ipaAs the brewery describes it, this IPA is basically a “roasty, dry version of an old London style” ale, with of course a generous hopping to ensure it meets the single-greatest requirement of an IPA. And I could certainly sense this inspiration when I began sampling it, as I noted some interesting malts that are not usually present in a Pacific Northwestern IPA. Whereas these tend to have malts that are sweet and coarse, this beer possessed a more gentle and smooth malt profile which contained more of a toffee flavor, a mixed fruity nose, and some mild skunk. Naturally, the hops came through in full force, possessing some strong citrus and combining it with a hint of peach, which was a bit of a surprise.

Appearance: Dark amber, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Mildly skunky malts, notes of citrus and orchard fruit
Taste: Syrupy malt, mild toffee-like sweetness and skunk, citrus hops and peach
Aftertaste: Strong lingering bitterness and coarse malt
Overall: 8.25/10

All in all, not bad showings from these south of the border brewers! Stay tuned for entries from American and Base Camp Brewing…