Green Leaf Animal Farm IPA

I would like to a moment to mention that this my 300th review! Long live craft beer, beer tasting, and the fine art of beer snobbery!

greenleaf_brewingBrewer: Green Leaf Brewing, Vancouver BC
Stye: India Pale Ale
Alc/Vol: 7.4%
IBUs: 67

Description: A seasonal beer from this North Vancouver brewery, this IPA is named for the fact that it is fermented using a combination of farmhouse yeasts. It is then unfiltered, bottle conditioned and generously hopped to create a beer that is cloudy, has strong malts, a bitter, fruity profile, and a strong yeast backbone.

Tasting Notes: I was a little surprised by the combination, and a little mixed on the results. Initially, the combination of yeasts, strong malt and hops was sweet and had what tasted like traces of brettanomyces. However, this impression soon faded and was replaced by the somewhat conflicted combination of hop bitterness, malt coarseness, and hop bitterness. So it was a bit hit and miss.

Appearance: Dark amber/brown, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malt, farmhouse yeasts, citrus hops, tropical fruit
Taste: Semi-sweat and coarse malts, yeasts, citrus and passion fruit, bitterness
Aftertaste: Lingering malt, hop and yeast bitterness
Overall: 7.5/10

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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…

Tuatara Double Trouble Extra-Dimensional APA

tuatara_logoQuite the mouthfull, isn’t it? Well, believe me when I say that nothing about this beer seems tame or conventional. In addition to a label that is designed to look like something that requires 3D glasses, this New Zealand brew and its patrons were clearly going for something overwhelming, yet nuanced, powerful, yet balanced.

Tuatara_DoubleTroubleAnd the style, IAPA, I can only assume means Imperial Australian Pale Ale, or possible Imperial American Pale Ale. Hard to say. All I know is, given its strength, maltiness, and extreme hoppy profile, this beer is essentially an Imperial IPA with a big twist!

But I digress… This beer came highly recommended from one of my buds at the beer store. Weighing in at a heft 9% alc/vol, and loaded with hops to the point that it ranks at a stunning 167 IBUs (most IPAs rank between 40 and 80). The varieties include Pacific Jade, Nelson Sauvin, and Simcoe hops to bitter the beer, then Zythos late in the boil for flavour and aroma, and then more Nelson Sauvin for the first dry-hop, followed by more Simcoe and Zythos a second dry-hop. And the result, as I said, is something truly multi-faceted and powerful, though not overwhelming.

Appearance: Deep orange/amber, cloudy, medium foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Very malty, syrupy nose, massive bouquet of citrus, pine, floral, tropical fruit
Taste: Sweet, slightly coarse malts, citrus fruit and rind, notes of pineapple and apricot
Aftertaste: Lingering bitterness and heavy malt flavor
Overall: 9/10

awards2012poster

Apparently, this brew also won a the silver medal for the 2012 Brewers Guild of New Zealand (BGNZ) Awards. This is just one of several medals collected by the brewery in 2012, but don’t expect them to brag about that much. For as they say on their website, no doubt with much irony: “Awards are just irrelevant wank for beer snobs. But dammit, somebody’s got to win them!”

My God… can you really say “wank” on a website? Apparently, they can! A good first sampling from this Kiwi brewery, and I will be looking for more. In addition to much foul language, their website would seem to indicate they have a rather full lineup. I will have to go searching for some very soon…

Ninkasi Babylon Double IPA

ninkasi_babylonHello again and good day! It’s the weekend again and I am back with some more new and exciting examples of craft brewing from my local beer store. And today, it’s another visitor from south of the border, Eugene, Oregon to be specific. And I’m rather lucky in that my local store has chosen to stock tall boys of Ninkasi’s Babylon Double IPA, a special release beer which is typically available only in their mixer pack. Nothing wrong with those, but if I’m going to sample, I want to sample big!

And as the name would suggest, this double IPA is quite the heavy hitter. In addition to some high-gravity malts, it also weighs in at a hefty 9.1% alc/vol. And as could be expected, it also boasts a high concentration of hops, 100 IBUs worth to be exact. As a result, the alcohol, malts, and hops achieve a certain high-concentration balance. Rather than any one aspect of it being overpowering, it’s all overpowering at once!

Appearance: Deep orange, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich, sweet malt, hints of grassy and tropical hops
Taste: High-gravity malty sweetness, notes of passion fruit and grassy hops
Aftertaste: Lingering coarse malt flavor, hop bitterness
Overall: 8/10

Yes, this beer is not for the faint of heart, uninitiated, or weak of taste of buds! Like anything with the words double and IPA in it, it should only ever be enjoyed by those who have a deep and enduring passion for strong ale and a hefty dose of bitterness!

Moon Under Water Tranquility IPA

MoonLogo1moonunderwater_ipaIt has taken me some time, but I have managed to finally complete Moon Under Water’s new lineup, ever since the brewery underwent a change in leadership and stopped producing sessionals. Unfortunately, I have been rather remiss in taking notes and providing comprehensive reviews. And since I refuse to do reviews based solely on memory (as mine can’t be trusted anyway!), I’ve finally managed to pick up some fresh bottles and resample them.

And here’s what I thought of the Tranquility IPA, a beer without which no West Coast brewery operation would ever be complete. True to its roots, this India Pale Ale combines a strong, semi-sweet malt character with a generous dose of hops. And in what is increasingly becoming the norm with Northwestern IPAs, it combines multiple varieties of hops in order to produce a more complex hop profile.

Appearance: Light golden-amber, transparent, good foam and carbonation
Nose: Citrus and tropical fruit, notes of melon
and passion fruit
Taste: Strong malt beginning, burst of citrus and piney hops, touch of sweetness
Aftertaste: Sweetness giving way to hint of coarse malts, bitter hop finish
Overall: 8.5/10

Not bad Moon, you’re three for three so far. Now there’s the matter of sampling your Victorious Weizenbock, and giving it a fitting review. Spoiler alert: it was good! But as usual, neglected to take notes! I will try to do better next time…

The Season of IPA’s, Cont’d

wash_breweriesSpring, or as I’ve come to think of it, the season of the India Pale Ale, continues with more samples procured from my faithful local purveyors! And since I’m apparently taking on more new beers than I can review at any one time, I’ve decided to do another two-fer today, acknowledging two distinct examples of brewing excellence. And though they come from vastly different places, one the very farthest outpost on the West Coast (Tofino), and the other nestled in the very heart of Cascadia (Eugene, Oregon), I found them very similar in style, taste, and their dedication to Pacific Northwestern brewing.

Tofino Hoppin Cretin’ IPA:
hoppin_cretin3First up, a long-awaited second helping from the Tofino Brewery, which I got a chance to sample well over a year ago during my wife and I’s summer visit. Unfortunately, I only ever got to try their Tuff Session, and lamented that we couldn’t stick around long enough to do a little brewery tour. I tell ya, its about time Tofino had its own brewery, and one that bore its name proudly!

And I was quite impressed with this installment in their lineup. Boasted strong malts, a variety of hops (and plenty of them), and a solid alcohol content (7.5% alc/vol), it’s got pretty everything you’d expect from a good India Pale Ale. But there’s still room for pleasant surprises, like how the hop profile is well balanced between tropical, piney and citrus flavors.

Appearance: Deep amber, cloudy, good carbonation and foam retention
Nose: Notes of tropical fruit, pineapple, pine and a hint of citrus
Taste: Strong burst of citrus, followed by strong, slightly coarse malts
Aftertaste: Dry finish, lingering bitterness
Overall: 9/10

Ninkasi Tricerahops Double IPA:
Tricerahops-Double-IPA-A-20073PNext up is another faithful addition from the Ninkasi brewery, which once again impressed the hell out of me with their Tricerahops (very punny!) IPA. Much like their standard IPA, it combined a good dose of tropical hop aroma with citrus and pine. This also came through in the flavor, which was varied and very powerful, especially when combined with the high gravity malts, semi-sweet, viscous malts.

This is the result of multiple varieties of malt and hops – which in the former case include Pale, Munich and Carahell, and in the latter Summit, Amarillo, Centennial, and Palisade – and a hefty dose thereof. Overall, this beer rates at a hefty 100 IBUs, a Starting Gravity of 1080, and an alcohol content of 8.8% alc/vol.

Appearance: Golden-amber, transparent, good foam and carbonation
Nose: Floral hops scent, tropical fruit, pine, citrus
Taste: Strong hop burst, immediate citrus bite, giving way to semi-sweet malts
Aftertaste: Malt coarseness, lingering bitterness
Overall: 9/10

The Season of IPA!

IPAMy apologies for the prolonged absence, fellow beer snobs. Unfortunately, the Spring season has not been kind to me, as it chose to greet me with the worst cold I’ve had in ages! Luckily, I’ve emerged from my self-imposed two week hiatus from all things alcoholic, and have chosen to do not one review, not a two-fer, but a three-fer! Alongside an older sampler from late last month, I managed to procure two entirely new beers that fit with my latest theme – Spring Seasonals. And since the venerable IPAs are now making the rounds, I thought I might also dedicate the rest of March to sampling as many new limited releases and old favorites as I can. Here’s what I’ve managed to try so far…

Driftwood Twenty Pounder IPA:
driftwood_20pounder_largeThis is now the third year in a row that Driftwood has released its signature double IPA. And lucky me, I finally got my hands on a bottle and sat down to give it a thorough tasting. Named in honor of Victoria’s proud naval tradition, where field guns that relied on 20 lbs cannon balls were deployed to defend the coast, this beer is an IPA that lives up to its name. Extra strong in alcohol content and employing a double dose of hops, it is surprisingly light in color but heavy on flavor and hardcore hop and citrus content!

Appearance: Light amber, transparent, good foam and carbonation
Nose: Highly floral and citrusy bouquet, notes of orange and grapefruit
Taste: Sweet malts, citrus hops, piney, touch of sweet grapefruit flavor
Aftertaste: Lingering piney bitterness, more notes of citrus
Overall: 9/10

Gigantic India Pale Ale:
Gigantic IPAThis beer and its brewery are entirely new to me, and comes to us from south of the border. Not surprisingly, it is brewed in Portland, Oregon, the state with more breweries per capita than any in the US. And what better place to start with their lineup, now that the season of IPA is upon us! And all in all, I was quite pleased with this beer. In every measurable way, it was a faithful and fitting example of a Northwestern IPA and craft brewing.

Appearance: Deep golden, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Strong hints of tropical fruit, light malts
Taste: Immediate burst of Cascade hop bitterness, light malts, little sweetness
Aftertaste: Lingering bitterness and taste of citrus rind
Overall: 8/10

Vancouver Island Absolute Darkness:
absolutedarknessLast but not least, there’s the latest release from Vancouver Island Brewery. As I’ve said before, I approve highly of the way they’ve started to incorporate limited releases into their lineup, effectively demonstrating a renewed committed to craft brewing. And with this beer, a combination Dark Ale, India Pale Ale, they’ve once again shown that they’re current. For the past few years, dark IPA’s (or Black IPAs as they are sometimes known) have been all the rage. And named in honor of Vancouver Island’s coal mining heritage, it combines stout-like characteristics with traditional IPA, resulting in a beer that is tawny, malty, hoppy, has some strong notes of coffee and some citrus.

Appearance: Deep black, good foam retention, dense with lower carbonation
Nose: Tawny malts, notes of coffee and Cascade hops
Taste: Immediate bitterness and citrus, giving way to coffee-like bitterness
Aftertaste: Long and lingering taste of dark toasted malts
Overall: 8.5/10