Scandal Mt. Everest Barleywine

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Holiday greetings to everyone! As this is the season, and since I’ve exhausted my neighbors supply of beer, I have decided to once again go shopping for beers that goes well with the holiday spread and spirit. And one such procurement was Scandal Brewing’s Mt. Everest Barley Wine. As part of their Seven Wonders series, this beer is Scandal’s strongest customer, and one which I’ve been meaning to try for some time. So far, all I’ve managed to sample from this brewery is their Organic Ale, part of their regular lineup. But given that it was a pleasant experience, I had to see what they could do with a limited release.

Weighing in at an impressive 9% alc/vol and a robust 65 IBUs, this beer is fashioned with organic two-row and crystal 60 malts, as well as German summit and hallertau tradition hops. And the addition of spring water also comes through with a slight mineral quality that comes through in the aftertaste. Though it is listed as a barley wine, this beer was more reminiscent to me of a Maibock, boasting the same kind of semi-sweet malts, good tang, and a mild hop bite. But being intensely strong, it also has a strong alcoholic punch, and a slightly spicy notes that are reminiscent of anise or allspice.

Appearance: Amber, clear, medium foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Notes of sugar and subtle, dry hops
Taste: Slightly sweet malts, strong tang, alcoholic bite, dry hops, hints of allspice
Aftertaste: Lingering tang and mild spice traces and minerality
Overall: 8.5/10

Not a bad brew at all, though I do think it was slightly mislabeled. In my experience, barley wines are dark, fruity, and rich, whereas this beer is on the lighter side in terms of color, and has a flavor profile far more consistent with a Maibock. Still, it was a very pleasant drinking experience and I look forward to seeing what else Scandal has to offer with its Seven Wonders series.

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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

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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!

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

Ninkasi Believer Double Red Ale and Total Domination IPA

ninkasi_breweryHello great state of Oregon! It seems I have another two-fer that is the product of mere chance and good fortune. Recently, my local beer store began carrying some of Ninkasi’s product line, and given that I’ve seen it around several of my other haunts, I decided to give it a spin. In the past week, I’ve tried two of their regular lineup, a double red and an IPA, and was pretty impressed with both.

ninkasi_believerFirst up, the Believer Double Red Ale. As I said before, I was quite impressed with this first installment from their lineup. Immediately I noticed the interesting floral and sweet bouquet, which was also present in their IPA. And the flavor was consistent, delivering a hop flavor that smacks of your traditional Centennials, plus the Summit variety which are largely used in Barley Wines (another aspect that is apparent from the get go).

Combined with a deep, rich malt profile, this beer packs a bit of a double-whammy. It begins with a deep malty taste that is slightly sweet and syrupy, also reminiscent of barley wine, and a complex hop flavor that’s both citrusy and grassy. The flavor then transitions where the malts and hops deliver in the aftertaste department, becoming coarse and bitter respectively.

Appearance:
Deep red, high gravity, transparent, good foam and carbonation

Nose: Rich malts, discernible hoppiness, floral and citrusy
Taste: Deep malt flavor, slight sweetness, citrusy and grassy, then bitter
Aftertaste: Lingering bitterness, coarse malts and citrus rind
Overall: 8.5/10

ninkasi_total_dominationSecond, there is the Total Dominion IPA. Of the two, this was my favorite, though only by a small margin. Much like the Believer, it is a complex beer boasting a good strength (6.7% compared to the red ale’s 6.9% alc/vol) and a combination of hops that lend it a distinct aroma and flavor. But unlike the Believer, it is lighter in terms of appearance and malts. Light in color, relatively light in malts, the main thrust of this customer comes through in the hops.

Rated at 85 IBUs, its no secret that this IPA has a bitter hop profile! However, said profile has many layers to it and this is noticeable in the smell as well as the taste, consisting of Summit (once again), Amarillo and Crystal hops. In terms of taste, this results in a citrus bite, followed by notes of tropical fruit (I detected passion fruit and pineapple), followed by a long, lingering bitter finish.

Appearance: Deep gold, transparent, mild foam retention, good carbonation
Nose: Floral hoppy aroma, citrus, tropical fruit
Taste: Immediate burst of bitter and citrus hops, giving way to passion fruit and pineapple
Aftertaste: Bitterness once again, long and lingering
Overall: 9/10

Not a bad start for this operation, located in Eugene, Oregon and not far from where my sister and brother-in-law live. Perhaps I shall arrange for that road trip sooner other than later 😉 And that’s all for now. One of these days, I really MUST find the remaining beers on my winter list and polish that long document off! Otherwise, I’ll be transitioning into Spring seasonal beers before I ever complete it. How humiliating would that be?

Dead Frog Fearless IPA

I just got a special delivery… and I do mean special! After liaising with the good folks over at Dead Frog brewery a few weeks ago, I was told to expect some samples of their new Fearless IPA. Today was the day that my samples arrived. Yep, three bottles all wrapped up in bubble wrap and sealed in a paper-wrapped box. The sampling began shortly thereafter…

From the earliest indications, the Fearless looks, smells and pours like a true IPA, with an amber color, a hoppy bouquet, and mild foam retention. However, it is slightly different in that it has a very good clarity, which one does not always find with IPAs. The alcohol content and hop content are also consistent with a Northwestern India Pale, weighing in at a respectable 6.5% per/vol and 77 IBUs.

And then of course comes the interesting hop combination. By using Galaxy, Zythos, Cascade and Columbus hops, the brewmasters were clearly going for a unique combination of sweet and robust. The former two strands are Australian and a combination variety that are known for achieving a tropical fruit taste and smell. The latter two are well-known amongst beer drinkers as being what gives Northwestern Pale Ales and IPA’s their citrusy profile. The end result is what one might describe as a rippling effect of flavor.

Appearance: Crystal clear, good amber hue, mild foam
Nose: Citrus notes and hints of pineapple and passion fruit
Taste: Immediate burst of bitterness and malt giving way to citrus and slight sweetness
Aftertaste: Lingering piney flavor, intermittent pineapple
Overall: 8/10

As it stands, this is the third IPA that I’ve sampled from Dead Frog, all of which are only available in the 650ml bottle. First there was their limited release Fusion Hop, followed shortly thereafter by the Citra IPA. Of the three, I think this one ranks the highest. Many beers get bonus marks for experimentation, but this beer gets its marks for being an experiment done right. And just in case people were wondering, absolutely no marks were given for home delivery! 😉 Kudos Dead Frog, congratulation on a fine product and thanks for the sample!