Sound Dubbel Entendre Abbey-Style Ale

sound_dubbelBrewer: Sound Brewery, Poulsbo, WA
Style: Dubbel
ABV: 8.0%
IBUs: 20

Description:  This beer, brewed in the Belgian Abbey tradition of Dubbels, is part of the brewery’s regular lineup, and was also the silver medal winner at the 2012 North American Brewing Awards.. A strong, dark malts base and mild hops are combined with Belgian yeasts and bottle conditioned to create a particularly sweet, malty brew of respectable strength.

Tasting Notes: Sound Brewery first became known to me thanks to the Advent Beer Calender, and I was pleased to find more of their wares being offered locally. And this Dubbel had all the right qualities to it, with notes of brown sugar, molasses, dark fruit, and some yeasty, malty goodness. However, it also had a crisp and tart quality that reminded me of cider, and made this end on the lighter side of things. Good all around, and a nice follow-up to their Entendez-Noel.

Appearance: Deep amber/brown, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Dark malts, brown sugar, molasses, cherries, raisins plums, acid
Taste: Rich malt, hint of brown sugar, yeast, plums, raisins, apple cider
Aftertaste: Lingering malt flavor, semi-sweet and tart, yeast
Overall: 8/10

Red Hook Audible Ale

redhook_audibleBrewer: Red Hook Brewery, Woodinville, WA
Style: Pale Ale
ABV: 4.7%
IBUs: 22

Description: The latest addition to the brewery’s regular lineup, the Audible Ale is the result of a collaboration with sportscaster Dan Patrick to create the ultimate sports-friendly craft beer. Combining a lighter alcohol content with a mild hopping, this pale ale is brewed with drinkability in mind.

Tasting Notes: This beer was a bit on the light side for my taste, but given the focus on drinkability, this was not surprising. While the hop flavor is a bit subdued, it does have a pleasant malt character that is in keeping with a good session ale. It also finishes clean and is quite refreshing. This is the third and final beer from the Red Hook sample pack, and it was an all-around good drinking experience!

Appearance: Light orange, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Good malt, dry, mild floral and citrus hops, minerals
Taste: Smooth malt, slightly crisp, light, dry hops, hint of grass, minerals
Aftertaste: Lingering mild malt flavor, mineral tang, clean finish
Overall: 7.8/10

Red Hook Long Hammer IPA

redhook_ipaBrewer: Red Hook Brewery, Woodinville, WA
Style: India Pale Ale
ABV: 6.2%
IBUs: 44

Description: As part of their regular lineup, Red Hook has been brewing this classic Northwestern-style India Pale Ale since 1984. Moderate in terms of alcohol and hop content, this beer is bittered twice – both during the boil and then dry-hopped for a dry finish.

Tasting Notes: This here IPA is the second offering from my sample pack, and it is the firs time I have ever sampled it. On the lighter side, this beer still has everything one would expect from a Pacific Northwestern IPA. This includes a rich, semi-sweet malt base and a good dose of citrus and piney hops. And of course, the dry-hopping adds an extra dimension of drier, grassy notes. Two down, one to go!

Appearance: Golden/amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malt, notes of citrus, pine, and grassy hops
Taste: Crisp malt, sweet bread, medium notes of citrus, pine, dry grassy-hop finish
Aftertaste: Lingering malt sweetness, hop bitterness and citrus rind
Overall: 8.2/10

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

Two Beers Forester Double IPA

forester_doubleipaBrewer: Two Beers Brewery, Seattle WA
Style: Double IPA
Alc/Vol: 7.8%
IBU: 92

Description: The Forester Double IPA is a seasonal beer and the brewery’s expansion on their Evo IPA. And as the name suggests, is naturally stronger, maltier, and hoppier than the original. In terms of malts, it employs Base, Crystal, Vienna, Munich, and Carapils, and is bittered using Simcoe, Amarillo, Centenniel, and Super G hops.

Tasting Notes: I’ve had many India Pale Ales in my time and more than a few doubles. But this was definitely one of the better ones. In addition to not being terribly high in alcohol content or very coarse, the hop flavor was also just bitter enough, and plenty diverse. It’s the mark of a good double IPA that it can be strong all around, but maintain a nice balance. Looking forward to the next one!

Appearance: Orange-amber, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malts, strong hop nose, citrus, grassy, and piney
Taste: Strong, semi-coarse malts, rich hop flavor, resin, pine, citrus rind
Aftertaste: Lingering bitterness, coarse malt flavor
Overall: 9/10

No-Li Spin Cycle Red Ale

no-li-brewhouse-logo-squareBrewer: No-Li Brewhouse, Spokane, Washington
Style: Extra-Special Bitter (ESB)
Alc/Vol: 5.75%
IBUs: 49

Description: A combination of English, German and American brewing techniques, this beer takes its name from the fact that it brings 2-Row, Crystal, Munich, and Chocolate malts together with Cluster, Liberty, and Cascade hops to achieve a balanced pale ale. Formerly known as Crystal Bitter ESB, this beer has the distinction of being the 2012 Gold Medal Winner of the Great American Beer Festival.

Tasting Notes: As ESB’s and Red Ales go, this beer is certainly consistent, combining that dry, subtle hop flavor with a malt profile that is nicely syrupy with just a hint of sweetness. The combination of malts is also discernible, with a sharp tang and a slight taste of cocoa that comes from the Munich and Chocolate malts. It also manages to finish clean, with a slight bitterness that lingers just long enough on the tongue. A refreshing and complex brew.

Appearance: Dark copper, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Subtle malt nose, mild syrups, light hint of dry hops
Taste: Sweetbread, honey, dry herbs and hop bitterness, mild cocoa
Aftertaste: Mild, lingering bitterness, quite clean finish
Overall: 9/10

Two Beers Heart of Darkness CDA

TwoBeers_HeartofDarknessCDABrewer: Heart of Darkness, Seattle, Washington
Style: Imperial Black IPA
Alc/Vol: 6.8%
IBUs: 67

Description: A seasonal release, available from November through February, this Imperial Black IPA is brewed according to the increasingly popular “Cascadian Dark Ale” style – a characteristically Pacific Northwest ale that combines dark, roasted malts with an intense hopping to achieve a strong but balanced flavor that reminiscent of both a stout and an IPA.

Tasting Notes: As far as Black IPAs go, this beer is definitely a winner. While the addition of “Imperial” seems a bit much – at 6.8% alcohol, it hardly seems that strong – the flavor is complex, varied, and delightfully strong. In addition to a good hop bitterness, its darkened malts are rich and flavorful, calling to mind a good stout’s balance of chocolate and coffee flavor. Definitely one of the best CDAs I’ve had in awhile.

Appearance: Black, opaque, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Roasted malt, notes of espresso and dark chocolate, piney hops
Taste: Rich smokey malt, citrus hops, espresso flavor and bitterness, mild chocolate
Aftertaste: Lingering bitterness and smokey notes
Overall: 9/10

Also, this was my 250th post! Yay for beer!

Ninkasi Radiant Pale Ale

ninkasiBeer season has been slowing down a bit in recent days, thanks to the holidays being complete and the need to get back to work. But luckily, there is still time to shop for new brews and seasonal releases which are arriving just in time to toast the ending of winter and the coming of spring. And today, I happened to find a bottle of something left over from last summer, a beer which I enjoyed at the time, but neglected to review.

ninkasi_radiantSo in this post-holiday lull, I thought I would give it sampling and follow through with a proper review. It’s known as Radiant Pale Ale, a summer seasonal produced by the Ninkasi Brewery out of Eugene, Oregon. As far as Pacific Northwestern breweries go, this is one of my favorites. There flagship lineup of beers is tough to beat, consisting of a wide array of American Pale and India Pale Ales, as well as a good smattering of other British, European and American styles.

In this case, I found the Radiant to be a well balanced customer, consisting of a good combination of Crystal, Vienna and Northwest hops, as well as a smooth array of pale malt. One can instantly taste the summery influence of the beer, being just light enough to be refreshing, but with a dry, bitter finish that is appetizing and sure to slake a heat-induced thirst!

Appearance: Medium amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Gentle malt, crisp hop nose, mild grassiness, slight floral texture
Taste: Smooth, amber-like malt, good tang, earthy hops, slight bitterness
Aftertaste: Lingering bitterness, citrus rind
Overall: 8/10

I can recall sampling this beer alongside another seasonal release last summer. It was their Maiden the Shade IPA, another beer I failed to review at the time. What was I thinking? Guess I’ll just have to wait another six months before I can that one it’s due as well, huh?

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

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…