Drink Craft Beer
This article is the second in a series, published once per year. To check out Craft Brewers Get Fresh With Your Hops, 2007 click here.
Every year, once per year, is the hop harvest. This is a glorious time when the hops are at their freshest and most flavorful. Usually, to make beer, hop farmers will dry the hops so that they can be stored and used all year long. At hop harvest time, however, brewers can go through the extra effort of procuring hops before they're dried and use them to make a beer that is unique and a showcase of the many volatile aroma compounds lost when hops are dried. Oh yeah, and the brewers have to brew it within 24 hours of the hops being harvested.
So, loving the hops like we do at DrinkCraftBeer, we like to have a mini-contest each year. This usually entails us drinking every fresh hop beer we can get our hands on in a season and trying them back to back. It makes for an interesting night. But it tastes so good.
Last year's favorite, Great Divide Fresh Hop Pale Ale, was not distributed to Massachusetts this year, so we couldn't include it. We did, however, get quite a few new ones. So, that being said, let's get to the beer!
Sierra Nevada 2008 Chico Estate Harvest Wet Hop Ale
This beer is brewed with fresh hops that Sierra Nevada grew in their own hop field.
Appearance: Light tan head and dark amber liquid. Rocky heads that sticks around.
Smell: Smells very mild for the hoppiness.
Taste: Hoppy, but not very bitter. A lot of hop flavor... some oily fresh hopness, too. This really showcases the fresh hops. The head really sticks to the sides of the glass all the way down (technically, this is called lacing). Devon says it's a little sweeter than he likes. Jeff thinks it's right on with a very interesting hop profile. The hop oils really stick in your mouth. A couple minutes after the last sip, we're both still tasting the whole beer. It's not like an aftertaste, we're still tasting the entire beer!
Sierra Nevada Harvest Wet Hop Ale
Appearance: Looks the same as the Chico Estate: Light tan head and dark amber liquid. Rocky heads that sticks around.
Smells: Hoppier than the Chico, you really get a bit of citrusy hops. You also smell a solid malt body.
Taste: First observation: this beer doesn't coat your tongue with hop oil the same way as the Chico does. Both less sweet and less bitter than the Chico. This is still quite a hoppy beer that shows off the fresh hops.
Devon chooses: Harvest Wet Hop Ale
Jeff chooses: Chico Estate
DrinkCraftBeer tip: Combine them 50/50... it's great! Both of us agreed!
Port Brewing High Tide Fresh Hop IPA
Appearance: Hazy with hops. Very pale. White head.
Smell: Citrusy hops and malt sweetness.
Taste: Devon says, "Holy hop, that's bitter! It's like a mini hop-ninja kicked me in the teeth!" Yup! A hop-ninja. This is one of the founders of this site. And some of you listen to us about beer.
Jeff says, "I don't think it's that bitter. Crisp hop bitterness, decent malt behind it. Good hop flavor. No hop-ninjas here. I'd like a little more hop flavor for a fresh hop beer, but this is good."
OK, for real. Starkly different from the Sierra Nevadas. Much less hop flavor or malt sweetness. Pretty bitter. Coats the tongue, but not as much as the Chico.
DrinkCraftBeer tip: Combine them 50% High Tide, 25% each of the Sierra Nevadas... It's real good, perhaps even better than the previous mix. Do notice a pattern?
Two Brothers Heavy Handed IPA
Appearance: Light tan head, dark amber liquid.
Smell: We can't smell hops anymore! But yeah, this one smells hoppy.
Taste: Good hop flavor without much bitterness. You can taste the fresh oily hopness. Decent malt backbone, but not overpowering the hops. Crisp hoppyness. Quite dry. One of the lighter flavors hop-wise. It's good. Earthier hop flavor. More complex than some of the others and builds as you drink it. We approve!
Founders Harvest Ale
DrinkCraftBeer Note: We're really stoked to see this bottled and distributed! We were in Michigan last September and got to try it out of the fermenter right after dry hopping (thanks Dave Engbers! Check out the interview here.) and it was great! Now we get to try the final product!
Appearance: Heads up, this beer is super foamy! Pour lightly. About six inches of foam right away. Very pale for this tasting. White fluffy head. Hazy.
Smell: Very American citrusy hop smell. Complex hops, which is expected for a fresh hop ale. It's the whole point of not drying them first.
Taste: This beer is great, it's everything we want a fresh hop beer to be! It's aggressive and fruity! Easy drinking but yet still a crazy IPA. Bitter, but not too bitter. Great hop flavor. Yeah, this is the one we could drink a ton of. It makes us forget that we've been drinking a ton of beer already, it revives our tastebuds and makes us want to drink more beer. Even as it warms up, the hops are delicious. This is a great beer for the ages. We look forward to it every year now.
Founders, by a mile! It showcased a perfect balance of bitterness, hop flavor, malt and drinkability. It revived our tastebuds deep into a tasting and all we wanted was more. Some of the beer we liked but were sick of half way through. Founders wasn't over oily, overly bitter or overly anything. It was just a great showcase of fresh hops. Wow! Well done Founders! We only wish Great Divide Fresh Hop Pale Ale had been in Massachusetts this year to give you a challenge (as they were the 2007 DrinkCraftBeer Fresh Hop Champions).
Hey all you craft beer drinkers! It's that time again! What time? New Beer of the Month from Gourmet Monthly Clubs time! Yeah... we know, it doesn't exactly roll off the tongue. But the beer... The beer tastes good. So let's get to it!
This month, we've got beer from Atwater Brewing Company and Lakefront Brewing Company. Atwater sends their Pilsner and Vanilla Porter, while Lakefront has their White and East Side Dark. With that in mind, let's get to the beer!
And, as always, if you want to get the same club as us go here: Click to Join
Appearance: Light golden, clear, light white head that disapates quicklu
Smell: very lager aroma, light
Taste: Very light, hint of biscuity malt, light hop bitterness.
Decent beer, very drinkable, it's a step up from the macro's but it's not going to blow your mind.
Opening the Woodchuck Granny Smith hard cider, you can tell there is a certain lightness to it with the first little glimpse of smoke coming off with the cap. As it pours you get a frenzy of bubbles that somehow peter off by the time you pour the last drops out of the bottle and into your glass for the perfect pour. This ispossibly the lightest cider I’ve poured yet, with just barely the slightest of faint grassy straw yellow tint to the fiercely crisp and clear liquid. The bubbles continue to pop up to the surface, a good size without being over-sized, and collect into a small white froth ringing a half inch around the top of the glass.
Coming in for the sip I get a touch of alcohol and acidic clean notes – not surprisingly like a tart green apple. This is a really subtle aroma, though, I’m really having to focus to even find that.
The first sip hits with a refreshing tartness that you don’t always find in ciders. The little bit of acid cuts right through my mouth, leaving it feeling really clean, even before I swallow. You certainly can tell this is 100% Granny Smith apples, the bubbles fizzle across my mouth, even under my tongue with that hint of zip & tartness. Surprisingly there is little to no alcohol taste to this cider, I might even guess this was non-alcoholic if I didn’t know that there was 5% abv in it. Woodchuck’s Granny Smith cider is really drinkable and subtle, I feel like it could prove a good compliment in some sort of punch or to cook with. I would dare say that this light green apple taste would translate pretty well to warm weather if you kept it really cold, cutting through the slick taste of greasy cheeseburgers or even some leftover Chinese food with a cool clean refreshment (man, now I sound like a commercial!) washing through the delicious grease.
This bottle was purchased at Barb’s Beer Emporium in Concord, NH.
As I believe I’ve mentioned about twenty times on this site lately, 2011 was a huge year for beer in Massachusetts. We saw the release of so many new breweries that it was tough to keep up! One of those was Backlash Beer Company, a Boston-based but Holyoke-brewed beer that, with this release, counts three Belgian styles under their belts. The latest, a Belgian-style IPA, has come with a lot of hype on the back of Backlash signing a state-wide distribution deal that will expand their reach from the Boston-area to all of Massachusetts.
Clearly unfiltered, Declaration is a dark, hazy tawny beer! Crowned with one of the biggest, sturdiest eggshell colored heads I’ve ever seen, this brew stands a solid 2 fingers taller than the pint glass that is trying to contain it. It seems that the beer is much in line with the ethos of the brass knuckles on every bottle of Backlash. The real question, though, is does the taste stand up to the imposing appearance?
Citrusy hops and very-well-complementing Belgian yeast aromas are definitely getting us started in the right direction! I’m looking for the malt, but all I come back with is the spiciness of the yeast and those damned hops! They’ve seemingly Houdini’ed any smell of the base grains away...eh, to hell with it. Who needs malt in a Belgian IPA anyway?
I read on the Backlash Blog that they claim this is the hoppiest Belgian IPA they know of. Is that true? I don’t know...there are definitely contenders out there who I’d have to try at the same time to really know (after all, beer is super subjective based on the experiences going on all around you...that’s one reason it’s so great!). The important question, though, is: “Is this a good beer?” My answer! I sure as hell think so! I have a checklist (OK, I don’t actually have a checklist, but now that I’m thinking about it, here are the things I think make a great Belgian-style IPA): (1) Big hop bitterness, taste and aroma, (2) dry malt (3) Belgian yeast spice notes, (4) none of that oily hoppiness that many American brewers have put out lately...the Belgians are more sophisticated than that (they’re European after all). This beer nails that in spades! It’s bitter, but balanced, with a great hop taste and a funky Belgian/hoppy nose; it’s super dry; and it’s completely devoid of the oiliness that works in some American IPAs but not in this style (in my humble opinion). The conclusion? Delicious beer! And, luckily, Backlash just inked a statewide distribution deal in Massachusetts. That means all you people in Western Mass can finally find out what us Easterners were talking about (and what’s been being brewed in their own back yard).
Jeff’s Note: Normally I’m a big opponent of wax on bottles. It doesn’t make the beer taste better and it’s a pain to open. That said, Backlash founders Helder and Maggie hand dip each bottle, then hand stamp each, so I had to include that in the picture! Also, it’s really not hard to open. You guys are doing something right even with the packaging!
I bought a 22oz bomber of this craft beer at Craft Beer Cellar in Belmont.
This is a great article from the New York Times about craft beer being brewed in Brooklyn. They focus a lot on Shane Welch (left side of the picture) and Sixpoint Craft Ales, but also mention Brooklyn Brewing Co. and Greenpoint Beer Works a little bit.
Some of the highlights include:
- Sixpoint bought a bottling line
- Sixpoint bought a new brewing system
- This should allow Sixpoint to increase production to 60,000 barrels per year
- They're looking to close soon on a building in Williamsburg to house this new equipment
The article also talks about Sixpoint's beers, how they like to experiment with new brews a lot, Brooklyn Brewing Co.'s desire to expand and more. Check it out here!