It’s no secret that Ninkasi Brewing Company of Bend, Oregon loves hops. Dawn of the Red India Red Ale is a spring seasonal created to blend the best of both worlds; tropical hops and sweet caramel malts. Often the hindrance of such a mixture the sweetness can overpower the glorious hop notes and conceal their flavours. With Dawn of the Red Ninkasi has attempted to create a rich red ale that isn’t overtly sweet so as to allow the hops and malts to live more harmoniously together. Dawn of the Red is a 7.0% brew that includes Galena, Millennium, Ahtanum, El Dorado and Mosaic hops.
Pouring a bright ruby amber in the body with a thick and puffy yellow head on top the glass is coated with tons of lacing rings. The nose is fruity and fresh with noted aromas of tropical fruits, citrus, light pine resin and sweet caramel malts. A malty backbone with toffee and caramel malts props up the sweetness a bit in the middle with a medium to full body. The hops are juicy and fresh with tons of papaya, mango and pineapple flavours seeping through. The typical citrus and grapefruit notes are present but seem less important in the profile. A nice malt to hop balance with the hops edging out the caramel and biscuity notes a bit. The finish is bitter and cloyingly astringent with a typical IPA esque aftertaste of grapefruit and pine resin. Overall a very good mash up style brew with a ton of beautiful tropical fruits.
Every year the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co of Chico, California collaborates with 12 breweries and their fans for a mixture of brews collectively known as Beer Camp. In 2014 the stand out was a brew made with San Diego’s Ballast Point and so has been resurrected as a spring seasonal in 2015. The Hoppy Lager is a strong Blonde lager with a heavy hop twist. Brewed to a heavy 7.0% ABV and an agreeable 55 IBU’s the Hoppy Lager is the perfect early spring brew. In addition to a lager yeast the hop manifest includes Palisade and El Dorado as bittering hops and Citra and Equinox as finishing hops.
Pouring out a bright, clear golden hay colour the body has a solid stream of carbonation and is capped by a dense cap of pure white head. The aroma is fresh and heavily accented with citrus hop notes. Light floral and spicy hops add a nice dimension to the hop profile. Impossibly light caramel and crisp bread malts have a touch of honey sweetness akin to the blonde style. Crisp lemon and grapefruit notes and a mild acidic crunch towards the finish. Overall the bitterness is moderate and mostly negated by the cascade of finishing hop flavours. Light floral and perfumey notes blend with zesty lemon and grapefruit notes. A pinch of pine resin on the aftertaste with moderate astringency and a heavy lager esque mouthfeel. A nice brew overall with a bit of a unique take on the style. My only wish is that we Albertans could get our hands on Sierra Nevada’s products.
Stone Brewing Co.’s newest IPA varietal is the aptly named Delicious IPA an 80 IBU brew with 7.7% ABV that is brewed with Lemondrop and El Dorado Hops. Delicious IPA is crafter as an ode to the citrus based IPA with the bottle description as follows: “This one was all about packing as much unique and, you guessed it, delicious flavor into a glass as humanly possible, regardless of oomph or octane. This intensely citrusy, beautifully bitter beer is worthy of the simple-yet-lordly title of Stone Delicious IPA. Lemondrop and El Dorado hops combine to bring on a magnificent lemon candy-like flavor that’s balanced by hop spice. It’s unlike anything we’ve tasted in nearly two decades of IPA experimentation, and another lupulin-laced creation we’re excited to introduce to hopheads everywhere.”
Delicious IPA pours out a bright golden in the body with a huge head of off white. The aroma is heavily laden with zesty citrus aroma including tons of lemon rind and orange notes. Smells of bitter grapefruit aromatics with huge pine resin notes wafting through honey sweetness and and mild caramel malts. Resinous throughout with tons of citrus fruit hop notes that accompany lighter pine needles and sticky grapefruit notes. Mild pineapple and papaya fruit notes blend well with honey and caramel sweetness. Well balanced with light astringency and mild malts the hops enter the forefront. Punishing bitterness with tangy citrus zest notes that build up towards the finish with heavy acidity and hop bitterness. Overall, Delicious IPA is an ode to the citrus hop effect and is crafted perfectly.
One of the most respected and revered American style IPA’s is Sculpin a 7% brew from San Diego, California’s Ballast Point Brewery. Ballast Point originally started as San Diego’s Home Brew Mart and grew to become one of the United State’s craft brewing vanguards. More recently Ballast Point has brewed special editions of Sculpin with Grapefruit and Habanero pepper additions.
Pouring out a bright cascade of golden orange with a creamy froth of yellow tinged head Sculpin looks like an IPA from the get go with tons of sticky resin lacing. The aroma is distinctly emphasised with citrus fruits including lemon, orange, grapefruit etc. Lighter floral and spicy hop aromas are noticeable but dulled by the citrus heavy notes. Light caramel malts with honey sweetness and a plethora of fruity hop notes. Citrus notes and lighter tropical fruits fill the mid palate with notes of pineapple, mango and papaya. The finish is characteristic of the San Diego style with a resin predominance that leaves a sticky, astringent aftertaste of pine needles and bitter grapefruit. A bitter finish overall but mostly a fruity beer with glorious citrus and tropical notes. Sculpin is a great example of the San Diego IPA style and is a classic beer in general.
This unique IPA is a creation from the hands of Stone Brewing in Escondido, California as well as Baird Brewing in Numazu, Japan and Ishii Brewing in Guam. Baird is a well known brewer and one of the main proponents of the current Japanese craft beer wave. Ishii is a brewing I have to admit to never hearing of. On the back label it explains that Toshi Ishii was a brewer at Stone before moving to Guam to start the islands first brewery. The Japanese Green Tea is brewed as a Imperial IPA with 9.2% ABV that is ‘dry-hopped’ with whole leaf tea. This beer was first made as a collaboration in 2011 and has been recreated with Helga hops from Australia.
Cracking the bottle and pouring out the body is a bright ambery orange with a solid stream of carbonation reaching to the thin cap of dense pure white head. The aroma is heavy with green tea notes as well as noted herbal and floral accents. A rather malty Imperial IPA both by appearance and by the presence of toasted caramel and toffee malts that contrast the tea leaves. A fresh and zesty hops with a beautiful citrus and grass flavour. Quite leafy and herbal tasting with a commanding flavour of green tea throughout the profile. You certainly must have to like green tea to find this beer agreeable. A good hop and malt balance with a fairly heavy body and a thick, slick mouthfeel. Overall a unique and expertly executed collaboration that I hope to try the next iteration of.
Based in Surrey, British Columbia Russell Brewing has been in operation since 1995. In addition to the Surrey operations, Russell also owns and operates Fort Garry Brewing in Manitoba. In recent years Russell have been developing more unique and complex brews. Peaks and Valleys is a 5.7% ABV Extra Pale Ale brewed with BC grown hops. Extra Pale Ale is a bit of a stylistic conundrum in that it lives somewhere between the hop content and alcohol of an American Pale Ale and an IPA.
Peaks and Valleys pours a bright orange and coppery hue in the body with a massive thick off white foam onto. The head dissipates slowly as it settles into a thin tight cap. The aroma is beautiful laden with fresh hop aromas. A nice blend of hop aromas including citrus, tropical fruits, floral and spicy notes. The first sip is a bit sweet with tons of fruity notes including grapefruit, pineapple and pear and tons of citrus zest. Light floral and green hop notes with a light peppery note. Caramel and a light toasted malt profile balances the hops well resulting in a very easy sipping brew. The finish has moderate hop presence with a solid but not out of place bitterness and lingering astringency. A smooth sipping brew with a ton of amazing hop flavour.
Newport, Oregon’s Rogue Ales has been one of the big boys of West Coast craft beer for the past 25 years. Since 1989 John Maier has been the brewmaster and has implemented the brewing of non-pasteurized, all natural beers mostly made with the proprietary yeast strain known as Pacman. As an interesting and unique twist John decided to cultivate a yeast strain from his beard which he has had for the last 30 years. To a beer geek this is intriguing and also a bit offputting but as all beer geeks know, we are also up to try something new. I’ve drank beer with civetcat coffee, chipotle peppers, mint, rosemary, oysters, coconut, bacon, maple syrup and the list goes on. Using John’s beard yeast, Rogue decided to brew a 5.6% ABV Belgian ale.
Beard Beer pours out a bright hazy golden colour in the body with a thick heady off white foam atop. There is a nice small stream of bubbles cascading up in the middle of the glass. The nose is rather nice with a subtle estery yeast aroma as well as milder grassy and floral hop accent. Mild spiced aromas of coriander and a nice beautiful floral aroma blend well with a bready and crisp wheat malt. My first sip is crisp and estery with a mild mustiness and floral notes. A bit of caramel and honey with crisp clean wheat malt blends rather well with the mild floral hops. A nice balance and a exquisite drinkability for a rather sessionable Belgian style ale. Although this seems like a rather standard Belgian style ale the use of the beard use is an interesting and intriguing idea. And it is a rather beardy ale!
Half Pints is Manitoba’s best and single true craft brewery known for their incredible seasonal and special releases. One of the rare seasonal beers to make it from the Winnipeg brewery to Alberta beer shelves is the summer brew Hoppen Heimer. Hoppen Heimer is stylistically defined as a wheat ale but I think it may be best described as a wheat IPA. Single hopped with Topaz to 73 IBU’s and brewed to a very sessionable 4.8% ABV Hoppen Heimer is guaranteed to be a unique beer.
Hoppen Heimer pours a bright clear gold with a thick soapy off white head atop. A small spritzy stream of bubbles as well as tons of soapy lacing rings coat the glass evident of the fresh hops. The first sniff out of the tall weizen glass has a bursting citrus and resinous aroma as well as a milder but present hefe style yeast. Notes of banana, orange rind and a pinch of coriander are all noted in the nose. A great big bursting hop flavour in the mid palate with orange and lemon zest flavours as well as crisp wheat and estery notes. A bit of banana and bubblegum blend well with the big hops. The finish is bitter and lingers on a bit relentlessly with an astringent dryness. The balance is a bit out of whack but the flavour profile is exciting and heaped full of hops and full bitterness.
I am finally getting around to posting reviews and blog articles on my May and June European Beer Vacation so this may be the first in a torrent of Belgian and Scandinavian beer articles. But during a 3 day stay in the Swedish capital of Stockholm and finally managing to find the government owned alcohol store known as Systembolaget I picked up a can of American IPA for Colorado. SKA Brewing Hoperandi is a beer I have seen many times on blogs, youtube reviews as well as on ratebeer and the like so choosing it instead of 100 SEK ($18 CAD) Swedish craft brews was an easy choice. For ony 29 SEK I purchased this little green can of hop elixir I had wanted to try for so long. SKA brewing is located in Durango, Colorado a distant town in SW Colorado closer to SantaFe and Albuquerque than Denver. At 6.8% ABV and 65 IBU’s this should be a hop rocket in a can. Later that evening after lettign Hoperandi cool a bit in my hostel fridge I set out to a bench overlooking the Baltic near my hostel on Skeppsholmen, Stockholm’s smallest island.
Unfortunately due to my rather bohemian style of travel I lacked a glass to pour this into and drank straight from the can. An aroma of solid citrus hop with a rather intense spicy hop note and resins. SKA Hoperandi smells like a freshly squeezed grapefruit mixed with sticky pine needles and resin with a bit of freshly cut grass atop. The first swill for the can has a mild sweet caramel malt with light toasted flavours and pervading citrus hop flavours in the mid-palate. A zingy tang of bitterness on the finish with definite grapefruit zest and a hot sticky resinous aftertaste. The hops linger well into the aftertaste with big floral grapefruit flavours. This although a surprisingly monotone beer has a rather nice drinkability and on a warm spring night in Stockholm it was most definitely a great beer experience.
Although this beer wasn’t Swedish I would soon visit a few of Stockholm’s legendary watering holes for some tasty treats.
Price: 29 SEK ($5 CAD)
The newest seasonal beer from Deschutes Brewery of Bend, Oregon to be released to Alberta beer shelves is Twilight Ale a refreshing Summer Pale Ale. Twilight is a 5% ABV American Pale Ale brewed with Amarillo hops from the Pacific NW. Deschutes is well known and well liked for not only their bold extreme specialty brews but their line up of sessionable flagship beers including Mirror Pon Pale Ale and Inversion IPA both of which are excellent summer brews.
Twilight pours with a golden and orange brilliance with steady carbonation and a thin finger of pure white head. A nice looking Pale Ale in general with a definite orange hoppy glow. The nose has a noted sweetness with mild caramalized notes as well as a hint of grapefruit and zesty citrus fruits. Overall a rather reserved and subtle aroma lacking the big hops I look for. Gorgeous caramel malt backbone in the mid palate with a juicy zest of grapefruit and citrus hitting soon afterwards. A rather sweet flavour profile with bitterness lingering a bit into the aftertaste. Nice balance with sweet caramel malts and a solid but not overbearing hop profile. A good sessionable pale ale from Deschutes but I think I’ll stick with Mirror Pond.
Price: $15/6 pack