Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Bottled American beer tastings

Since my occasional American house-guests and other visitors are very generous and always bring over a few bottles or cans of beer with them, I try to keep tasting notes of the less usual pints we have at their expense! Presented here in no particular order (and with more to come…).

Ballast Point, Sculpin IPA: a nice San Diego-brewed blond and foamy ale, with lime zesty hoppiness in the nose, and green fruit sweetness that quickly tarts up to a pithy bitterness that lingers quite nicely. This one went down well. (****)

Sierra Nevada, Harvest: this single hop IPA from California is a very light, orange/yellow beer, almost the exact colour of a pint of wifebeater, with a light head (bit a bit excitable if not chilled enough, again reminiscent of “classy” lagers). There’s a very faint fruity hop aroma, but surprisingly odorless for an IPA; the first taste is sweet orange on the tip of the tongue, very quickly washing over with a brutally bitter follow-on in the mouth before you can say much more about it, like taking a huge mouthful of pith and tart juice. The bitterness is what dominates throughout thereafter, sappy, like a bitter bark tea. Breathing in over the aftertaste I got a bit of yeasty fruit and pits, malty with hints of burnt raisin, but also a very intense green-wood tangy sweetness. The hoppy bitterness dominates so overwhelmingly that it drowns out anything else you might taste in there, or enjoy. Perfectly drinkable, but a bit disappointing. (**)

Alaskan Brewing Co., JalapeƱo Imperial IPA: cheeky amber in colour, with a fruity, hoppy aroma, somewhere between juniper honey and unripe cranberry (Silke said it reminded her of a hair product: when pressed she said only, “It would be a nice perfume for a shampoo, anyway.”) A nice peppery first taste, hints of paprika, tart but not spicy, sweet and zesty like tropical fruit in the mouth; there's a faint coconut or pineapple aftertaste, with pleasant but not especially lingering capsaicin notes in the piny finish. A bit gimmicky, but not at all bad. (***)

Knee Deep, Citra Extra Pale Ale: another strong California ale, with a cloudy caramel colour (it may not have settled properly before we opened it), a tart smell of lemon and almond, and a sweet, tropical fruit first taste with some apricot. There are notes of lemon zest and pits in the mouth, with an intense cakey, molasses and lemon skin bitterness. The heavy yeast gives a lovely kick to this very nicely balanced beer. It's a little bit monolithic, on our judgement, but still a very good drop. (****)

Avery, Maharaja Imperial IPA: this is a barleywine-strength super-IPA from the enthusiastic Avery brewery in Boulder, Colorado, which comes in a highly (if somewhat appropriatively) decorated 20 oz bottle, festooned with a rather annoyed-looking Indian monarch in full regalia. The beer itself is red-amber in color, only slightly foamy, with an odor of yeast and poached apple; very tart, with honey and bark in the first taste, expanding to crushed lime kernels in the mouth, smoky and intensely yeasty on the swallow, although the sparkly and dark taste lingers better on the tongue than the bitterness does in the throat. Overall this beer is warm and spicy, good with hearty, savory food, but at 10.2% is a little too intense for my tastes. (***)

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