Two New England Style IPA’s – Hops & Dreams and Anaconda Squeeze

It’s not officially a style. Yet it has become a thing in the brewing world. It’s yellow, hazy and fruity; a pale ale crossed with a Hefeweizen.  A double IPA, unfiltered.   It’s called New England IPA. Saturday, December 9 is the tapping party for Black Bridge Brewery’s take on this beer.

I have not had an actual New England IPA. At least, not that I can recall.  I’ve only ever lived in the Southwest: Texas, New Mexico, Arizona. My experience is limited to what I’ve read in brewing literature. Let that inform all that is to follow.

The beer style has also been called a Vermont IPA, since Heady Topper from the Alchemist is evidently the prototype for this beer, though there are brewers in Oregon that argue they’ve been brewing a cloudy, subdued IPA much longer. I’ll leave them, and the reader, to debate the history and nomenclature of this kind of beer.

It appears to me, from my reading, that these beers should be moderate in hops bitterness, heavy in hops aroma, especially of the melon-ish variety.  And they should have a juicy quality; i.e., it should be like drinking a moderately hopped orange juice.

Here’s a few current descriptors of this nascent beer style, highlights I looked for in my pint:

  • Hazy, turbid appearance
  • Tropical fruit aroma with restrained hops bitterness; grapefruit, peach, apricot
  • A soft, pillowy mouthfeel with a creamy aftertaste
  • Juicy, fruity flavor. Esters from yeast are good.

For now, I’ll focus on what I think the beer is supposed to be and Black Bridge’s version, which is named Hops & Dreams.  (Fear not, Hops the Cat is still alive and well at the brewery. Perhaps some of you were also concerned that the familiar feline may have made its way into the beer itself, not just its name).

That Smell …
The resinous aroma of Cascade-ish hops erupts from this beer. There are other hops there, to be sure, but mostly of the piney nature; Idaho 7 for example. Another customer in Black Bridge indicated this beer was redolent of naught but grapefruit to her. Scents of tropical fruit and black tea faintly appeared to me about halfway through the pint. They were very subdued.

In Appearance …
Perfect. Just like a wit beer, hazy and milky and a solid white head. Burnished yellow, like a faded highway traffic sign. The haze was made appropriately, with some additions of wheat.

But the Taste …
Restrained hops bitterness is one of the characteristics … but we are talking about Black Bridge. I expected little restraint in the use of hops and was not disappointed.  The initial hit of this beer is a mosh pit of sharp, resinous, piney hops. The aftertaste, too, is harsh and astringent. Not unpleasant, mind you, just aggressive and dry.  In between the first taste and the aftertaste is a medium strength body.  The malt character, of which there should not be copious amounts, is enough to make this very drinkable.  Far more drinkable than I anticipated after the first few swallows.

Conclusions
It’s appropriately hazy, but I could not discern the fruity hops notes, or the juice-like mouthfeel, that I expected. If I recall correctly, the B3 house yeast can produce pleasant esters, which would work in this beer. And their recent barley wine, Katastrophic Humiliation, certainly had some soft, tropical fruit notes that would also fit this beer perfectly.   I thought some of that might make an appearance here.  But I could not find them.

That does not mean this beer is without merit.  Hops & Dreams is a hops forward and alcoholically powerful IPA and has Black Bridge’s fingerprints all over it.  Tim Schritter  loves beer and brewing, and the IPA style in particular, and it shows in this beer, which I think of as a session double IPA.  (Ironically, I that’s what Heady Topper is classified as, too, which I did not know before writing all this).

Actually, it seems to me that it should be called a Hualapai Style IPA instead of New England style. It is barbaric and beautiful as is the desert in which it was born.  While I did not find what I expected (and that’s all on me), there is no flaw in Hops & Dreams.  I hope it finds a permanent home on the Tap List.

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Now on to the next New England Style IPA that can be found in Kingman. This one is at Rickety Cricket, just down the street from Black Bridge.

I had a sample of their kolsch at a recent beer festival and that is the only exposure I’ve had to the brews Terry is producing at the Cricket.  His NEIPA, called Anaconda Squeeze, was the first actual pint I’ve had from them.

That Smell …
Not much aroma came from the beer, certainly no fruit or floral hops. Standard grassy bouquet.

In Appearance …
The Anaconda’s clarity was fantastic, even though it should not have had any whatsoever. It completely lacked the turbidity that should be present. It was also a bronze-ish red. That is slightly off the spectrum I anticipated. Needs to be a pale yellow.

But the Taste …
Hops flavor was missing from the body of the beer, too. There was a hint of some American hops, perhaps, but not very heavy. Some malt character came through.

Conclusions
Anaconda Squeeze has a cool name (if, indeed, it is derived from Nacho Libre).  It is, admittedly, not a New England style IPA although it is billed as such by the brewery. Terry knows it needs adjustment. The beer is a good, standard pale ale. Nice clarity, good mouthfeel, easy to drink and no substandard flavors at all.  I need to try some more of Rickety Cricket’s beers, to be sure, but right now I’d say they need to find a way to make their beers scream “we are Rickety Cricket and we love beer.” They need a signature of some kind.

You can have both of these beers this weekend. My pick will be Hops & Dreams.

Cheers!

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Further Reading for the Style that Isn’t a Style:

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This topper spirit, yclept the Germanic racial inclination towards bibacity, this bragging of bibulous achievements, for which, as heroic deeds, admiration was exacted, were clearly remnants of the medieval temper, and were transmitted to modern times, although the present age has doubtless sobered down, even if, now and then, there is still something shown of this medieval awe and respect for the unsubdued knight of the bowl.

Origin and History of Beer and Brewing by John P Arnold

This sentence is thronged with alliteration, commas, idioms and breathless, mellifluous vocabulary. Love it!

Gender Roles and Brewing

One of the first axioms learned in home brewing is Charlie Papazian’s Proverb:  “Relax.  Don’t worry.  Have a home brew.”  Two weeks ago I heard that refrain on the Brewing Patio at Black Bridge.  A Belgian Blonde was being brewed by two women, Rachel & Sharon.  They were both questioning temperature as the beer was being transferred to the fermentation vessels.  They were told to ‘not worry so much.’  Their response was, ‘we’re women.  We worry.’

The declaration made me wonder: do women, in fact, worry more than men?  What is the objective of their worry compared to men?  Are they concerned about their reputations?  Or are they concerned about the well being of those they serve? Or is it pointless to even make that a thing because, we are all, you know, people?  After all, let’s not forget it was a man who penned the above warning regarding worry.  Many men have read that warning and have had to remind themselves of it during a stressful brewday.

Before you continue reading, I feel I must warn you – there are no answers to the above questions.  At least, not from me.  Go forth, then, and have a full discussion of gender roles.

Traditionally women have been entrusted with domestic management.  They have always been concerned about how and known the way to take care of their family.  An important part of family life is centered around food and drink.  Beer – or wine, or mead, or alcohol of choice – has always been a part of human life; from ancient times women were usually bread makers and beer brewers. It was a home activity. Once it became a profession or an industry men arrogated it.  More women are becoming involved in the commercial brewing industry now.  Women may especially worry about their performance in this industry and others because they are working in what has now become a man’s environment and they feel they must prove themselves.  Whose fault is that?

The point?  Humans have brewed.  Humans are brewing.  Maybe we should just leave it at that.  Gender politics should not be a thing.  Therefore, I have mixed feelings on whether I should write this up the way I am. But here I am doing it.  Fine.  I’ll throw this in – one difference I noted in the Belgian brewday was the number of selfies happening.  I have no idea how that fits into the gender role discussion.

As noted above the beer being brewed was Belgian Blonde with additions of prickly pear.  That’s right, No Pricks Allowed has returned.  While the female brewers of the beer were different than last year there have been no other stylistic to the beer.  From what I recall, it was a beautiful beverage – outstanding clarity and bright purple color.  It had a light body and drank quickly and easily.  It’s Belgian-ness was not overpowering, nor was the prickly pear.

Here we are in the post-modern information age and still arguing over race and gender.  I’m simply going to argue that No Pricks Allowed was a good beer last time around.   And If I recall correctly, last year’s iteration of this beer encouraged Janelle to begin her own home brewing adventures.

Politics, gender or otherwise, may be a verboten subject at the brewery (yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s not true) but beer and brewing is always on the table so check for this Belgian Blonde in the coming week.  Raise a glass to the people in your life.

A Benefit of Autonomous Cars

I salute the Machine. I am an advocate of autonomous cars. And I finally just realized another benefit of the self-driving car revolution. I can drink while driving. Because I won’t be driving.

Long live machine

Future supreme

– Metallica, “Spit Out the Bone”

The B3 Brunch Redux

Black Bridge is hosting breakfast again. This time the brunch is catered by Sirens Cafe, a restaurant next door to our venerable nanobrewery. The menu is quite different from the previous offerings, but Carmella usually does good work so I was optimistic.   

We started with drinks: a beermosa made with Lil Orange Van, Oktoberfest and 66 Porter, and a Dr Pepper.  So, everybody – Lil Orange Van Beermosas. Fantastic!  You’re welcome, Kingman, for having that drink introduced to you.  Seriously, you want it. (Insert Jedi mind trick hand wave). 

Then we ordered breakfast; a ham & Swiss quiche; candied bacon avocado toast; chicken & waffles with bourbon syrup. Now, I’ll be totally honest here. Sometimes, I feel that Sirens does some, well, eclectic food. And I was a smidge concerned when I saw the menu for today.  However, I am now totally a believer. The food was great. I had the chicken and waffles. Both were light and ambrosial. Really, that lightness was key. It was not a greasy slab of chicken and overly breads waffle. They were balanced and slight on the palate and the syrup was not overpowered with bourbon. The hint was there and that was sufficient. 

So, I won’t say it was superior to Tim’s fare last year -his candied bacon and pozole was just superb – but the food today was sapid, toothsome, yummy. I was very happy.  

Granted, I’m no foodie but this was a lot of fun and a good addition to the program for livening up the downtown area.  Cheers to Tim and Carmella!  I will look for the next opportunity to attend the Hipster Breakfast. Even if I’m beyond the “hipster” years. Whatever. 

Black Bridge and Wine

As difficult as it is for me to accept, not everyone loves beer. Some prefer wine. Well, Kingman’s first and best nano-brewery now offers wine.  It is served alongside the outstanding craft beer. Cheers to all!