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

Two Beers. The Northeast meets the Southwest.

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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:

Slaughterhouse IPA by Black Bridge

I am not a fan of IPA (India Pale Ale). Unthinkingly epitomizes the dark side of American craft beer – the indefatigable urge they seem to have to shove more hops than humanly necessary into a batch of beer whose body can’t balance the influx of all those alpha acids. The beers seem hop bloated, the way A Game of Thrones is bloated with characters and unnecessary sex and death.

Of course, I can’t seem to stop drinking them either. Just like Martin can’t seem to stop writing.

So here’s a local IPA. I wanted to like it.

ouch

Yeah. This was the only one I nearly couldn’t finish. The balance was right off.

Beer Culture of the US

This is my contribution to the Session. The subject is …

What … has America done to beer?‘, AKA, ‘USA versus Old World Beer Culture‘. It was chosen by Ding’s Beer Blog. Follow the links to learn more about both The Session and Ding.

The question should be ’what hasn’t America done to beers?’ I just finished reading Mr Ding’s (sounds weird, yes just trying to be respectful in my own sarcastic fashion) blog post about this subject. Now I feel ridiculous trying to fashion further thoughts.

Why try, then, right? Right. I’m just a foolish American with little culture. That’s not sarcasm. My drinking associate and I have often discussed the dearth of real history in culture in this country. However, perhaps I’m really just thinking of the western US. It’s got to be the youngest culture on earth. Right, I mean there are new countries being formed but usually it’s the same people, same culture – just new boundaries.

So I see the western US the little kid of the world. What’s it gonna do but imitate and go over the top in said imitation? Oh, your Tonka truck can hold that much dirt? Look I can bury mine!

What has that yielded? I am not the sublime cultural critic Mr Ding is. None of these points will be as salient as his or other bloggers. I do think, though, that he pointed out two quintessential American traits: irreverence and consumerism.

The irreverence has given us: Ridiculously Increased Hop Rates. Honestly, did Sierra Nevada really need to create Hoptimum? Did I really need to stand in line at a beer festival to taste it? And it also led to: Consistency and Blandness. This has been detrimental to beer culture and has already been discussed at length. For years.

I do appreciate the home brewing community, though, and its do-it-yourself attitude. Is there an “old world” equivalent? Other than the Dark Ages? I suppose home brewing hearkens back to the alewives of yestercentury. Cool. I think home brewing is a good answer to consumerism, though. Repurpose all this commercial stuff into useful brewing apparatus. Grow hops at home. I want to try some hydroponic barley gardening, myself.

Made In the Shade Beer Festival

The wife and I arrived around noon at the Cocnino Fairgrounds in Flagstaff, AZ. It was June 22nd, a clear, warm, sunny day in Flagstaff, with a few gusts of wind – the same gusts that have been plaguing us here in Kingman. I was distressed that they followed us to our getaway. We checked in and stood around for an hour waiting for the gates to open, watching the crowd pour in and mingle like CO2 bubbles in a pint glass, smelling ribs and pulled pork being prepped. A few tents were visible from our vantage; New Belgium, Lagunitas, Four Peaks. I was antsy, ready to spend our 48 tickets and fill our 4 oz tasting cups at the Made in the Shade beer festival.

When the gates did open the crowd filed in deliberately, politely, in subdued anticipation. I kept looking for the namesake shade. It only existed under some canopies in less than strategic spots. Outside of that you were the sun’s fair game. But, whatever,there was beer everywhere.

At first I planned on making a circuitous route starting at the first station, which happened to be Four Peaks, and finishing at Lagunitas, which was the closest to the gates. I quickly discovered that there was way more beer there than even I, The Rog, could drink. So the strategy changed to finding the beers and breweries I had never sampled. I had also planned on taking tasting notes for each beer. While I did have a pen and notecards it was difficult to write while holding a beer cup and tickets. So what follows are just a few, brief highlights of my favorites.

Desert Eagle – Mesa, Arizona
A this tent I sampled Red Mountain Ale. It looked dark for a red and was very malty – like Whoppers, the candy. Strangely thick and chocolatey for a red. They did have a cool Arizona Craft Beer Road Map which lists a variety of breweries in Arizona. Good job for promoting beer!

Wanderlust – Flagstaff, Arizona
Love the breweries in Flag! Their Pan American Stout was awesome! Burnt wood, charred vanilla, one of the best stouts ever. I could have spent the entire festival drinking this. Another offering was Chateau Americana.  It is a corrupted Belgian, with hops, but still good – a little clean but some Belgian character under that pale al.

Goose Island – Chicago, IL
Yes, they were recently bought out by the evil corporate Budweiser thing. I couldn’t help myself.  The first beer I sampled was Sofie Paradisi.  It had an incredible citrus flavor.  It was four ounces of summer, like being poolside, sweltering, but enjoying every minute of the scenery and the sounds.  Then, at 2 pm they tapped Bourbon County Stout.  There’s no hint of bourbon flavor in this stout.  No, the bourbon is about all you notice, it just knocks you out.  My wife loved Sofie and the first things she said about this stout was, “Where’s the pancakes?”  Yeah, some intense sweetness in that thing.

Pints – Laughlin, Nevada
Formerly home of the Boiler Room, a brewery dear to my heart, Pints is relatively close to us. I haven’t had the heart to go sample it since the former brewery closed.  The Boiler Room took lots of my money and lots of my weekend time years ago; they had a gorgeous red for which my friends and I were insatiable.  So I was actually happy to have a chance to try their beers.  The American hefeweizen was dry, too dry.   The appearance was right but the taste left something to be desired. But man can that place make a red.  Pints offers Rehab Red a finely balanced, glistening delight.  It doesn’t match the memory of the old red, but it might be worth another trip.

Bad Water – Scottsdale, Arizona
These guys seemed a little sure of themselves – but they are from Scottsdale!  They have only one beer, which isn’t a bad way to start, I guess.  Work it to perfection.  Their experiment is a saison. I love that style so was anxious to try this one.  It seemed a little weak, kind of watery, not enough farmy spice and tang. But keep brewing!  I’ll keep tasting!

Sierra Nevada – Chico, California
I can’t stop myself from going to their tent. I know their beers, their style.  Just can’t stop.  So I tried Bigfoot again. My craft beer geek side says like it because it’s touted as the ‘greatest American barleywine’ – but I can’t.  The hops are just too much.  It’s a harsh, overstated beer.  That being said, at 2:30 I stood in line for the tapping of Hoptimum. Oh, you don’t think they had enough hops in Bigfoot and all their other beers? Well, this one makes up for it.  Monster.

We also chatted for a bit with the owners and operators of a pending brewery, Mother Bunch Brew.  Their brewery isn’t open yet (neither is the website) but they hope to be running about this time next year in Phoenix.  Hope all goes well for them – I’ll be looking for their beers at the next beer fest.

The Session #69 – The Perfect Beer World

And now for this month’s Session.

This month it is from Jorge at Brew Beer And Drink It.  I’ll say it now – rock on, Jorge.  There are two reasons for this:  Uno) Jorge lives in Arizona (right on, Jorge); Dos) Jorge has a straightforward, western, to the point, no beating-around-the-bush, call a spade a spade, etc., name for his blog (right on, Jorge); Tres) – oh, right, I said two reasons, yes, my bad.

Anyway, Jorge presented this theme:

 … what is something you would like to see change… something that will take us closer to the Perfect Beer World?

It’s so simple that it pains me to make the obvious statement.  The Beer World shall indeed be perfect whence-forth it has accepted me as its rightful King.

Until then, I suppose there could be some other changes.  I shall try to conceive of them.  Well, at least think of them.  Ah, wait, here they are, approaching me as vassals should, with their knees bent, beating themselves upon the head, desiring to kiss my awesome Ring of Power. ( isn’t it awesome, it opens beer bottles, you see.)  They quietly and respectfully tell me the things that the World of Beer must know and alter so that it may live on to times indefinite …

FIRST AND FOREMOST
American craft brewers, please, stop with your incessant belief that hops is the greatest beer ingredient since the Egyptians started fermenting whatever they fermented and called it beer!  I mean, really!  Let me illustrate with some imaginary dialogue between a producer of fine beer (Brewer) and a consumer of this fine beer (Drinker).

“Behold,” says Brewer and he holds forth his newest libation, a glistening copper nectar. 

“Oh, lovely, what is it?” says Drinker, appreciator of all that is sacred and beery.  “What makes it utterly unbelievable and greater than all other beers?”

“I put hops in it,” says Brewer. 

A record scratching sound imposes itself into the conversation.  “What the …” says Drinker.  “You mean like Joe across the street?”

Brewer smiles a smile of smugness.  “Nay, Little Joe put in his amber beer only a couple of ounces of hops.  I, I have put seven hundred and eighty five ounces of hops in my three gallon pilot brew.  I shall make hop farmers wealthy land barons!”

Drinker rolls his eyes.  “Whatever, Bill put 784 ounces in his.”

Stop it.

SECOND AND SECONDMOST
There can be a separation of alcohol worlds.  It’s okay.  What do I mean by this?

Stop being such snobs!  Brewers and beer judges are starting to sound like uppity wine people, blabbing on about the age of their barrels and the vanilla bouquet of [insert French sounding words here] and going all geeky about how the cuvee de amber of what’s-his-name just sublimely complements the current of currants in a grease braised country fried steak.  Whatever.

Granted, the tastes and flavors of beer are sophisticated and generous, as much or more so than wine.  But that does not mean beer people should try to be, well, see above.  Come on.  Beer is the ultimate social drink.  Sharing a beer with someone puts each drinker on the same playing field – just another human enjoying humanity’s greatest beverage with another human.  Open, honesty, happy – that’s beer.  So act that way!

ONE LAST ITEM OF NOTE
Wouldn’t be great if beer was free?

The Session #68 – Strange, New, Unusual, Different Beers

The theme: Novelty Beers
99 Pours gives us this theme:  “With the onslaught of even weirder beards…erm…beers…than before, I can’t help but wonder if novelty beers are going too far. Or maybe not far enough? LOL! As a merchant of beer, I can see the place for novelty beers, as I am choosing for some customers who say, “I want the strangest beer you have.”

So, novelty.  I had to tell myself what this was.  What follows is the odd debate/investigation/whatever that went on in my head regarding this subject.  Novelty is “something that is novel.” And not the literary kind. No, novel is a thing that is “strikingly new, unusual, or different.”  In the announcement above there is also the added qualifier “strange.”

Thus, I am presented with discussing beers that are strange, new, unusual, different.  It’s the “strange” connotation that is troubling me.  I suppose the argument could be made that if something is strange it is strikingly different.  But strange isn’t necessarily strikingly new.  New and unusual is usually innovative, imagination-capturing, cool, the first time you fall in love, iPads, lightsabers.  Different can be good or bad.  But strange throws me off.  It’s like there should be a distinction here between a thing that is new and a thing that is strange.  Strange, for me, wants to be a thing that is just, well, not right.

Then there is the temporal aspect that the word novelty engenders.  It almost imbues an object with a transitory existence.  Or, at least, a short life that ends in dusty nostalgia – you know, that “novel” coffee mug that is taking up space in your cabinet.

Within those boundaries I must fit beer.  A new and unusual beer, for me, was wit beers.  They were brilliant, cloudy, spicy things.  Yet, they are anything but transitory.  They are different, but not strange.  Same with lambics, which were my first thoughts for novelty beers.  Sour, fruity … weird.  Yeah, maybe those are the beers that fit here.  They are unusual.  Even avid beer lovers will sometimes shy away from these face-curdlers.  Or some may turn up their nose because of the fruity nature.  But they intrigue me and many others.  Raspberry and cherry and other stuff.  I don’t like fruit in my beer,  but it seems so appropriate in a lambic.  Truly, I have only had a couple of easily imported or domestic made lambics.  Not the real things.  They are unusual, I want more.  Are they strange?

One beer style that stretches for a place on the strange list is chili beers.  I had a Crazy Ed’s Chili beer once, long ago.  There was an actual chili in the bottle.  It was the most horrid thing I’ve ever had.  It was, without doubt, strange.  I didn’t want to give up on them, though.  I tried Ring of Fire from Dragonmead Brewery.  It was like drinking a bowl of nachos.  That’s weird.  It was a good beer.  But definitely … different.  I might drink it again.  I love peppers, but apparently not in my beer.

At times, I think the brewing scene on the west coast of the US is all novelty, what with the idiotic amount of hops brewers will put into any style.  Ridiculous.  Does all this cover “novelty?” I just don’t know.  My experience is limited.   Other, better, brewers and bloggers will be weighing in on this subject.  Look to them for guidance!

Samuel Adams Octoberfest – One of Those Beers, the Kind that Turned Me Into a Beer Enthusiast

Yes, back in the day – almost fifteen years ago now – the great beer, Octoberfest, was introduced to me and I to it.  An old friend and I were in the mood for a marzen and we found the Sam Adams version and there was great rejoicing.  It’s a beautiful beer.  We used to have a big party two or three times a year wherein his family and ours and a couple of other would hang out, eat good food and drink beer.  Octoberfest was almost always on the menu if the party hit late in the year.

I think what I love about Octoberfest, and marzen’s in general, is how easy they are to drink.  They are like the ultimate beer style.  For example, Octoberfest does have hops – you can smell that noble green product hovering in the creamy head – but they don’t overpower or dominate the brew.  And Boston Beer has a penchant for hops.  The hops have found their place, they are the gorgeous backup singers in this band.

The roasted malts are sublimely balanced, they taste sweet, just slightly caramelized, a hint of their roasted nature.  The malts provide a medium body, not too thick, not too diluted.  The malts are the band here, a tight band, one that’s played together for years and understands the direction each are taking and they all contribute to the finished product.  The caramel malts help give it the brilliant red-amber glow.  Those Munich malts probably donated the bready aroma.   And they all pitched in for the yeast to provide an alcohol content of5.%.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Talk about a session beer, I think marzen’s are the best.  They don’t require strenuous thinking to dissect their discrete parts.  The beer doesn’t fill you up, it doesn’t assault you with alcohol.  It is everything a beer should be, refreshing, tasty, eminently sharable.  It’s my favorite Sam Adams beer.

I like Boston Beer Company more and more, too.  Now that the malignant Budweiser is no longer and American brewery, Boston Beer has taken over as the largest domestic brewery here.  At least, I believe that’s the case.  (If I am wrong, please, someone notify me).  It has waged war with the bigger breweries, never surrendering, always pressing forward, brewing with honor.  I’m gonna go drink another pint and read another book.