Rejoice, It’s National IPA Day and All

Today beer snobs can be celebratory since their ballyhooed libation is all center stage and such. Unlike, of course, the rest of the year when it’s only the most popular craft beer style in the world. Well, maybe just the US.  Anyway, yay.

The IPA is for beer snobs. We either cherish it as a gift from the children of Dionysius or revile it as the product of spoiled hipsters and palate starved brewing pioneers. There seems to be little in between areas. No one says, oh an IPA, how quaint; or, how meh, I’ll just have a stout please.

No, IPA fans will slather at the bar and demand vicious levels of IBUs. IPA haters will gather at the end of the bar and roll their collective eyes and mutter invective about mainstream craft beer Hops Hunters. Because IPA is mainstream beer.

And I may be a believer.

I have not forsworn my Belgians and my stouts. But I do grok the place of IPA.

Enough of that!  Drink what you desire and if it be IPA then go forth. There are some wonderful options in Kingman. At Black Bridge I recommend Rival and Cliff Dweller.  Rival is just, well, fantastic. Beautiful color, just the right level of hops, subtle alcohol presence.  At Rickety Cricket, Enigma of Your Imagination. It’s well done, with a very dry finish and some interesting plum and mint flavors that surprised me.

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Beer Review: Dankwood

  • Brewery:  Founders Brewing
  • ABV:  12.2%
  • Style:  Imperial Red IPA
  • Serving:  Bottle
  • Bottled Roger Rating:  88%

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Begin At the Beginning (Aroma)
Resin.  Pine.  Right at bottle opening there is a spritz of whiskey.  Vanilla after the resin fades.

And Go On (Appearance)
Towards the red spectrum (really??).  The head looks like a foam mesa.  Maybe a paper mâché.  It’s also whiskey brown.

Till You Come to the End (Taste)
Resin & pine fades into orange rinds.  Creamy vanilla tames the hops, reigns them in.  It becomes more pronounced as the beer warms.

Then Stop (Conclusions)
I feared the IPA-ness but it was not harsh, the vanilla notes helped.  The beer has a solid theme:  resiny hops, oak/wood body, harsh & bitter contrast.

Likely to drink again.

 

Flight of the Cricket – Six Beers from Rickety Cricket

There are two breweries in Kingman.  I spend most of my beertime at Black Bridge.  It was the first and it is still my favorite.  However, I do need to spend some effort on Rickety Cricket’s beer.  After all, this blog is about the Beer World of Kingman.  And so, for you, the community, I have made sacrifices.  I have dedicated myself to drinking beer at more than one location.  You are welcome.

Upon arriving at Rickety Cricket you will be met by the smiling face of Nicole; if not, find out why – she is the bartender you want.  She knows beer and can provide good guidance on tap choices and stories about the local brews.

Now, the title of this blog post indicates I had six beers.  This is true, but I also decided to add one more.  I’d found these brief notes made during a dinner at the Cricket.  They are in regard to the Coffee Porter.  Terry had told me when it was debuting and I wanted to make sure to try it right away.

So, seven, seven beers!  Once again, you people types are welcome.

Coffee Porter:

Dark. Medium body. Good tan head. Head dissipates quick. Cold brew coffee added. From Beale St. Nice subdued addition. A little bitterness added but not too much. Subtle touch. Comes up on back end to add a nice touch to the porter. Elegant. Balanced.

Slight coffee aroma no hops evident. Brown porter. Gone before I knew it.

Rickety Cricket has eleven beers on tap, to my surprise.  I only expected six.  I only tried six.  Look!  More opportunities for me to diligently apply myself to the consumption of barley based libations for the betterment of all Kingman.  I feel so altruistic.

The Flight of the Cricket:

Anaconda Squeeze. Rebranded an IPA.  That works.  Danky hops, dry body, good legs.  Smells like the APA below. Much better now than it was a few weeks ago.

Angry Ex Girlfriend (once called a blond, now an American Pale Ale). Splendid aroma. Citrusy. A little chalky maybe? That could be me. This is better as an APA than it was a blond. Not hoppy enough to warrant “angry.”  But good.

Bearded Bagpipe.  Meh on the name. More meh on the taste.  I think this is a miss. There is a sharp, dark flavor I can’t quite figure out. But it’s not quite right.  It’s off in some way I can’t pin down here at the bar.

Porter. Roasted grain. Dark toasted flavor. Yeah, lost track of notes while drinking. Fantastic.

Stay Puft. A stout. Let’s see … nice. Lactic character at the end. Sugary.  A sweet stout to be sure.  Good color.

Bird Cage Blonde.  Well done. A little more hops than I anticipated but not bad at all. Dry but decent body. Great color. Impressed.

Overall, the beers seem solid, stable.

Anaconda Squeeze started life as New England IPA, but it wasn’t right at all.  Making it a straight IPA was a better idea, although I would have just kept it as is and left it as my American Pale Ale.  Angry Ex Girlfriend could have then be re-designed into Bird Cage, which is just a fabulous light, easy beer. What?  That would leave them without an IPA?  Oh, heaven forbid that a brewery exist that has no IPA!  What blasphemy!  But, anyway, my real point behind all that chatter is that Anaconda Squeeze has turned into a pretty good beer.

The Irish Red, however, the Bearded Bagpipe, was not so delectable.  It suffered from some temperature issues, I was told, resulting in a woody character that didn’t fit.  This round of that beer was not good at all, but Nicole says they’ll have more ready in about two weeks so I’ll give it another go then.

The porter was my favorite of the flight.  I’ve got a growler of it at home so I’ll spend some more time with that beer later.  There’s also a black IPA, a collaboration beer with Black Bridge, that I’d like to further study.

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:

Pliny the Elder by Russian River Brewing

In May of 2014 we took a trip into California. This took us through Santa Rosa and I wanted to stop by Russian River Brewing. One of the reasons was Pliny the Elder. It’s one of those beers that is always spoken highly of in all the beer circles I know and on beer blog’s, etc., and etc. Well, we found the brewery and it had a line outside that was four days long. Thus, I found another brewery to visit.

Eight years ago I went to the Great American Beer Festival. While there, I tried to visit Russian River’s booth. For the above mentioned Pliny. Again, a bloody line that was too long for me to consider. Way too many other beers were available. Why kill time in one line? This year, 2015, I went again. Same story.

Then, a local source for Pliny the Elder was revealed. I am indebted. I finally, finally was able to drink this beer! So, cheers and thank you to the Source(s)!

All that being said, Pliny the Elder is an IPA. Not only an IPA, but a double IPA. What was I thinking?

That Smell …
First comes the hops. I mean, it is an IPA. Hops are its thing. A strong citrus aroma, resinous and lemony, introduced itself to me. It was actually very inviting. But, then, it’s not the hops aroma that bothers me. According to style guidelines, a double IPA should have prominent and intense American hop smell. Gold Star for you, Pliny.

In Appearance …
It looks yellowish-orange. More on the yellow side. Like damp hay, or a treasure chest of gold coins, at sunset. It had an inviting clarity. It’s appearance was deceptive, for this looked like standard issue beer. It had very little head, but that may have been a function of the state of my sample (not complaining, not at all). Style guides indicate a golden to light orange-copper color, pale, good clarity. Gold Star for you, Pliny.

But the Taste …
This does not attack or finish like most IPAs I’ve had. It does have a strong, strong flavor of hops but they do not smack you in the face; it’s more of an energetic hand-waving that invites you to a party of lemon and resin and alcohol. The body was beautifully smooth and sleek, yes, very sleek. There was just enough body to give the beer some weight in the mouth, a counterbalance to the zephyr of hops. The aftertaste is clean and dry. So, strong and complex hops flavor, check; high to absurdly high bitterness, check (thank you for not being absurdly high); a non-harsh, lingering dry aftertaste. Double Gold Stars for you, Pliny.

The Conclusion of the Matter Is …
I understand why the lines are so large for this beer. This is what IPAs and double IPAs and all that lot can be. The smoothness of this IPA surprised me and, in the end, sold me on it. This is not harsh, not a mouthful of hoppy glass. It’s … Art. No, no, art as in Da Vinci, etc. Rembrandt. Picasso. Russian River. It’s summer vacations and life’s milestones, like graduations and anniversaries. Honestly, I could actually drink this beer. It’s either that good or I’m finally getting weak and giving in to the IPAs. Seriously, this was much better than I expected it to be. I can’t even say anything bad about it, and I really tried. Okay, fine, fine! What little bit of foam there was that constituted the head was white. Not off-white, just straight up white. Blanco. There, go forth, Russian River brewing types and fix that!