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:

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!

Ships were searched by temperance zealots, rum dumped into the sea, muskets loosed, people tarred-and-feathered, but the establishment of breweries could not be stopped.

The World Guide to Beer by Michael Jackson

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. 

Of Soundscapes and Drinking With Your Ears

Music is a large portion of everyone’s life. Consider how it affects another big part of your life – your food & drink

A few weeks ago, Science Friday had a segment that featured Charles Spence, author of the book Gastrophysics:  The New Science of Eating.   Spence is investigating how sounds enhance your victuals.  He conducted an experiment some years ago at a seafood restaurant.  Some diners listened to the sound of cutlery and others listened to the sounds of sea.  Those who listened to the sea rated the sea as better tasting or enjoyable.

The experiment (referenced in the Journal of Sensory Studies in 2010) shows how sound might be used to emphasize or draw people’s attention to certain flavors of the dish.  …  In light of findings like these … it would be smart for cooks, restaurants, and others involved in food marketing to understand how music might influence the taste of their food.

The Edinburgh Beer Factory evidently gave consideration to this research.  According to a story in The Guardian in 2016,

“Kirsty Dunsmore, co-founder, says: “We’re trying to get people to rethink lager [the Factory’s main product]; see it as more stylish. We’ve found its visual representation and musical context can help reframe that and make the customer enjoy it more.”  … She adds that the Edinburgh Beer Factory targets consumers who are most likely to buy into its brand. “We target them in three ways: through our social media activity [by selecting favourite bands when posting a tailored Facebook ad, for instance], partnerships and sponsorship and content.” David Bowie, Joy Division and New Order are often mentioned in the business’s social media posts, for example. “

Thus, soundscapes are employed not just on premises to encourage and enhance drinking but in the marketing side of the establishment.  The research paper Noise and its impact on the perception of food and drink noted that

 … it soon becomes clear that much of our enjoyment of food and drink actually resides in the anticipation of consumption and the subsequent memories we have, at least when it comes to those food experiences that are worth remembering.  (Italics added)

Flavor, it seems, is something of an illusion; a multi-sensory experience that resides in far more places than just the taste buds.  In fact, the paper noted above sates

“It has been estimated, at least by some researchers (e.g. see [53, 54]), that as much as 80% or 90% of what people commonly refer to as the taste of food and drink really originates from the olfactory signals picked up by the nose “

Following that there is anticipation of the food or drink (like when you know someone at home is making some chocolate chip cookies and it’s all you can think about all day); then there’s seeing the thing, tasting the thing, the ambiance of the venue (voices, known and unknown; clink or clunk of glasses and plates on table or bar; music.)  All these contribute to flavor.  Therefore, taste will be different each time and for each person since all of us have our own personal and disparate perceptions.  When you visit your local brewery and drink a Locomotive Stout or Legend of Tom it’s possible to be in a crabby mood; the beer may not seem as good as yesterday’s when, in fact, physically, there is no variation.  Mood impacts flavor.  Mood can be altered by the things noted above.

Spence’s research also points out that high music brings out sweet tastes and low music emphasizes sour tastes.  He mentions in his paper

the hedonic valence of sucrose (but not of sodium chloride) solutions were elevated (meaning that people reported liking the solutions more) when listening to either loud noise or music.

Friday visitors to Black Bridge Brewery are apt to hear Def Leppard Radio playing via Pandora.  The music, whether it be Def Leppard (isn’t that 80s stuff high pitched?) or other selections (for, indeed, one person’s musical proclivity is another’s hullabaloo) drives the ambiance and maybe, just maybe, that adds to pleasure of the whole experience.  Music enhances flavor.  Interestingly, too, the sweetness of the food or drink was rated better with loud background noise or music playing than when the participants had the same food or drink in silence.

These studies were also carried out with lab rats, of course.  They revealed another effect of loud noise.  The lab rats ate and drank more as the background noises increased.  Couple that with

recent findings from a 4-year study from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden [which] found that for every 10-dB increase in the road traffic noise levels, there was a 3-cm increase in waist size. More dramatically still, those exposed to loud airplane noise had a waist line that was, on average, 6 cm larger.

Loud noises (hi, Brick) will make patrons drink faster.  If restaurants, or bars, want more sales maybe they are cranking up the noise, too.  More consumption also adds to the increasing waist lines noted above.  But that is a level of loudness that prevents talking.   Generally, this will not be the case at your local.  There, talking is totally possible and music can be the backdrop of connection and an enhancement of flavor.

—- Sources for your perusal —–