5 Beers for 5 Years

Congratulations & respect to Black Bridge for making it to the five year mark.  That milestone, no easy task for any business at any time, will be commemorated this weekend.   The little powerhouse of a brewery has accomplished so many things in the past half decade … never pouring a bad pint, securing medals, spearheading the renaissance of downtown Kingman, flashpointing a community of brewers, other stuff I’ve not listed here.  Sincerely, it’s a wonderful place deserving of all its success.

Some markers of success for a business:  1) solid business plan; 2) realistic growth plan; 3) attracting a successful staff; 4) desire to succeed; 5) good product that creates repeat customers.  Mission accomplished, so here’s a big Cheers to Five Years!  A virtual high five, as it were.

Since this my blog I’m going to write about what I say are the 5 best Black Bridge Beers from the past Five Years.  And, of course, I will be right about them all.  Leave a list of five more in the comments.

Locomotive Stout
Alas, this stout is no more.  It has been replaced with Hooley Stout.  To be sure, that is a good beer as are Stresstout and Angry Elf.  But nothing will replace Locomotive.  It contained a ridiculous amount of hops and a ridiculous amount of roasted grain, according to Tom.  That made it ridiculously dry and ridiculously tasty to me.   When I couldn’t decide which beer to have, when the bloody huge taplist just overwhelmed my brain, it was always the choice.  Just the right amount of body, session level alcohol content.  Yeah, it’s pretty much the beer that made me a fan of Black Bridge.

Wicked Poison
It looks like an unassuming, delicate pint of pilsner with a hint of turbidity.  It is not.  Wicked Poison is disingenuous wheat wine and it’s alcohol content combined with an ephemeral drinkability will bring you to a reckoning if you are not careful.   While your local brewer does not personally like the beer, there is no arguing that it is still talked about five years on and almost everyone else in Kingman loves the thing.  It is actually a good gateway beer – wine drinkers, especially, and many who just don’t think they like beer will consume some Wicked Poison and the scales fall from their eyes.  The beer adventure begins.

80 Shilling
I still remember standing at one end of the bar in Black Bridge and Tom at the other and he yelled out “80 Shilling will be ready Tuesday!  I promise!”  Because for a while it was 80 Shilling and Locomotive that I drank and that day they were out of the quiet little Scottish export beer.  It truly is an unassuming selection at B3.  Orangey-red in color, nice sustainable collar, malty sweet and smelling of light caramel and toast it’s just an easy beer to love and drink.  It’s been on tap from the beginning, it seems.  Never bad, never off, always fantastic.

Scorched Earth
One of my first craft beer experiences was Crazy Ed’s Chili Beer.  And it was awful.  I survived, I persevered.  Eventually I had Ring of Fire from Dragonmead Brewery.  That was good.  Then Tom took Evil Red, his hoppy amber beer, and shoved an idiotic amount of peppers in it.  And it was Good.  No, it was better than that.  I still have no idea how he made habanero and ghost chili’s palatable but he did.  Yeah, it takes a little while to drink a pint (if you’re smart) and it numbs your lips.  But there is no better chili/pepper beer.  The brewing of Scorched Earth has become an event in these parts and word is getting out to the rest of the state and even Las Vegas.

Legend of Tom
Coffee Porter.  It takes all the porters B3 has done and combines them into one drink, and makes them all better.  It makes coffee better.  Decent alcohol level,  luscious coffee scent; the first iteration was barrel aged and had the added benefit of the flavor and aroma of spirits.  It’s only been on tap twice but it was brilliantly done both times.  Locomotive made me a fan, Legend of Tom made me a loyalist.

Those are my five picks.  Time and space would fail me if I went on to recount the goodness of Holy Water, Wagonwheel, Smokebox, Chichester, Evil Red, Katastrophic Humiliation.

Need a beer now.

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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.

Regarding Stresstout – An Imperial Stout by Black Bridge Brewery

Black Bridge Brewery has a powerful selection of stouts to drink.

  • Locomotive
  • Stout Chocula
  • Frankenstout
  • Mole Stout
  • Angry Elf

Three of those are blends and Angry Elf is seasonal and all are potent and satisfying beers, each one.  I am also quite partial to stouts and porters, but surely that has no bearing herein.

Another stout can be added to the list.  In addition to clever word play in it’s name it boasts eleven percent alcohol and barrel aged gravitas.  It’s been four years since the last time Kingman residents have been able to relieve their stress via Stresstout.  This bourbon barrel-aged version will be on tap, I believe, February 3.

Here are a few things to look for in an Imperial Stout, :

  • Roasty-burnt malt with deep dark or dried fruit flavors
  • A warming, bittersweet finish
  • Components need to meld together to create a complex, harmonious beer, not a hot mess.

That Smell …
I perceived chocolate and coffee in the nose first, moderately strong dark charred malt, then the embers of, maybe some dark fruit.  Then the bourbon arrives … .  It’s a complex bouquet, no hops perceived.  Strong and inviting.

In Appearance …
Beautiful, really.  Here’s a picture:

IMG_4786

It defies the desert sun, countering the deep sunset with brown, garnet and ivory.   It sported a thin, tan head with low retention, but that could have just been the glass.

But the Taste …
While the bourbon does not dominate it makes itself known.  As with the aroma there is a moderate presence of burnt malt.  Stresstout is like Locomotive Stout married to a svelte whiskey; or Katastrophic Humiliation with a lot of dark malt.  It’s definitely got a barleywine-like alcohol punch.A little vanilla and oak come through as well.  It’s definitely got a barleywine-like alcohol punch.  As noted, I perceived no hops in the nose and really did not notice any hops flavor or bitterness.  It has a warm, alcoholic finish.    It’s has a solid, not heavy, body.  In that regard it resembles Black Bridge’s other Imperial Stout, Angry Elf.  Both of these are ridiculously and dangerously easy to drink.

Conclusions
Another superb addition to a strong tap list at Black Bridge.  This is a complex beer, sometimes it’s even possible to forget you have a beer and think you’ve got a big glass of whiskey.  It’ll make you feel refined.  In fact, if this were a book … well, I’d just have to call it poetry – and not cheap doggerel.  Maybe you are familiar with Rumi.  His poems are gorgeous, composed of words like everyone else uses but placed together in a way that is sublime and practical, esoteric and approachable.  Therefore, it’s a good metaphor for Stresstout.   It’s a really well done stout.  For beer fans, this is a complex delight with no end to dissection; for beer novices this can expand the palate.

For more details on an Imperial Stout, see section 20c of the Beer Judge Certification Program Style Guidelines.  Here’s a few highlights:

20C. Imperial Stout

Aroma: Rich and complex, with variable amounts of roasted grains, maltiness, fruity esters, hops, and alcohol. The roasted malt character can take on coffee, dark chocolate, or slightly burnt tones and can be light to moderately strong.  … Fruity esters may be low to moderately strong, and may take on a complex, dark fruit (e.g., plums, prunes, raisins) character. Hop aroma can be very low to quite aggressive, … An alcohol character may be present, but shouldn’t be sharp, hot, or solventy. Aged versions may have a slight vinous or port-like quality, but shouldn’t be sour.

Appearance: Color may range from very dark reddish-brown to jet black. Opaque. Deep tan to dark brown head.

Flavor: Rich, deep, complex and frequently quite intense, with variable amounts of roasted malt/grains, maltiness, fruity esters, hop bitterness and flavor, and alcohol. Medium to aggressively high bitterness. Medium-low to high hop flavor (any variety). Moderate to aggressively high roasted malt/grain flavors can suggest bittersweet or unsweetened chocolate, cocoa, and/or strong coffee. … Malt backbone can be balanced and supportive to rich and barleywine-like, … The palate and finish can vary from relatively dry to moderately sweet, usually with some lingering roastiness, hop bitterness and warming character.

Mouthfeel: Full to very full-bodied and chewy, with a velvety, luscious texture … . Gentle smooth warmth from alcohol should be present and noticeable, but not a primary characteristic; in well-conditioned versions, the alcohol can be deceptive.

History: A style with a long, although not necessarily continuous, heritage. Traces roots to strong English porters brewed for export in the 1700s, and said to have been popular with the Russian Imperial Court. After the Napoleonic wars interrupted trade, these beers were increasingly sold in England. The style eventually all but died out, until being popularly embraced in the modern craft beer era, both in England as a revival and in the United States as a reinterpretation or re-imagination by extending the style with American characteristics.

The Mandela Effect and a Door to Hell

Like so many other Terrans, I grew up in a house. The house was located in Aztec, New Mexico. I even remember the name of the road, San Juan Ave. (My friend Royal can still recall my old phone number, a landline, connected to a yellow phone mounted to the wall in a hallway in the house; this was back in the ante-nomophobia era). There was a picture window. Some kind of floral pattern on the couch and chairs. There was a television.

In that house, via that television, I know that I watched a TV series. Yes, fine, I watched more than one, that is not the point of this anecdote. The point is that there was a particular series I watched, and I’m positive I watched it in that house in the late 1980s.

The series was Sliders.  Perhaps you remember this show.  A young genius type discovers a portal to various parallel, alternate Earth’s. He and his entourage travel through these parallel dimensions on a quest to return to their own earth.  Each dimension of Earth had some variation from the “reality” we experience.  In one episode, they tackled the subject of gender politics.  Women were running everything in that dimension and men were dealing with suppression.  One episode imagined what would happen if the Summer of Love had never ended.

Some time back, it became available on Netflix.  It claimed the show was from 1995.

No.  No, it was somewhere around 1988.

By ‘95 I had been married for three years and had a child on the way.  And I lived here, in Kingman, Arizona. It seems certain to me that I would remember watching that show with my nascent family if it had indeed happened in 1995.  My wife doesn’t remember watching it with me.  See?  It clearly happened in the late 80s, before I met my wife.

That blasted archive of all knowledge known as Wikipedia had the audacity to agree with Netflix. Sliders began, wrote the anonymous know-it-all-and-sooooooo-misinformed writer of the entry for this show, in 1995. The rest of the Internet, in keeping with its conspiratorial nature, agreed.

1995.

This was my first encounter with the Mandela Effect.

Tell us more of this enigmatic phenomenon named after a South African philanthropist, you say. I hearken to your clamor.

The Mandela Effect refers to collective memories that don’t jive with what many call reality. Some say they are false memories. One example is my experience above with Sliders. My mind clearly tells me when I watched, evidence indicates otherwise. So, which is right? My memory or the data “they” have collected?

Here are some other examples of this Mandela Effect:

  • The most well known is likely the namesake of the memory anomaly: Paranormal researcher Fiona Broome evidently coined this term when she became aware that she and many other people believed that Nelson Mandela died in prison in the 1980s. He did not die until 2013, thoroughly tripping out Broome and her contingent.
  • There is a group of people convinced that the comedian Sinbad made a movie called Shazam sometime in the 1990s. Why they would want to think this should be it’s own phenomenon.
  • There was, maybe still is, a series of children’s books based on a family of bears, the Berenstain Bears – or was it spelled Berenstein?

There are doubtless more. Look up “Mandela Effect” on the Internets and have a ball.

That’s great, you say.  People’s memories are wonky.  Why give this issue a name?  It is because of the theories people have regarding why their memory is wonky.  They don’t believe in the wonkiness.  They believe there is something else happening.

Some contend that these alternate memories prove that portions of the world’s population are from another dimension, Ala Sliders, thus they recall these events as they occurred in their native dimension which is different from the way events unfolded in this dimension, the one wherein you are reading this blog post.   In my original dimension, Sliders was on TV in 1988;  Nelson Mandela died in prison.  I cannot express how thankful I am that the Sinbad thing did not happen in either of the dimensions in which I have existed.  How, exactly, some of us are transferring dimensions and others are not?

It may be a perfectly normal spacetime event that we have simply not observed empirically or otherwise as yet … or it’s CERN’s fault.  There are those who claim that CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, experiments have allowed this dimensional shifting.  They are seeking to substantiate the multiverse theory, after all.  Maybe they did it.

Here’s a description of one of their experiments.  “The neutron time-of-flight facility (nTOF) studies neutron-nucleus interactions for neutron energies ranging from a few meV to several GeV.”  I mean, if that doesn’t just scream, “we are opening a time portal,” well I don’t know what does.  Perhaps they have succeeded.  Shadowy figures are traveling into the past and rewriting history and that’s why certain things and events are slightly different for us.  Apparently, they are in beta-testing of this program and only doing inconsequential things such as renaming children’s books.  I’m glad to know that even in the future government funded science ops are still absolutely daft.  Hope blooms …

It is also possible that these memory problems are from glitches in the matrix.  The robot alien overlords like to dink around with their flesh batteries.  “Unplug them just a little so they think Sinbad was a superhero, tee-hee-hee.”  Jerks.

For anyone who has actually read this far, well, I salute you.  Go forth and buy yourself a treat of some kind and look in a mirror and tell yourself how bloody awesome you are.  Now I come to the point at last.

All of the above is due to Black Bridge Brewery and Tim, in particular.  I was there one eve, as is my wont (might’ve been an afternoon, actually … curse you, CERN!) and Mr Schritter happened to mention that he had a Belgian beer coming on soon that I would enjoy.  It was called Door to Hell.

I said, “Great, that was a good beer.”

He responded with something like, “You are a moron.  I’ve never had that beer on tap here.  It was a pilot brew that Fuller and I did.”

I just stood there aghast and flabbergasted and all those silly things and mumbled some kind of, “but I’m sure I had it.”  (And I did, see, in MY dimension).

Look, I even have photographic evidence of temporal or dimensional alterations:

IMG_4771

It’s on the Glass, man.  It’s on the Glass.  Along with all the other beers made by Black Bridge.

Whatever.  In any dimension, it was a good beer.  It is a good beer.  All this shifting is demolishing my grasp on grammatical sense and tense.

Here are some notes on the actual drinking of Door to Hell, a Belgian Quad, in this current dimension.  And, no, I am sorry, I did not use a proper Belgian goblet.  I’m sure I should be punished for that.  Maybe I was, in another dimension.

The Smelly Parts
At first, there was caramel and vanilla.  And then some maple.  That melded into a grassy, resinous field.  It was spiky, if that makes sense.  Sharp, alcoholic notes rose from the field.  There’s a lot to unpack in the nose of this one.

The Optics
Condescendingly clear and a bit on the dark side.  A subdued brownish red with bubbly white head.  It looks completely unassuming but well put together.  Like Mr Bond, James Bond.

The Gustatory Dimension
There’s no escaping the dark fruit nature of this beauty.  You know, the figs, the dates and then there is bourbony caramel.   It’s also little dry, nicely crisp and juicy. Sugar and crystal, like sequins on a slinky dress.  It is sweet, rich and heavy.  Hops did not appear except in the aroma.

The Last Words
Approved.  It doesn’t have the fusty, earthy character of Belgian beers but does have a vinous quality.  It’s quite nearly Shakespearean, really, a confluence of influence, poetic palate, tragic if you drink too much at once for it is not wanting in alcohol quantity.

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: