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:

In Review of A Beer: Legend of Tom by Black Bridge Brewery

***Update: So, yeah, I’m just an amateur at this drink tasting/reviewing thing. It was BRANDY barrels, not RUM. My bad. I repent in dust & ashes and all. Trust not the reviews on this blog. Well okay, this is still a really good beer.***

As this Saturday, August 12, marks the fourth year of operations for Kingman’s first brewery, Black Bridge, and since the soiree on the aforementioned Saturday commemorating said operations will feature the revealing of a new beer to add to the already extensive tap list, the time seems appropriate to experience this new beer.

First, some context.

The beer’s moniker is Legend of Tom and it is a Barrel Aged Coffee Imperial Porter.  Now, barrel aged beers are not unfamiliar to craft beer enthusiasts.  They’ve been quaffing stouts and porters and even IPAs aged in wine, whiskey, rum and whatever barrels for an interval of many years.  But, that’s not what this new release is; at least, not barrel aged in the traditional sense.

Brewer’s in Portland and San Diego ascertained that coffee beans – green coffee beans, that is, beans that have not yet undergone the roasting process – absorb their surroundings handily and profoundly.  The brewers thus placed the green beans in an empty barrel that had previously contained the spirit of the brewer’s choice.  For Kingman that meant the green coffee beans, procured by Beale Street Brews, were aged in rum barrels provided by Diamond Distillery.  Once the beans have been barrel aged to the brewers delight they are cold-brewed.  The resulting coffee is then added to the wort at some point during the boil.  Or perhaps after.  Esoteric lore such as that can only be divulged by Tom, the brewing sphinx*.

The process results in a coffee tinged with the libation within which barrel it was housed melded with a malty delight called beer.  It sounds fantabulous, does it not?

*The next question is, who is Tom?  He is a curious character, one of myth and obscurity.  Only those on the inside know his true identity and he is spoken of in whispers.  And that’s all that can be said at this time.  Regardless, he has overseen the production of this new beer and … well, its character shall be dissected in the words to follow.

Begin At the Beginning (Aroma)
It emanates so much coffee!  It smells like breakfast on the third day of seven days off.  Like a campfire with a little perfume.  Thus, dark grains, strong coffee and a hint of hops.  Smashing.

And Go On (Appearance)
What a luscious head, the tincture of Irish cream on a waffle.  Dense but approachable and stable, indubitably enhanced by the nucleation points in the glass.  It rivals Angry Elf in color, an unfeigned brownish-black with sensuous spotlights of garnet.

Till You Come to the End (Taste)
There’s fruit at first taste, like a bursting plum.  With some tangy rum. Yes, there’s that distillery.  But that dwindles and the tang of dark fruit remains.  It rings on the tongue like the drawing of Anduril from its sheath, with all the  accompanying fanfare.  There is bitterness, derived from the sharp black coffee burntness.  But it lingers not.  The coffee presence is far superior to any other coffee beer, very fresh, smoky, mapley & caramelly.  Seeking the hops may result in a smidge of earthy resin.  Medium body, not really chewy but substantial.  Lingers, sweet and content.  The bitterness creeps up in the finish.  Not belligerently, but properly, like an English hop?

Then Stop (Conclusions)
Wow.

The coffee, malt, rum, mixed sagely.  The cold brew coffee reduces the beer abrasiveness but enhances its depth.  As with so many of the offerings at Black Bridge, this one is high in alcohol content but that, too, is deceptive; for Legend of Tom wants to be a session beer but is far too sophisticated for such things.  In other words, it is ridiculously easy to drink.

Is it the best beer ever from Black Bridge?  If it were a novel it would perhaps be something from Dostoyevsky, maybe Crime & Punishment – dark but compelling, a long journey; Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises.  If it were a song … Whiskey in the Jar or One by Metallica; God Save the Queen by Sex Pistols.

(Author’s Note:  I like it better than 80 Shilling). 

That answers not the question.  Is it the best?  It’s for beer lovers,  possessing all the t has all you could want from a beer.  Dark malt backbone.  A little hops presence.  Coffee.  High alcohol.  Below are the guidelines for American porter’s, standard and imperial.  You can see how Legend of Tom fits in to all these and then expands on the styles.

(Author’s Note, again:  I like it better than Shugga Momma).

But is it the best from B3?  Interestingly, this does not have the same “house” flavor that the Black Bridge beers carry.  That is no condemnation, either of the beer or the house flavor.  Such a thing is expected from using a particular yeast strain and local water and the same equipment.  It is what makes your local your local.  Tom paid meticulous attention to itself.

(Last Author’s Note:  I like it better than Evil Red).

Cheers and well done!

Beer Judge Certification Program
20A. American Porter

  • A substantial, malty dark beer with a complex and flavorful dark malt character.
  • Medium-light to medium-strong dark malt aroma, often with a lightly burnt character. Optionally may also show some additional malt character in support (grainy, bready, toffee-like, caramelly, chocolate, coffee, rich, and/or sweet). Hop aroma low to high, often with a resiny, earthy, or floral character.
  • Medium brown to very dark brown, often with ruby- or garnet-like highlights. Can approach black in color.
  • Full, tan-colored head with moderately good head retention.
  • Moderately strong malt flavor usually features a lightly burnt malt character (and sometimes chocolate and/or coffee flavors) with a bit of grainy, dark malt dryness in the finish. Overall flavor may finish from dry to medium-sweet.
  • May have a sharp character from dark roasted grains, but should not be overly acrid, burnt or harsh. The dark malt and hops should not clash.
  • Medium to medium-full body. Stronger versions may have a slight alcohol warmth. May have a slight astringency from dark malts, although this character should not be strong.
  • May contain several malts, prominently dark malts, which often include black malt (chocolate malt is also often used). American hops typically used for bittering, but US or UK finishing hops can be used

Brewer’s Association Guidelines
American-Style Imperial Porter

  • Color: Black
  • Clarity: Opaque
  • Perceived Malt Aroma & Flavor: No roast barley or strong burnt/black malt character should be perceived. Medium malt, caramel and cocoa sweetness should be present.
  • Perceived Hop Aroma & Flavor: Low to medium- high
  • Perceived Bitterness: Medium-low to medium
  • Fermentation Characteristics: Fruity-estery flavors and aromas should be evident but not overpowering and should complement hop character and malt- derived sweetness. Diacetyl should be absent.
  • Body: Full
  • Alcohol by Weight (Volume) 5.5%-9.5% (7.0%-12.0%)

Home Brew Session: A Scottish Export, Mostly

Pictures last week told the story of the penultimate day of my vacation. It was home brew time and it seemed to go well.

Approximately eight months ago I purchased ingredients for two brews. I made one of them right after I bought the ingredients. It was a smoked porter that was very weak, alcoholically, but very strong, smokily. I was only supposed to use half the smoked malt I bought but accidentally I used the entire amount for the one beer. My mash and sparge calculations were off as well, so I ended up with a dark and diluted mash. The beer finished at around 2% abv. Shortly after that, life happened and I’ve only now gotten around to motivating myself to brew again.

Thus, I had months old grain and no yeast. I decided to order yeast. Because the grains are old and not complete – see, one of the two beers mentioned above was supposed to be a smoked scottish export; well, you know, the smoked malt is gone (possibly some other grains were missing, too; memory is hazy on that point) – and I did not think it would be the beer I originally wanted it to be, I decided to use a French Saison yeast; perhaps that will give it an old, farmhouse character to complement the possibly stale malt.

I calculated the mash water and sparge water much more carefully this time. Essentially, I was going to do a three gallon batch so I determined I would need approximately 4.85 gallons of water in total. Now, during the last brew day I believe I did this calculation, but, at one point I wanted to raise the mash temperature and so I added a few quarts to the mash and did not take this amount out of my sparge water therefore ending up with a few quarts too much volume.  

This time, I deducted the three quarts I used to increase my mash temperature three or so degrees. It went from around 147-148 to 150-151. The temp held for a sixty minute mash. I added the rest of my sparge water, about two gallons now, and commenced the batch sparge. I even recirculated twice.

The next obstacle came when it was boil time. See, I was sure that I’d had a packet of hops left over from the last brew day but it was missing. I was in the middle of brew day, and no hops. As Joe at Black Bridge Brewery eloquently put it: “What kind of a train wreck brew day do you have going on?” He was right, it was a wreck. But, I took Papazian’s timeless advice and relaxed. And drank some Wicked Poison.  

After this, I decided that a spice mixture would just have to do as a hops substitute. I settled on two teaspoons of cinnamon and one and a half ounces of crushed coriander. By this time the boil was underway. My son, assistant brewer for the day, reminded me that I also needed to find my airlocks. They seemed to have disappeared as well. For nearly thirty minutes we searched. Finally, they were discovered – along with the missing hops! They were US Goldings. I was twenty seconds away from the thirty minute mark of the boil. It seemed perfect timing, so I dumped the hops in and boiled for another thirty. And, since I already had the coriander and cinnamon ready, I put them in towards the end of the boil, 15 minutes prior. Reduced amounts, since I had the hops.

All that was left was chilling, which is always my biggest challenge since I still don’t have a wort chiller! Honestly, the last time it took me a couple of hours. Or more. Today: 53 minutes. I used cold water in the sink and was able to circulate it this time. The circulation, moving the water, helped incredibly. And I also used a wort aerator attached to a length of 3/8 hose. Between these two items, I chilled in record time. The yeast smack pack had swelled perfectly and I pitched at 70 degrees.

The beer looks great. Just needs fermentation time and a name …

Black Bridge Beer Preview: Hop Tart

Here’s some motivation to participate in the corn hole tournament at Black Bridge: recent winners of the tourney were invited to be collaborators on a new B3 brew. They are designing and brewing a rhubarb pale ale.

It shall be a standard American Pale Ale, so we can expect a golden to amber malty body and a citrusy aroma and probably a somewhat fruity flavor profile provided by Citra, Amarillo and Centennial hops. On top of that will be thirty pounds of rhubarb. 

Hop Tart begins brewing on Thursday, September 17. The keg tap party will be a couple of weeks after.

Wagonwheel by Black Bridge Brewery

There is future and there is past and there is mystery in a glass. It is called Wagonwheel, a brown ale from Black Bridge. I’ve written briefly about it before. Here’s another taste.

That Smell …
It smells like paint. Well, maybe some stain fell off the wagon and into the brewing vessels. Weird.

In Appearance ...
I prefer perspicuity in speech, writing, actions, and my beer. Wagonwheel lacks such clarity, preferring to be brown and murky like a hefeweizen that has spent too much time in the Arizona sun. The question thus becomes: is there mystery in the depths of this pint?

But the Taste …
August. It tastes like August. What does that even mean? Well, it tastes as if it were a month and a half old. Now, let us not equate that with “bad.” As beer geeks we realize that old and musty and artistically crafted staleness can be good. Such is the case here, whether by design or not I cannot discern. August is also a workhorse of a month and it promises autumn and cooler weather to come. Wagonwheel is a harbinger of stouts and dark spiced ales and other heavy stuff to come.

Oh, there were the hops. I just burped them. They’re in the background, as they should be. I can also taste Bazooka gum? And lemons? Really? Well, for an English style brown that would be appropriate. And those flavors are subdued.

Join Me For A Plate Of …
Fully loaded Jethro fries from Redneck’s Southern Pit BBQ

The Conclusion Of The Matter Is …
Wagonwheel is a well done brown ale, bringing back the highlights of summer and foreshadowing the luscious brews to come. It is expectation in sixteen ounces.

Dark Penance by Founders Brewing

That word, penance, it intrigued me.  So I did what an intrigued person would do.  I visited OneLook.com and perused the definitions of the word.  Here was the first one displayed: “punishment or suffering that you accept, especially because of your religious beliefs, to show that you are sorry for something bad that you have done.”  The rest were all variations on that.  So, is Founders saying they are sorry for making this black IPA?  Are they saying they are sorry that there are black IPA’s?

I shrug and move on.

IMG_0803

That Smell …
It smells of lemon and lime and Chanel Number 5 and all that implies.  Yes, those fruity hops were dancing a dance in the nose.

In Appearance …IMG_0805
For a moment I thought I was pouring a cola.  Or perhaps a really dark tea.  That really created some dissonance in my cranial area.  It smelled like Sprite and looked like Coke.  But it’s a beer, man, a beer … .  Head retention was superb and the collar itself was a stoutish cream color.  Hmmm, this beer is all about deceit.

But the Taste …
If hops madness is your bag, baby, this is your beer.  If I’d not had the bottle with the label containing the name of the brewery right there in front of me I’d swear this was a Sierra Nevada or Stone libation.  I think I’ll lean more towards Stone for the hops artistry did not seem as refined as Sierra Nevada’s.  Yes, the hops are prominent, but what did I expect?  This is an IPA.  It’s dry and bitter, like the desert.  The bitterness lays like a blanket upon the tongue right away.  It lingers then stands and dances.  There is some slight malt character that bursts out as the beer gets warm, but it’s not very strong and lasts about as long as a rainstorm here in Kingman.

Join Me For A Plate Of …
Scalloped potatoes.

The Conclusion Of The Matter Is …
It reminded me of late summer, just as the weather is getting ready to change.  It made me think of late 80’s girl pop bands that are fine to look at and are occasionally in vogue, but, really, just hard to listen to.  This beer is similarly hard to finish.  It’s a harsh glass of achromatic despair, which is exactly what it’s supposed to be.  Yes, this is an IPA worthy of the moniker.  It’s hits all the right hops notes and malt chords.  As I drank I read the BJCP Guidelines for American IPA’s and this was a Goldilocks of the style.  I did find myself wishing that the roasted malts had leant some body and not just color to this black IPA.  However, I seek no penance for having this beer.

Why Don’t I Home Brew?

For good or ill I began making calculations.

See, when people ask me if I’m still making beer my answer is “no.” They ask why. I say, “Just out of money and time.”

Let’s talk expense. During this past weekend and the one prior I’ve spent a combined total of approximately $70 on beer, either bottled or on tap at my local. I ran the numbers on the ingredients for a couple of Belgian’s I brewed in ages past and the total came to about $46. Let me now compare volume. I got about 10 beers for the seventy bucks. If I’d spent less money and made my own beer I could have had around eighty beers. Eight times as much beer for thirty four percent less cost. I wag my head.

Let’s talk time. On Friday’s I often arrive home from work around 2:30 or 3 pm. The wife comes home around 6. Then we spend a couple hours or more at the pub and at dinner. On Sunday I’ve been napping for over an hour and I’ve set up a regular beer event where a friend or two come to the house and we drink beer for two or three hours and have a nice little chinwag. Now, I don’t want to do away with either of those things. I don’t mind spending money or time on a date with the wife and an afternoon with the guys. However, with a little forethought I might be able to arrange my affairs and have one or two brewdays in a month. Honestly, I could turn Beer Sunday into Brew Sunday! I wag my head again.

Thus and so we come to the rub: what’s the real reason I don’t brew?

One reason is my lack of confidence. The last batch I brewed was a brown ale laced with cinnamon. I looked forward to it, although the brew day didn’t go as well as I’d hoped. Chilling the wort took so long. Far too long. The beer exploded due to an infection. It was disheartening. And the batch just prior to that didn’t come out so splendidly either. My quality had been diminishing. Some of it could be chalked up to aging equipment, I suppose. But I blame myself. I’ve lost confidence in being able to create decent art in a bottle.

Then, of course, I start to wonder if any of my beers were ever that good. People said they were, but, they were friends. Nice friends. The good kind of friends. Maybe they liked the beer just because they were good friends. Certainly, even if that were the case, that would not of necessity preclude further brewing. In fact, if I were a good friend myself I would continue in an endeavor that they found pleasing.

What else? I started brewing in 1997. There was not the prodigious amount of home brewing knowledge and equipment out there that exists today. In fact, that lack of copious amounts of zymurgical erudition made home brewing an adventure. It was like being on the frontier, blazing new trails, discovering indigenous styles of beer long hidden. Now, it seems that all the knowledge is out there and the adventure is over. Every other person I meet is a home brewer. That’s not really bad, either. It just means a loss of exclusivity, which is just selfishness and vanity on my part.

I resist the idea of spending money on my own hobby. Somehow it just feels selfish. I should spend that money on things for other people or household necessities or other bona fide needs.

How do I get past all this?

Order some extract. Some hops. A vial of yeast. Let it sit in my kitchen. Staring at me. Daring me to combine these discrete elements into a masterpiece. It’s not like I don’t want to do it.

So do it.

Do it.