Friday, March 25, 2011

Saisons — Dupont Brewery vs. Pelican Brewery

Dupont Brewery
Saison Dupont

ABV 6.5%

Hazy light gold. Huge white head.
Macrolager grainy, barnyard funk, cold steel.
Banana and clove.
Hops vs. Malts
(Hoppy, Malty or Balanced):
Finish: Slight orange peel bitterness.
Overall (Fantastic, Good, Mediocre or Bad):

Pelican Brewery
Saison du Pelican

ABV 6.3%

Clear orangish yellow.
Aroma: Sweet malts, lemon, subtle Belgian yeast.
Flavor: Malty sweet with a hint of lemon.
Hops vs. Malts (Hoppy, Malty or Balanced): Balanced
Finish: Grainy with some acidity then quickly disappears.
Overall (Fantastic, Good, Mediocre or Bad): Good

Blow by Blow
Saisons are a traditional Belgian beer style that was originally brewed by farmers in the winter to be consumed by workers during the summer. After tasting these two beers we're seriously considering becoming Belgian farmers.

We started with the Saison Dupont, which is widely considered to be the Saison from which all other Saisons must be judged. It was easy to see why. The aroma was a bit tight and grainy when we first opened it, but as it warmed up we started to detect some barnyard funk and a bit of cold steel. The flavor had classic banana and clove notes that are typical of some Belgian yeasts and the finish had a nice orange peel bitterness that balanced everything out quite nicely. It was crisp, refreshing and complex and we both loved it.

The Saison du Pelican may have taken its name from the Saison Dupont, but it wasn't quite able to live up to the high standards set by the classic Belgian. Don't get us wrong, the Pelican is a pretty darn good beer, but it had a tough, tough matchup. The aroma was dominated by a malty sweetness that reminded us of an amber ale. As a matter of fact, the beer tasted a lot like an amber ale that was fermented with Belgian yeast. Not necessarily a bad thing, but we just didn't like it as much as the Dupont. The main thing it seemed to be lacking was some kind of hop presence in the finish. Without those hops it was an underwhelming finish that disappeared quickly.

Despite losing this battle, you should definitely consider a visit to the Pelican brewery in Pacific City, Oregon. We went a couple years ago and it is a gorgeous place with great beer. Make a weekend out of it and check out Astoria, Oregon as well. You won't regret it.

Winner by unanimous decision: Dupont Brewery

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Beers that use Rye — Shmaltz Brewing Co. vs. Bear Republic Brewing Co.

Shmaltz Brewing Co.
Bittersweet Lenny's R.I.P.A

(A Double India Pale Ale with Rye Malt)
ABV 10%

Clear copper orange.
Earthy, woody, sweet and flowery.
Sweet, smooth, malty with some citrus hops.
Hops vs. Malts
(Hoppy, Malty or Balanced):
Finish: Very boozy with a harsh metallic bitterness
Overall (Fantastic, Good, Mediocre or Bad):
Mediocre +

Bear Republic Brewing Co.
Hop Rod Rye

(Specialty Ale)
ABV 8%

Dark maple syrup.
Aroma: Sharp, spicy, piny hops with some malty floral notes.
Flavor: Medium bodied. Malty, piny and floral.
Hops vs. Malts (Hoppy, Malty or Balanced): Hoppy
Finish: Mellow citrus at first then moves to intense, astringent lemon-rind bitterness.
Overall (Fantastic, Good, Mediocre or Bad): Good

Blow by Blow
Do you like bitter beer? If so, then pay attention.

These are two beers that use a portion of rye in the brewing process. We hadn't really tried too many beers that advertise their use of rye, so we were excited to feature these in a battle.

The Hop Rod Rye had an impressive hoppy aroma and a nice balanced flavor, but the finish was dominated by a face-contorting lemon-rind bitterness that was way too harsh for our palates.

The Bittersweet was more subdued in the aroma, but made up for it with a massive sweet and malty flavor that we were both very impressed with. Unfortunately, it had problems in the finish as well. Big problems. It did a terrible job balancing its 10% ABV, leaving us both with a distinctly hot and boozy taste, but that wasn't all. The booze quickly evaporated into a sharp metallic bitterness that had us reaching for the water to rinse out the taste.

Unfortunately, neither of us could tell if we detected any aromas or flavors brought on by the use of rye. Both beers were aggressively hopped and I think that the extreme use of hops may have masked some of the rye characteristics.

Beers that feature some rye seem to be gaining popularity, so hopefully we'll get to revisit rye beers in the future. As for these two, we gave the edge to the Hop Rod simply because it didn't completely fall apart in the finish. And we'd only be comfortable recommending these to those who enjoy punishing their palate with super bitter beers.

Winner by unanimous decision: Bear Republic Brewing Co.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Red Ales — Lompoc Brewing vs. Maritime Pacific Brewing Co.

Lompoc Brewing
Proletariat Red

(Northwest Red Ale)
ABV 6.2%

Dark bourbony brown.
Roasted malts, root vegetables, sweet coffee.
Dry and almost savory with root veggies and roasted malt notes.
Hops vs. Malts
(Hoppy, Malty or Balanced):
Malty (but not sweet!)
Finish: Slightly tannic with lingering roasted malts.
Overall (Fantastic, Good, Mediocre or Bad):

Maritime Brewing Co.
Flagship Red Ale

(Red Alt Ale)
ABV 5.2%

Brownish orange.
Aroma: Sharp funky hops and roasted malts.
Flavor: Starts with some lemon water acidity followed by simple sweet malts.
Hops vs. Malts (Hoppy, Malty or Balanced): Balanced
Finish: Acidic with some pine resin hop bitterness.
Overall (Fantastic, Good, Mediocre or Bad): Mediocre

Blow by Blow
At first we thought it was fun — buying red ales with no idea as to what they might taste like. We were even lucky enough to get a red ale that we rated "fantastic." But after this battle, red ales are really starting to get annoying. Since there is no real style definition, when you buy a red ale it's like buying a lottery ticket. And if we continue with that analogy, this battle featured two losing tickets.

The Lompoc had almost no hop character at all. It was a big, smooth mouthful of roasted malts, with a root vegetable flavor that was more interesting than off-putting. The aroma was the same as the flavor with a bit of coffee thrown in for good measure. The strangest thing about this beer was that despite being very malty tasting it was not sweet.

The Flagship red had some serious funky hop aromas that were not particularly appealing. It followed with a very thin flavor that was all acidity and lemon water. The finish had some piny hops followed by a hint of bitterness.

Neither of these beers were that great and, to be honest, I'm not sure if it's us or if it's the beer. We seem to stubbornly hope that every red ale will be like those we've enjoyed in the past — nice reddish hue, big citrus hop profile with a good malty sweetness to balance it all out and a mildly bitter finish. But it seems that some breweries refuse to make beer solely to satisfy our specific ideals. The nerve!

The fight went back and forth — just when we thought the Proletariat was gaining control, the Flagship would get some wind in its sails and look like the stronger combatant. In the end, although it had none of the qualities we crave in a red ale, we gave the victory to the Proletariat. So if you like smooth, roasty, ambery beers give the Proletariat a try. And no, this does not mean that we are commies.

Winner by unanimous decision: Lompoc Brewing