Monday, March 26, 2012

Widmer Brothers Rotator IPA Series

ABV 6.2%

Falconer's IPA 
ABV 7.0%
O'Ryely IPA 
ABV 6.4%

Spiced IPA 
(Ale Brewed with Tea and Spices and with Tea and Spices Added)
ABV 7.0%

Even since I read about Widmer's Rotator IPA Series I knew that it was meant for a Bottle Battle. As each IPA was released I made sure to put away a bottle for the big day. When the Spiced IPA showed up down here a week or so ago it was finally time to stage the fight.

First off let me brag. Ellen poured them for me blind and I identified them all correctly. Admittedly they all are fairly unique but it did make me feel that perhaps my palate and taste memory are improving. That's a cool little side benefit of doing these battles. We may not be classically trained but we sure are getting good with recognizing certain flavors and qualities in beer.

Colors ranged quite a bit: X-114 was clear golden yellow, Spiced was hazy yellowish orange, Falconer's was clear orangy brown and O'Ryely was hazy dark orange. Aromas differed greatly as well: X-114 was the most aromatic with big floral and grapefruit notes that bordered on cat pee, Spiced smelled herbal and perfumy with Cardamom dominating, Falconer's had the least hop character in the nose, instead smelling of sweet roasty malts and the O'Ryely had an earthy, malty aroma. Flavors didn't stray too much from aromas but as far as bitterness on the finish we agreed that the Falconer's was the most bitter followed by the X-114 and the Spiced. The least bitter was the O'Ryely which had just a mild bitterness to go along with a nice rich, malty finish.

We both agreed that the winner would have to be either the X-114 with its amazing aromatics from those Citra hops (X-114 is what the Citra hop was called before it had a fancy name) or the O'Ryely with its earthiness (perhaps from the Rye?) combined with a nice mildly bitter finish. Ellen ended up going with the X-114 while I went with the O'Ryely since the X-114 was just too citrusy for me (bordering on soapy tasting). Coming in second to last was the Falconer's. We've tried multiple beers using the Falconer's Flight blend of hops and we just don't care for them. Bringing up the rear was the ambitious Spiced, certainly a fun idea but it smelled and tasted a bit too much like a bar of soap or some detergent. Thanks, but when we're drinking IPA we like the hops to be the focus.

Split Decision: Ellen chose X-114, I chose O'Ryely

Monday, March 12, 2012

Beers with Dark in the Title — Bridgeport vs. Widmer

Bridgeport Dark Rain
(Black Pale Ale)
ABV 5.6%

Widmer Brothers
W '12 Dark Saison
ABV 5.5%

As a final farewell to the dark days of winter, here is a battle featuring two beers with "dark" in their name. Let's all raise a glass to daylight savings. As far as we're concerned the loss of one hour of sleep is well worth it for some light in the evenings so we can grill without wearing a headlamp. 

As expected, these beers were completely different. Really the only thing they share is an attempt to be dark in color. Both achieved this admirably with the Widmer showing off a reddish brown color and the Bridgeport looking a bit darker with none of the red. In the aroma they both went their separate ways, the Widmer revealing a typical Belgian yeast character (banana, clove, bread) while the Bridgeport focused on piny, spicy hops with some cedar and soap notes as well. In the flavor the Widmer asserted itself as the front runner with a sweet, dark maltiness complementing the Belgian yeast flavors. The Bridgeport, on the other hand, was a bitter beast. Sharp and clean with a harshly bitter, soapy, cedary finish. Seemed to us like the bitterness overwhelmed the chocolate malts.

Both of these beers hail from breweries that are mainstays in the Portland beer scene with a reputation for solid year-round beers and intriguing seasonal offerings. As of late, however, we have enjoyed more of the Widmer stuff. As a matter of fact, I just went and looked at the Bottle Battle archives and found that of 5 battles featuring Bridgeport (this being the fifth) they have lost all of them except one which was a split decision. Could just be bad scheduling on our part, but that's a rough record.
Winner by Unanimous Decision: Widmer W '12