Thursday, August 30, 2012

Imperial IPAs — Nogne ø vs. New Belgium/Alpine Brewing Collaboration

Nogne ø
Imperial India Pale Ale
ABV 10%

New Belgium/Alpine Brewing
Super India Pale Ale 
ABV 9%

It's an international battle this time with Nogne ø representing Norway and the dynamic duo of New Belgium (Colorado) and Alpine (Southern California) representing the good ol' US of A. Could the highly regarded Scandinavian brewery possibly compete with a style dreamed up and perfected in the states? It's important questions like this that we tackle for you here at Bottle Battle headquarters.

The Nogne ø was gorgeous, showing off a crystal clear, vibrant, rusty red. It's a color that all beers in the "Red" category should aspire to. The golden yellow Super IPA was fairly pedestrian in comparison, but what it lacked in appearance it more than made up for in aroma. The sharp, resiny, citrusy, hop-candy notes exploded out of the glass giving us the equivalent of a hoppy brain-freeze. It was positively intoxicating and one of the best aromas either of us have ever had the pleasure of experiencing in an imperial IPA. The aroma of the Nogne ø wasn't even in the same league. It smelled mostly of bready, toasted malt with some herbal notes (rosemary maybe). Honestly, neither of us would have guessed from the aroma that it was an IPA at all. 

Both beers were quite sweet and malty but the Super still had a distinct hop presence albeit one that tasted like a reduction of hoppy honey. The Nogne ø was just sweet through and through with perhaps a touch of orange as the only flavor reminiscent of hops to go along with the dominate flavors of brown sugar and dates. The finish on both was a bit syrupy but at least the Super contrasted that with a moderate bitterness.

So, for this battle at least, the US flexed its imperial IPA muscle and straight dominated. The Nogne ø was all show and barely tasted like an IPA at all. Not sure when the Nogne ø was brewed but it might be possible that the trip overseas and the days on the shelf have stripped away what was once a hoppy beer. Most IPAs are meant to be drunk as fresh as possible before the hops begin to fade. As a celebration of our victory I invite you all to raise a glass of Super IPA and burst into a rousing rendition of "My Country 'Tis of IPA."

Unanimous Decision: New Begium/Alpine Brewing Super IPA

Monday, August 20, 2012

Bourbon Barrel Aged Porters — Full Sail vs. Oregon Trail

2010 Full Sail Top Sail
Imperial Porter
(Malt Beverage Aged in Oak Bourbon Barrels) 
ABV 9.85% 
2012? Oregon Trail
Bourbon Barrel Porter
(Ale Aged in Oak Bourbon Barrels)
ABV 9.2% 

Nothing like 100 degree weather to get you in the mood for oak aged porters right? Well, actually we battled these over a month ago when the weather was conducive to drinking any style of beer you want. And on that particular evening with my parents in town as willing guest tasters we felt like drinking some big beers to cap off a great meal.
I was excited to try my first bottle of beer from Oregon Trail Brewery, a well-established brewery from Corvallis Oregon. Full Sail's Top Sail is a beer we've loved in the past to the extent that we always try to have a couple vintages on hand in the cellar. For this battle I pulled a bottle of the 2010 Top Sail. I assume that the Oregon Trail was 2012 as my dad picked it up in Portland just a few days prior to the battle.
As expected, both beers were stellar, and perhaps fittingly we ended up with a split decision. My mom and I preferred the Oregon Trail which had an enticing floral honey aroma leading to a sweet and fruity flavor followed by a slightly acidic licorice and vanilla finish. Ellen and my dad chose the Top Sail which had a deep, rich, earthy nose with notes of coffee grounds and oak. The flavor was sweet and boozy with a slight chemical quality and the finish featured tons of oak and vanilla extract.
If you want a beer with a big bourbon barrel profile we recommend the Top Sail. Despite being a couple years old, it had much more of the oaky vanilla character you get from bourbon barrels (perhaps the age intensifies the oak characteristics?). The influence of the bourbon barrels in the Oregon Trail was also noticeable but far more subtle. You really can't go wrong with either as both are sweet, rich, complex and great for postprandial imbibing. 
Split Decision: Ellen and my dad chose the Full Sail, my mom and I chose the Oregon Trail.