Wednesday, December 25, 2013

IPAs — Phat Matt's vs. Crazy Mountain

Phat Matt's IPA
ABV 7%

Crazy Mountain
Hookiebobb IPA 
ABV 6.7%

While combing over the beer shelves recently a bizarre label featuring an image of an elephant peeking out of a tangle of hop bines caught my eye. Turns out it is from Crazy Mountain Brewing, a brewery out of Vail Colorado that we've never seen in these parts before. I chose to pit it against a bottle from Oregon brewery, Phatt Matt's, whose labels are not nearly as intriguing. Beers were tasted blind as usual.

Beer #1 (Phat Matt's IPA) was a clear reddish orange with a very nice tropical fruit aroma. The flavor was bready with lots of sweet fruits and the finish was moderately bitter.

Beer #2 (Hookiebobb IPA) was a hazy brownish orange and featured a complex nose of earth, pine, ash and a bit of cat pee. The flavor was very herbal and savory with some citrus in the finish that left a harshly bitter aftertaste.

As we've discussed many times before, making a good IPA is all about getting a good balance of malt to hops. Both of these leaned a bit too much on the malty side for our tastes. In comparing the two, Ellen immediately preferred the Phatt Matt's while I waffled for a bit before finally choosing Matt's as well. The Hookiebobb was interesting at first but got stranger and stranger as it warmed up and the herbal savoriness just turned out to be too prevalent. Congrats to Phatt Matt's on wining the battle — here's hoping they have enough time in between brewing batches of beer to upgrade those labels!

Unanimous decision: Phatt Matt's IPA

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Oaked Beers — Stone vs. Widmer

Stone Oaked
Arrogant Bastard
(Ale Aged with American Oak Wood Chips)
ABV 7.2%

Downward Spiral
(Imperial India Style Pale Lager Aged on Oak Spirals)
ABV 9%

All hail oak! From wine and beer to spirits and cocktails, oak has been imparting wonderful richness and complexity to many of our favorite beverages. With my parents in town I invited my dad to help me out with a battle featuring two beers that have spent some time with wood. Beers were tasted blind as usual.

Beer #1 (Widmer Downward Spiral) was a clear orangish gold with clean, piny hop notes in the nose along with some floral orange blossom. The flavor was sweet, malty and full-bodied with some buttery flavors coming out as it warmed. Finish had two levels, offering a nice orange rind bitterness at first that eventually gave way to a rather harsh burnt wood bitterness.

Beer #2 (Stone Oaked Arrogant Bastard) was quite a bit darker with a reddish brown color. The aroma featured chocolate, herbs and cedar. The flavor was mostly bitter, dark chocolate and the finish featured an aggressive bitterness with some light vanilla notes to go along with burnt toast and charcoal.

It was an evenly matched battle, albeit featuring two beers that were not my favorites. Neither beer seemed to offer much in the way of oak character aside from possibly some enhanced bitterness and tannins. Ellen (despite not being a full participant in the battle), took a whiff and a sip and pointed out the butteriness in the Widmer. This is likely the result of some diacytl which is commonly found in beer, but in large amounts can dominate a beer in a negative way. In my many tastings with friends and family I've discovered that some people are far more sensitive to diacytl than others. We have another bottle, so I'm curious to see if we detect butter in that one as well.

In the end, as is often the case with fathers and sons, our opinions diverged. My dad really liked the Widmer Downward Spiral and said it was something he'd gladly drink again. I liked the Widmer at first, but as it warmed I felt that the aroma and flavor changed from pine to floral to bizarre and buttery. To me, the Oaked Arrogant Bastard didn't seem as messy. It was very bold, a bit harsh and ultimately befitting of its name.  

Split decision: I chose the Arrogant Bastard, pops chose the Downward Spiral

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Pumpkin Beers — Shipyard Brewing vs. New Belgium Brewing

Kennebunkport Brewing Company
(Shipyard Brewing)
Pumpkin Ale
ABV 4.7%

New Belgium Brewing
ABV 6%

For this battle we again pulled something from the shelves of Trader Joes. Included in their crazy selection of pumpkin-flavored items this year was this Pumpkin Ale from Kennebunkport Brewing Company. A little internet sleuthing revealed that KBC beer is brewed for Trader Joe's by Shipyard Brewing in Portland, Maine. The Pumpkick is from the good people at New Belgium Brewing in Colorado which gives us a Colorado vs. Maine pumpkin showdown.

Beers were tasted blind as is our custom.

Beer #1 (KBC Pumpkin Ale) was a clear golden yellow. The aroma was very sweet with lots of pumpkin pie spices and some grain. Flavorwise it was very malt forward with sweet honey notes followed with all the pie spices (nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves) and a bit of citrus. The finish was all pie spices and sweetness with just a touch of acidic citrus.

Beer #2 (Pumpkick) was a clear brownish orange. It had a slightly vegetal aroma that also featured a sweet, roasty, toasty maltiness. There was very little carbonation and perhaps partly due to that the flavors were muted and a bit dull, featuring roasted malts and light pie spices. The finish was a strange combination of spices that didn't seem to mesh well.

We both assumed that the Pumpkick would dominate this battle. As you can see, we were wrong. It's an ambitious beer — the bottle reveals that they added cranberry juice and lemongrass along with the expected pie spices in the brewing. While we appreciate the creativity, the experiment did not work for us. The strange finish was likely a result of the lemongrass trying to find a way to live in harmony with cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. The sweet roasted malt backbone reminded us both of Fat Tire, making us wonder if Fat Tire or something similar was used as the base beer. All in all it just seemed messy.
The KBC Pumpkin ale was nothing to write home about but we both picked it anyway. It's a real typical mass-produced pumpkin beer with a light body and a heavy dose of pie spice — a good novelty beer but nothing real complex or exciting. We wouldn't buy either of these beers again, but don't let that steer you away from pumpkin beers in general. As we've experienced in past battles, pumpkin beers can be most excellent. Seek them out and drink them. It's a worthy pursuit.      

Unanimous decision: KBC Pumpkin Ale

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

IPAs — Fort George/Gigantic/Lompoc vs. Goose Island

Fort George/Gigantic/Lompoc
3-Way IPA 
ABV 6.69%

Goose Island IPA
ABV 5.9%

The two IPAs you see above come from vastly different backgrounds. The 3-Way is a collaboration beer from a trio of well-known Oregon craft breweries (Fort George in Astoria, Gigantic in Portland and Lompoc in Portland). The Goose Island hails from a seminal craft brewery in Chicago that was gobbled up a couple years ago by macro-beer behemoth, Anheuser Busch. So, it's three little guys vs. one really freaking huge guy. Exciting no? Let's see who wins.

Beers were tasted blind as is our custom.

Beer #1 (Goose Island IPA) was a clear orange/brown. The aroma was mostly malty in a floral honey sort of way. The flavor was also malty with a slight fruitiness and the finish had a mild citrusy hop bitterness.

Beer #2 (3-Way IPA) was a hazy pumpkin orange. The aroma was shockingly hoppy with huge notes of pine and cleaning solution (perhaps due to the pine). The flavor continued the hop assault with a huge resiny character followed by a long lasting, intense bitterness.

For two beers calling themselves IPA, these couldn't have been more different. The Goose Island was very one-dimensional and felt to us like it needed a bit more of a hop bite to balance the solid floral and fruity maltiness. It wasn't a bad beer, it just seemed... safe. Whether that is a result of being owned by AB or whether that is just how Goose Island has always interpreted IPA we can't say, but either way it's a beer that isn't doing much to stand out.

The 3-Way, on the other hand, seems to be continuing in the tried and true west coast tradition of hopping the holy crap out of everything. It was the obvious winner in this fight but it's not for the faint of heart. If you're the type of beer drinker that likes hop aroma to be something akin to smelling salts then this is the beer for you. We enjoyed it quite a bit but you probably won't see us swigging a 4-pack anytime soon. It seems just right for a special occasion IPA though.   

Unanimous decision: 3-Way IPA

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Ballast Point IPAs — Sculpin vs. Big Eye

Ballast Point
Big Eye IPA
ABV 7%

Ballast Point
Sculpin IPA
ABV 7%

San Diego has a ton of great breweries, many of which are well known for their deftness with hops. Being fond of the hops ourselves, we were very pleased to see that Ballast Point recently expanded its distribution to Southern Oregon. As I scanned the new selection of Ballast Point offerings I was surprised to see that there were two different IPAs available. Turns out that the people at Ballast Point are so enamored with hops that they have two IPAs available year-round. Two IPAs, one brewery — sounds like a Bottle Battle! As always we did a blind tasting to keep everything unbiased.

Beer #1 (Big Eye) was clear and reddish orange. It featured a fresh, grassy and piny aroma. Flavor was pine resin throughout with a nice clean balance of malt and hops. There was also a distinct fruitiness in the flavor that added extra complexity. The finish was moderately bitter — enough to know you were drinking an IPA, but not so much that your taste buds cringed.

Beer #2 (Sculpin) was a hazy brownish orange. The nose was earthy (almost vegetal) with some tropical fruits and peach mixed in. Malty fruit flavors dominated the flavor with a bit of tropical fruit hoppiness coming through as well. The finish was more sweet than we were expecting from an IPA, but even so, it managed to provide a pleasantly mild bitterness.

Interestingly enough, we thought both of these hoppy beers really excelled with their use of malts. We've tried our share of IPAs that were not much more than hop water so it's always nice to try some that seem to find that elusive balance. In both cases the malts provided a fruity complexity that was much more than just added sweetness. In the end, however, it was the hops that won us over as we both chose the Big Eye which was the hoppier of the two. 

Unanimous decision: Big Eye

Monday, August 12, 2013

Oregon Pilsners — Southern Oregon Brewing vs. Base Camp Brewing

Southern Oregon Brewing
Na Zdravi Czech Style Pilsner
ABV 4.8%

Base Camp Brewing
Ripstop Rye Pils
ABV 5.7% 

It's hard to beat a good pilsner on a hot day. If it's made right it should be crisp, refreshing and even a bit hoppy and bitter. On a broiling southern Oregon summer evening we put two Oregon pilsners into the ring to see which we liked best. As always we tasted blind for dramatic effect.

Beer #1 (Na Zdravi) was a hazy yellow with some grain and clean citrus hops on the nose. It had a nice sharpness/crispness with some flavors of grain and bread. The finish was mellow with more grain and a mild citrus bitterness.

Beer #2 (Ripstop) was clear and golden. It had a bit of a barnyard funkiness on the nose while the body was much richer and featured prominent bready flavors. The finish was quite malty and somewhat sweet and grainy with no hop bitterness at all.

If we judged these according to style the Na Zdravi would have won hands down, however that's not how we roll. We always judge on which beer we liked better and in this case we ended up choosing different beers. Ellen thought that the Na Zdravi was a bit too clean (bordering on lemon pledge) and preferred the smooth maltiness of the Ripstop. I went with the Na Zdravi simply because I was craving a beer with a modicum of hops and the Ripstop really had almost zero hop presence.

Split decision: Ellen chose the Ripstop, I chose the Na Zdravi

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Beers We Picked Up in Los Angeles

Beachwood Brewing
Thrillseeker IPA
ABV 7.1%

Surf Brewery
County Line Rye Pale Ale
ABV 6% 
Apologies for the extended silence. We have been quite busy at the bakery and with entertaining guests so far this summer. We did have time to sneak in this bottle battle featuring two beers we picked up at a grocery store in LA. The Thrillseeker IPA is from Beachwood Brewing & BBQ in Long Beach and the County Line Rye is from Surf Brewery in Ventura. 
Right out of the gate neither beer really impressed us. The County Line Rye had a sweet rye bread aroma with a fairly simple malt-dominated flavor and a touch of citrus. It finished with lots of roasted malts and a burnt toast bitterness. All in all it was a bit too malty for our tastes. 
Upon drinking her first sip of the Thrillseeker IPA, Ellen declared, "It offends me." I could see what she meant as it was aggressively hoppy with tons of grass and citrus character that was a bit shocking to the senses at first. However, as time passed the intense flavors and aromas grew on me until by the end I was longing for more. Ellen never really came around to enjoying the Thrillseeker and chose the County Line Rye because it didn't offend her. I chose the Thrillseeker not just because it has a mustachioed hop cone flying through a ring of fire on its label but because it turned me from a skeptic to a believer in the span of 22 oz. It is not a beer for the faint of heart and most definitely rides a fine line between offensive and awesome. Pick up a bottle next time you are in southern California just to see if your palate can handle it.  
Split decision: Ellen chose the County Line Rye, I chose the Thrillseeker

Monday, May 13, 2013

IPAs — 10 Barrel Hop Project

10 Barrel Batch #2
India Pale Ale
ABV 6.8%

10 Barrel Batch #37
Brown India Pale Ale
ABV 6.95%

10 Barrel Batch #91
Black India Pale Ale

ABV 7.3%

10 Barrel Batch #136
Wheat India Pale Ale

ABV 6.5% 

10 Barrel is really doing well catering to beer geeks like us. When I saw four of these generic looking bottles at my local bottle shop they certainly caught my eye. Upon further inspection I discovered that they were all part of the 10 Barrel Hop Project. They are normally sold in a mixed case and each one is a different style of IPA. It's a Hophead's dream and a great excuse to do a Bottle Battle.

All were tasted blind as usual.

Beer #1 (Batch #136, Wheat IPA): Golden yellow with very pungent floral/citrus hops. Flavor was very clean (bordering on cleaning solution) with tons of sweet citrus. The finish was surprisingly bitter — more than we were expecting.

Beer #2 (Batch #2, IPA): Hazy orange/yellow. More malty than #1 with piny hop notes. Flavor was heavy on the sweet malts with some fruitiness and the finish had a moderate citrus rind bitterness.

Beer #3 (Batch #37, Brown IPA): Reddish brown with lots of honey maltiness in the aroma as well as some pine and citrus. Flavor was fruity, floral and sweet like a dark honey. The finish was also quite bitter, once again more than we usually prefer.

Beer #4 (Batch #91, Black IPA): Pitch black with chocolate and coffee up front and some pine in the background. Tasted of cola, coffee and smoke. Finished smoky as well with a burnt coffee grounds bitterness.

Tasting blind wasn't really necessary as the colors pretty much gave them away. We both eliminated the Wheat IPA (Batch #136) as it had a bit of that chemical/cleaning solution quality that we both dislike. We also eliminated the Black IPA (Batch #91) because we felt the hops took too much of a backseat to the roasty chocolate malts. So it came down to the Brown IPA (Batch #37) vs. the regular IPA (Batch #2, rumored to be a ramped up version of their Apocalypse IPA).

Ellen ended up choosing the Brown IPA for it's excellent balance of sweet honey malts and piny hops. I went with the regular IPA because the more I drank it the more I wished I had another which is surely one of the best signs of a great beer.

Extra credit: Did we learn anything about hops from the Hop Project? Yes. All of the beers list the hops that were used in the kettle (during the boil, used to impart bitterness) and for dry hopping (hops added during or after the fermentation process, used to enhance the aroma). It was fun to see which hops we prefer for bittering as opposed to aroma. If you, like us, are interested in what qualities specific hop varieties add to your beer you are most certainly a beer geek. Embrace it.   

Split decision: Ellen chose the Brown IPA (Batch #37), I chose the regular IPA (Batch #2)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Imperial IPAs — Double Mountain vs. Midnight Sun

Double Mountain
Molten Lava Imperial IPA
ABV 9%

Midnight Sun

Obliteration IX Double IPA
ABV 8%

We got both of these while roaming the isles at the epic beer emporium in Portland, John's Marketplace. If you like beer and you're in SW Portland you need to go there. Just sayin'. Midnight Sun is from Anchorage, Alaska and Double Mountain is from Hood River, Oregon. We battled them blind as usual.

Beer #1 (Midnight Sun) was a hazy brownish orange with lots of piny hops and honey malts on the nose. The flavor was a mix of brown sugar and piny hop notes. The finish was mild and grassy with a mellow bitterness.

Beer #2 (Double Mountain) was hazy and golden with a big white head. The aroma was dominated by floral and citrus hops with a slight funkiness as well. The flavor was a nice balance of sweet and citrus and the finish was also citrusy with a mellow bitterness. 

This was a tough one. Usually with Imperial IPAs one of the two bottles just doesn't appeal to us. These two bottles, however, were in tune with our taste buds. They both showed exceptional balance which is not easy to do with this style of beer. We've had many Imperial IPAs that were either syrupy sweet or massively bitter, neither of which is very pleasant. In the end we both ended up going with the Double Mountain Molten Lava simply because at that particular moment on that particular day the floral/citrus hop combo was just slightly more appealing than the piny/grassy hops. We really could have flipped a coin though — both are excellent, easy drinking and well-made beers. Take your pick and enjoy!

Unanimous Decision: Double Mountain Molten Lava Imperial IPA

Monday, April 22, 2013

Extra Pale Ales — Uinta Brewing vs. Alesmith Brewing

Uinta Wyld
Extra Pale Ale
ABV 4%


Extra Pale Ale
ABV 5.25%

Extra Pale Ale, huh? So it's more than a Pale Ale, but not quite an IPA? Beer name variations are always a good reason for a Bottle Battle. Beers were tasted blind as usual. 

Beer #1 was hazy golden with a huge white head. It had some fruity hops in the nose and some grassy, tart aromas as well. The body was rich and almost creamy while the flavor was dominated by tart and yeasty notes. The finish was also quite yeasty with not much bitterness.

Beer #2 was clear golden yellow and featured aromas of grass, grain and citrus. The flavor was crisp and clean with a mild citrus/pineapple hop presence. It finished with more grassy flavors and mild grapefruity bitterness.

#1 was the Uinta Wylde. We suspect something was wrong with it. The yeasty character was bizarre. I even went so far as to guess that the name might have something to do with it being fermented with some wild (wylde) yeasts. I was wrong. It's part of their certified organic line of beers and according to their website it is supposed to be a pretty straight forward hoppy pale. So, it's quite possible we got a bottle that was stored improperly or something. Either way, it was the obvious loser.

The Alesmith beer on the other hand was a very nice, hoppy, sessionable pale ale. We highly recommend you pop a bottle when the weather warms up. 

In regards to the Extra Pale Ale moniker, both these beers seemed to actually be lighter in body and lower in alcohol than many standard pales ales we've tried. So in the grand hierarchy of hoppy beers these would fall somewhere below a standard pale ale putting them in the same general area as India Session Ales. Perhaps the "Extra" stands for extra sessionable? More marketing nonsense.         
Unanimous Decision: Alesmith Extra Pale Ale

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Wheat IPAs — Pyramid vs. Shock Top

Wheaten IPA
ABV 6.5%

Shock Top
Wheat IPA
ABV 5.8%

It's been interesting to watch the big breweries try to infiltrate the craft beer market. Blue Moon Belgian White (brewed by MillerCoors) is perhaps the most popular, offering a sweeter and more complex option to those who are looking to upgrade from the watery tastelessness of canned macrobrew. These new Wheat IPAs appear to be an attempt by Pyramid (not quite a macrobrewery, but a huge microbrewery) and Anheuser-Busch (brewer of Shock Top) to grab a share of this market. We're always game to try a new IPA style so the battle was on.

The Pyramid was brownish-orange with an earthy, roasty and slightly soapy aroma. The flavor was clean and malty but mostly devoid of any significant hop presence. The finish was a bit soapy as well with just a touch of bitterness. 

The Shock Top was reddish-orange and hazy. It had a much sweeter aroma with some spice, citrus and floral notes. The flavor was also mostly sweet and malty with a prevalent spiciness (cinnamon, coriander, clove). Once again we had trouble detecting any hops. Honestly it tasted more like a spiced winter beer than an IPA (we found out later that it's brewed with citrus peel and coriander). 

As we'd feared these beers are not made for people who like craft brewed IPAs. Having detected very little hop presence in either beer we weren't exactly sure what qualified them as IPAs aside from the acronym on the label. And since the addition of wheat in the grain bill of a beer is unlikely to produce any noticeable flavors or aromas, the use of "wheat" on the label is probably nothing more than an attempt to capitalize on the success of Blue Moon's Belgian White (a wheat beer) and Widmer's Hefeweizen (also a wheat beer). Still, these are both a huge step up in flavor from macrobrews so if they can serve as a gateway beer to budding new palates then that's a good thing.

In regards to the battle it wasn't easy to choose. If we based it solely on style guidelines the Pyramid was the winner hands down since it came closest to actually being an IPA. However, if we based it purely on taste Ellen stuck with the Pyramid while I thought the Shock Top was tastier. Why they didn't just call it a Spiced Wheat Beer we'll never know. I guess we can blame it on the marketers.    
Split Decision: Ellen chose Pyramid, I chose Shock Top.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Double IPAs — 10 Barrel vs. Napa Smith


10 Barrel Dub
Double IPA
ABV 9.5%

Napa Smith Hopageddon
Imperial IPA
ABV 9.2%

First off we'd like to go ahead and admit that 10 Barrel is probably our favorite brewery right now. We loved everything we tried when we visited the brewery in Bend, we always buy their "Small Tank Project" beers and we proudly offer their excellent Apocalypse IPA at the bakery. On the other hand, we know nearly nothing about Napa Smith except that it is readily available when we are visiting family in the Napa, California area. That being said it was even more important that one of us taste the beers blind. I volunteered, Ellen poured.

Beer #1 was a hazy reddish orange with a huge citrus and pine aroma bordering on soapy. The flavor was harsh, grassy and medicinal and the finish featured intense citrus rind bitterness to go along with a strange smokiness and some astringency. I secretly hoped that this was not the 10 Barrel.

Beer #2 was more brownish orange and had a much more subdued hop aroma that was dominated by a floral honey character. The flavor fell more on the malty side of things with a nice sweetness tempered by some pleasant citrus hop notes. It finished with the same kind of citrus rind bitterness as #1 but without any of the weird smokiness or astringency.

We both agreed that Beer #2 was the clear winner which just so happened to be the 10 Barrel Dub. The Hopageddon was certainly extreme, but extreme only goes so far before everything gets out of whack. In an ironic twist we felt that the 10 Barrel was very well balanced for a Double IPA despite reading this on the side of the bottle: "This beer is not balanced, was not intended to be, and will never be balanced. Seriously, if you don't like hops this beer might possibly ruin your day."

On a side note, the Hopaggedon dominated in the label design category. Who doesn't love a flaming hop meteor? Well played Napa Smith.      
Unanimous Decision: 10 Barrel Dub 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Double IPAs — Silver Moon vs. Avery Brewing

Silver Moon Hoptagon
Imperial IPA
ABV 8.5%

Avery Brewing DuganA
Double IPA
ABV 8.5%

Recently we have noticed a movement in the craft beer world to push back from the crazy excess and intensity of imperial-style beers in favor of the more refined and easy-drinking profiles of low-alcohol "session" beers. We are not part of that movement. Although we certainly enjoy a well-made session beer, especially in the summer, we are drawn to the extremes — beers that push the limits with unique ingredients, new techniques and experimental style combinations. Double IPAs are perhaps the most popular of these extreme beers and we are shamelessly in love with the style. So despite the current trends, expect to see a heavy dose of heavy beer on Bottle Battle. That's how we roll.

Having recently visited Bend, we were happy to see Hoptagon at our local bottle shop. We matched it up against some stiff competition in the DuganA as Avery has established itself as a force when it comes to hoppy beers. Ellen poured so that I could do a blind tasting.

Beer #1 was ripe with floral hops that bordered on soapy. It was sweet, thick, full-bodied and citrusy in a Lemon Pledge sort of way. The finish was moderately bitter but mostly dominated by sweet malts.

Beer #2 had an funky, earthy, piny aroma. It was also full-bodied but the sweet honey flavor of malt overwhelmed the hops in the flavor. It finished with a somewhat harsh and lingering bitterness.

Neither were stellar. Ellen immediately was drawn to Beer #2 which turned out to be the DuganA. At first I was leaning toward the Hoptagon, but as it warmed up all the chemical, soapy notes became amplified and I switched to the DuganA.
Unanimous Decision: Avery DuganA

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Imperial Stouts — Sierra Nevada vs. Green Flash

2012 Sierra Nevada
Narwhal Imperial Stout 
ABV 10.2%

Green Flash
Double Stout
(Black Ale)
ABV 8.8%

I've been a Narwhal enthusiast for some time now. As a graphic designer for Archie McPhee I helped with the concept and design of the infamous Avenging Narwhal Play Set (now available in a slightly lesser version here). I even wrote a children's picture book called Do Narwhals Have Blowholes? So you can imagine my excitement at seeing the image of a Narwhal staring at me from the shelves at our local bottle shop. The fact that it was an imperial stout made it even more compelling. After finding a suitable competitor in the Green Flash Double Stout the battle was on.
The Green Flash was very nice with roasty chocolate and coffee notes mixed with a slight hop spiciness in the aroma. The flavor continued with the same roasted chocolate malt and coffee characteristics. It finished sweet and malty with a mild bitterness to round things out.
The Narwhal was a whole different beast. It smelled very fruity and sweet with some noticeable harsh alcohol aromas and a bit of vanilla. The flavor was very sweet, a bit syrupy and somewhat soapy while the finish was sweet, boozy and harshly bitter.
I was pulling for the Narwhal the whole time but in the end even my extreme bias could not propel the Narwhal to victory. The Green Flash was just a better beer, more balanced, more nuanced, more enjoyable. I haven't lost all hope though. I have stashed a bottle of Narwhal in my beer cellar in the hopes that some time in the bottle will transform it into a magical beer worthy of its name. I'm giving you another chance Narwhal, don't let me down...  

Unanimous Decision: Green Flash Double Stout

Friday, January 11, 2013

Auburn Alehouse Trio

Auburn Alehouse
PU 240 Imperial IPA
ABV 8%

Auburn Alehouse
Fool's Gold Pale Ale
ABV 7.0%

Auburn Alehouse
Gold Digger IPA
ABV 7.8%

During our Christmas celebration with my parents in the Bay Area my dad brought out these three beers from Auburn Alehouse located a bit north of Sacramento. He poured three tasters for me and three for him and before we knew it we had a Bottle Battle on our hands. I love a spontaneous battle, especially when it involves beers from a brewery I've never tried! It was also an informal Bottle Battle as we didn't bother taking notes so excuse the vague descriptions.

We both were impressed by all three beers. The Fool's Gold was very solid with plenty of hops from the aroma through the finish. I do remember that it had some macrobrew grain aromas as well which I'm never too keen on, but nothing too bad. The Gold Digger was even better with a gorgeous hop aroma followed by a nice balance of malt and hops in the flavor and a moderate bitterness in the finish. Based on the excellent hop profile of those first two beers we both had high hopes for the PU 240. As expected, it was a malty hop bomb and my dad loved it. I liked it as well, but in the end felt that the Gold Digger was just a bit more balanced.

Thanks to my dad for introducing me to yet another hopcentric craft brewery on the west coast, and thanks to Auburn Alehouse for three excellent beers. We'll be sure to make a pilgrimage to their alehouse next time we head down I-5!
Split Decision: I chose the Gold Digger, pops chose the PU 240