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