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