Friday, February 27, 2015

Red Ales — Payette Brewing Co. vs. Ballast Point Brewing Co.

Payette Brewing Co.
Slaughter House
(India Style Red Ale)
ABV 7.5%

Ballast Point Brewing Co. 
Tongue Buckler
(Imperial Red Ale)   
ABV 10% 

This time we delve into the strange and unpredictable world of "red ales." We've always had a soft spot for a good, hoppy red ale. Unfortunately we've also run into our share of malty, roasty red ales that are essential just an amber ale with a different name. I chose these specifically because, based on their labels, they promised to deliver some attempt at hoppiness. It's a battle of Boise, Idaho vs. San Diego, California. Let's get it on! 

Beer #1 (Ballast Point Tongue Buckler) was an attractive reddish brown in the glass. The nose had plenty of hop character leaning toward piney, herbal & vegetal. It had a full body with lots of resiny hop notes to go along with a sweet, burnt caramel maltiness. It was moderate to heavy in bitterness and had an intense finish of burnt caramel. 

Beer #2 (Payette Slaughter House) was the exact same color as Beer #1 but had a bit more clarity. The aroma was reminiscent of fabric softener, soap and pine. It had a thinner body than Beer #1 with lots of floral notes and a mild sweetness. The finish was short-lived with a mild to moderate bitterness and a continuation of the floral character and some underlying grain notes.

This one had us flip flopping a bit. At first we were drawn to the boldness of the Tongue Buckler, but eventually its aggressiveness just wore us out and we both chose the Slaughter House as the winner. This is not surprising as the Tongue Buckler was brewed in the "imperial" style, which nowadays means stuff as much malt and hops into the beer as humanly possible. Ballast Point has built its reputation on boldly hopped beers and this is no exception. Our biggest complaint was in the finish which was too bitter for our tastes and even had some of that "ashmouth" bitterness that we've detected in extremely hoppy beers in the past.

The Slaughter House lived up to a beer touting itself as an "India Style Red Ale," and resulted in a successful union between an amber ale and an India pale ale — nice and malty with a decent hop kick. Our only complaint was with the nose, which definitely had elements of artificially scented cleaning products. Aside from that, though, it was a beer worth stowing in your backpack for your next recreational endeavor. Heck, take two, you deserve it.

Unanimous decision: Payette Brewing Slaughter House

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

IPAs — Base Camp Brewing vs. Stone Brewing

Base Camp Brewing
Ultra Gnar Gnar IPA
ABV 6.7%

Stone Brewing 
Delicious IPA 
ABV 7.7% 

Another IPA battle. This time featuring two beers with self-proclaimed greatness built right into their names. Can the laid back snowboard/skater slang of Ultra Gnar Gnar from Base Camp in Portland take down the brash pomposity of a Stone beer touting itself as "Delicious?" These are the questions we tackle at Bottle Battle. Tasting was conducted blind as is our custom.

Beer #1 (Base Camp Ultra Gnar Gnar IPA) was a hazy orangish brown that was quite a bit darker than your typical IPA. It had an intriguing nose featuring aromas of peppery and piney hops, sweet pipe tobacco and men's cologne. The flavor was quite fruity with sweet malts dominating while the peppery and piney hop notes stayed in the background along with some woodiness. The finish was a bit flat offering a bit of citrus, some moderate bitterness and a lingering vegetal taste.

Beer #2 (Stone Delicious IPA) was a clear, golden yellow. It also featured a unique and intriguing nose featuring sweet citrus (more orange than lemon), fruity honey and a hint of funk. The flavor was heavy on the citrus with a mild honey sweetness along with some fun tropical fruit flavors. The finish started with an intense citrus rind bitterness but soon faded to sweet, floral honey with softer citrus notes.

This was a fun battle, mostly because it seems as if brewers are straying from the typical IPA profile of just a few years ago by incorporating a whole host of new and experimental hop varieties that are expanding our definition of what an IPA can be. I can envision a time in the not so distant future where IPAs are categorized and labelled based on the hops they use, similar to the grape varietals in a wine. You'll have hopheads waxing philosophic on the merits of Mosaic hops and tweaking old wine acronyms like ABC (anything but Chardonnay) to "anything but Chinook." I can almost see it now, an entire refrigerated case at Whole Foods dedicated to IPAs organized by hops.

Back to the beers. While we were captivated by the aromas of both, we preferred the overall package of the Stone Delicious IPA. The Ultra Gnar Gnar was a fun and unique IPA, but to our palate the fruity and malty notes overwhelmed the hop notes leaving it a bit out of balance. 

According to Stone's marketing, the Delicious IPA is an attempt to bridge the gap between IPA snobs and IPA noobs. On a very simple level we think they made a nice, well balanced IPA and somehow managed to make it a bit softer and sweeter without sacrificing that balance. And while we're not sure that they will find a huge market in the IPA snob population (count us in there) we do feel that it could be the perfect beer for IPA noobs wanting to experiment with IPAs.

Unanimous decision: Stone Delicious IPA