Paranormal IPA? Stone’s Ghost Hammer

Stone_Gost_Hammer_IPAOn the docket: 12 oz. can of Stone’s Ghost Hammer IPA

Poured into: Wine & Whiskey Country snifter

S:  A Lightly golden, somewhat hazy body stands beneath a white frothy head.  Decent lacing accrues on the sides of the glass, but the head dissipates, like a specter you’re not sure you saw.  Small zippy bubbles make their way to the top.

A:  A grapefruit citrus mixes with a subtle floral aroma.  A pinch of pine.

T:  Mirroring the aroma, citrus leads, followed by the floral component.  Interesting hop choice.  It finishes with a bit of cracker-y malt and firm but not bracing bitterness.
F:  Medium-light.  Gentle, but discernable carbonation.  Excellent bitterness to balance the malt.
O:  On the lighter side, but a smooth, easy-drinking IPA despite the 6.7% abv.  It’s a bit of a departure from what we expect from Stone, but that’s by no means a bad thing.  An intermediate-level IPA that will vanish quickly from your glass.  Ooooooo!

Suggested food pairing:  Arugula salad with sliced mango, tropical style roasted chicken, fruit tart, medium-sharpness cheddar.

Tangerine Dream: Stone’s Enjoy by 5.30.16 Tangerine

On the docket:  22 oz. bottle Stone’s Enjoy by 5/30/16 Tangerine.  Date:  3/24/16.

Poured into:  Wine & Whiskey Country Belgian snifter

A:  Bold aroma of tangerine at first sniff.  After a minute or two, you can also detect a small amount of mango or papaya.  Simple but elegant.

S:  Crystal-bright honey gold body, and a bone collar of dense foam on top.  The head builds, the recedes quickly to a closely hugging ring of suds and a wash of microscopic bubbles in the center.  Tiny bubbles drift to the top of the glass.  Big bands of lacing.

T:  After an initial blast of tangerine and citrus hoppiness, the malt emerges as white-bread crust and just a touch of caramel and molasses.  Brief sweetness.  The hops come in again at the end providing fruitiness and bitterness with an added pine.

F:  Fine carbonation, medium-plus body.  Oily and slick on the palate.  Long, drying and bitter finish.  Despite the 9%+ abv, no real sign of the alcohol via flavor or aroma.

O:  Aggressively hopped and flavorful.  Excellent aroma and just enough sweetness from the malt to provide a counterbalance.  However, the hops and bitterness win out.  Neat variation on the popular “drink it while its fresh” series by Stone.

Pairing suggestions:  Heavy, triple-cream cheese, fruit salad, Pasta primavera/alfredo, tangerine or orange sherbet.

Gose Down Easy: Anderson Valley’s Briney Melon Gose

On the docket:  12 oz. can of Anderson Valley Brewing Co.’s Briney Melon Gose

Poured into:  Innis & Gunn stemmed craft beer glass

S:  The body pours a golden straw and sports a creamy bone head.  The cap builds, lingers, then eventually settles down to a small, tight and hugging band of bubbles.  Tiny bubbles helix their way to the top from the base of the glass.  Lacing is thin, delicate but consistent bands with each sip.  There’s a slight haze to this, but does not detract from the beauty.

A:  Subtle but luscious watermelon, the slightest hint of funk, clean briny mineral, and soft malty sweetness comprise the nose.  A strong sniff reveals the rind of the watermelon, not simply the meat.  Another long sniff pulls out a faint floral aspect, it must be the Bravo hops.

T:  Certainly the most interesting aspect of the beer, the fruit flavor is everything done right about fruit used in beer.  The melon is present, but gentle, and melds with the pale malt and malted wheat into a lovely tang.  The sea salt is there too, adding balance to the acidity and fruit.  And, while it’s certainly sour, there a nice give and take between sweet and salty, sour and fruity.

F:  Crisp, and dainty on the palate with ample carbonation, lending another element to its drinkability and and refreshing nature.  The finish is relatively short, with a small dose of bitterness in addition to the melon flavor that rides along the entire time, beginning to end.

O:  Excellent execution of a fruit-flavored gose, and less on the traditional side (no coriander for starters).  Thirst-inducing and paradoxically, thirst-quenching.  Sessionable at 4.2%, imagine this on draft after a day out hiking, biking, running, kayaking, or any other summer activity in the sun.

Suggested food pairing:  goat cheese, summer ingredient salads, grilled chicken or fish with lemon-pepper seasoning (because the beer already brings the salt)

 

The Best of All Possible Worlds: Firestone Walker’s XIX

Firestone_Walker_XIX

On the docket:  22 oz. bottle of Firestone Walker’s XIX.  Bottle date:  10/2/15

Poured into:  River Horse snifter

S:  The body fills into the glass as a walnut, mahogany orb, nearly black.  The bottom sports orange tints, the meniscus counters with a light aubergine.  The head, a dense, foamy taupe cap builds and dies.  What’s left is a tight ring at the outside of the glass, full of bubbles.  An archipelago of small bubbles floats in the center.  Small brown particles (FW warned drinkers ahead of time) settle to the bottom.  Carbonation is visibly undetectable.

A:  First and foremost, the barrel-aged aspect of the aroma, front and center:  vanilla and a slight oaky, earthy tobacco.  After consideration and a swirl, one might also take in coffee, dark chocolate, fruit cake, coconut, and a slight spiciness.  Warm, piquant booze sends a tingle up the nostrils.  In the middle of it all is a very subtle pine resin.  All in all, a multi-layered aroma giving evidence of each of the four beers in this celebratory concoction.

T:  Wow, so much happening, I doubt there’s any way I’ll catch it all.  Much of the aroma carries into the palate.  The coffee, chocolate and fruit cake are easiest to pick out.  New flavors, not in the nose are here too, such as a rich molasses (thank you Stickee Monkee), and fleeting touches of caramel (and thank you Bravo).  Delving further into the structure, there’s also a soft anise/black licorice feature (Dr. Parabola, I presume?).  Though a massive sweetness sticks around through mid-palate, it leaves after a while, providing a drying, tannic, oaky finish.  The finish itself is long, and certainly feels like the smooth burn of brandy, and the vanilla of bourbon barrels.

F:  Thick, oily and coating.  Heavy on the palate, with just enough lift from the carbonation.  Chewy (there you are, Mr. Merkin).  As it warms it gets almost too heavy… almost.

O:  This one deserves contemplation, as Firestone Walker has done it once again.  This beer is greater than the sum of its parts.  Each sip and degree of temperature change brings something new.

S:  3.75  A:  4.5  T:  4.75  F:  4  O:  4.5

Suggested food pairing: if you must… sharp cheddar cheese, hearty beef stew made with a splash of whiskey… but really, this one deserves full attention.  Enjoy it on its own.

Magical Mystery Hop Bill: Firestone Walker’s Luponic Distortion Revolution #001

On the docket:  12 oz. bottle of Firestone Walker’s Luponic Distortion Revolution #001, bottled on 2/20/16

Poured into:  Firestone Walker Pint Glass

S:  Pale straw with a slight golden hue dazzles in the early morning sun.  The head, off-white, builds to a dense quarter-inch and sticks around for a long while before relaxing into a tight ring.  Lacing is consistent and bandy.  Lazy bubbles rise to the surface from the base of the glass.  They seem to sense it’s a Saturday, and take their time.

A:  A zesty blend of citrus, pine, mango, lime.  A touch of peach and a light candy sweetness.  Malt took the day off.  There’s a mild spice note that I want to call… cinnamon and brown sugar.  This one you really have to look for, adding a bit of nuance to a very fruit/pine driven aroma.

T:  Pine resin meets your palate first, followed by subtle water-cracker malt and a wheat-y twang.  The finish reminds me of tonic water (quinine) with a bit of lime thrown in for flavor.  This is not a bad thing, as American IPAs should be hoppy, dry, and bitter.  A great lingering taste of pine, too.  I will agree with some opinions that this gets a little sweeter over time, the malt emerging a bit more, adding balance, but not interfering with the star of the show.

F:  Long, drying finish; a touch oily and coating on the tongue.  Bitter, resinous end.

O:  I’ve read reviews calling this “hop water.”  Nonsense.  Though the malt is a little sparse, this brew is meant to showcase the hops, whatever they may be.  The varietals are undisclosed, adding to its mystique and allure.  Fans of a gin and tonic would enjoy this, as would fans of IPAs that are aromatic, flavorful, and on the gentler side of the abv spectrum (this one weighs in at 5.9%) making this one, dare I say it and sound like a Hipster… crushable?

Suggested food pairing:  Arugula salad with mandarin oranges on top, honey mustard chicken wings/tenders/strips, tropical fruit tart, Monterey jack cheeseFW_Luponic_Distortion_Revolution_001

The Time Is Now: Otra Vez by Sierra Nevada

 

Sierra_Nevada_Otra_Vez

On the docket:  12 oz. bottle of Otra Vez by sierra Nevada

Quick note:  “Otra vez” is loosely translated as “again,” “anew,” “afresh” or quite literally, “another time.”

 

Aroma: Sweet graininess, a touch of briny tartness, grapefruit and a light… margarita aroma. Is that the prickly-pear?

Sight: Slightly hazy golden straw with a creamy, meringue like bone-white head. Lively carbonation of tiny bubbles zip to the top. The head dissipates quickly, but while present, is rich and smooth.

Taste: An initial sweetness from the malt is squelched by the rush of tart, sour, bracing acidity. Mouth-puckering and intense. This one ends softer, and drier, but the gose-ness remains. The “margarita” mentioned in the aroma translates into a nebulous green fruit, more evident as the beer warms. The salt here is harder to detect, but if you imagine rock salt on the outside of a glass, you’ve got it.

Feel: Medium-light and spritzy. Short finish that dries your mouth out and makes you go back for more.

Overall: Though not exactly traditional, perfectly suited for a session on a hot summer day. A great introduction into the world of sour beer. Tart, zesty, approachable.

Food pairing suggestion: Fruit salad, chicken or pork fajitas, tortilla chips and salsa, beef brisket, fruit tart, creamy, pungent cheese

Swim with the Big Fish: Ballast Point’s Watermelon Dorado DIPA

Ballast_Point_Watermelon_Dorado

On the docket:  12 oz. bottle of Ballast Point Watermelon Dorado DIPA

A: Sweetness and a full waft of watermelon. It’s pleasing to inhale, and smells authentic. clean malt also present, but the fruit aroma certainly overpowers the hops.

S: Golden orange with a thick, persistent beige head. Carbonation activity visible, small bubbles lazily making their way to the top of the glass. Head is thick and creamy, receding slowly. Lacing is regular and bandy.

T: A befuddling blend of watermelon, bitterness, and a touch of malty richness compete for attention. This is exactly what you think it is, a DIPA with watermelon added. There’s definitely traces of both the flesh and a touch of the white almost-rind you encounter if you’re not careful when taking a knife to a wedge. As it approaches room temperature, the hops are more identifiable, countering the fruit with a dose of pine resin.

F: Medium body, with the hallmark oiliness of a DIPA. Though it ends fairly hoppy and bitter, the watermelon carries all the way through to the finish, manifesting itself as a muted version of a watermelon flavored gummy candy (not necessarily a bad thing). Some dryness, just a touch of sweetness.

O: As far as DIPAs go, I’ll stick to traditional renditions. However, if you want a change of pace from your normal routine, pick this up and give it a try.

Suggested food pairing: Um…. spicy Thai food? Easily one of the hardest beers I’ve had to determine a food pairing for- one sip and you might understand why.