Well, I can’t pretend to have the brew-meister chops of Taylor, but I know a good local beer when I have one. Just had a couple Starr Hill Pale Ales at The Egg Bistro in Chesapeake and it was darn good. Belgian style, a little sweet and just hoppy enough, brewed in our favorite mountainous region of Charlottesville. Get some!
Interlude: Vermont is a beautiful state and it makes beautiful beer. This IPA is a collaboration between 2 vermont based breweries, Otter Creek and Lawson’s Finest Liquids. I would love to make the pilgrimage to this state, to ride its vast dirt and gravel roads that roll and ramble over hills and creeks and to visit some of the countries best breweries. Clear your calendars for next summer.
Appearance: Brilliant orange color, very effervescent. Looks like a snifter full of orange crush. Thin white head that leaves faint lace on glass as it settles
Aroma: Upfront I get mango and ripe pineapples, there are some notes of grapefruit and other tropical fruits. Very minimal malt aroma, but didn’t really expect it. This is making my mouth water.
Taste: Bursting with juicy citrus fruits upfront, followed with some mild bittering of pine blending into a bread/biscuit character that seems happy playing second fiddle to the hope in this beer. Cascade hops are, without question, the star of the show in this beer. Some bitterness lingers on the tongue, but fades quickly.
Mouthfeel: Juicy, somewhat sticky. Ample carbonation noted on glass, but not tasted, very smooth.
Overall: A very juicy and smooth DIPA. I was lucky enough to come by a bottle from my friend Ian at Lets Talk Wine. Unfortunately in you didn’t get a bottle when it first came out, you are unlikely to find it anywhere. There was a lot of hype behind this beer, and think it lived up to it.
Interlude: The label on this beer reads “Our Happy, Hoppy, Ale” which I find intriguing and for some unknown reason it reminds me of my favorite time of the year, Fall. I am guessing most of you are with me on this one. The warmth of the sun still lingers, but there is a crispness in the air that is unmistakably autumn. For me, this is the best time to ride my bike. I love the early morning chill as you set out early, then the morning warms up, forcing you to peel off layers. To me fall is the perfect blend of all the things I enjoy about summer and winter. It highlights the beauties of each season without being purely anything, each day is different, ever changing.
Appearance: Dark amber, with brilliant cherry and ruby hues as it is held up to the light, much deeper than expected, just a beautiful color
Aroma: I am struck by the crisp smell of pine and citrus blended with the smell of dark chocolate malts and biscuit, slight spiciness is noted. There are also notes of caramel and a candy-like sweetness.
Taste: This is bold and robust, chocolate malt and bread dominate upfront, then a big taste piney bitterness comes forward. I taste a caramel finish with a slight sweetness as the bitterness fades. The hops are not overly citrusy or “dank”, just adding a solid bitterness. The malt and hop profiles of this beer are excellent and very well balanced, I feel they complement each other well. I was fortunate enough to find this really fresh, only 7 days since bottling, so the hop character is very apparent, but I think that would fade quickly over time.
Mouthfeel: medium body, slight chewiness
Overall: Much like fall, this beer is a blend of the things that I love from both ambers and aggressively hopped pale ales and IPAs. It has bold and sweet malt character backed up with a bitterness that rivals some IPAs. I think this is a great option as the weather turns cooler and you naturally crave something a little hardier without being overly heavy. I think it would pair well with robust, bold foods you would find around the Thanksgiving table.
Interlude: Sours. There is no gray zone, you either love them or you have never tried them. Much like cyclocross, those who do it love it. That being said, you can guess where I stand on both issues. The Flanders Red ale is a traditional beer of West Flanders in Belgium. This beer is best know for it cherry wood reddish hue and the sharp, tart and sour characteristics that come from special yeast strains. Often dubbed “wild yeast”, which I find strangely fitting. These beers are complex and many have seen months, if not years, inside of oak casks. They are light and crisp and fantastic with food pairings or post cross race, as a tribute to the heritage and root of cyclocross
Appearance: Hundreds of tiny bubbles remain on the surface or a dark brownish-red liquid, slight orange hues at it is held up the light.
Aroma: Sour cherry, some green apple, acetic berries with aromas or wood and light leather. There is a finish of some barnyard funk from the wild yeast.
Taste: Like the aroma, tart cherries and sour fruit, not as sour as I would have thought based off the smell. A mild to moderate amount of funk from the yeast tasted that fades as flavors of the cognac barrel come forward. Some nice vanilla flavors toward the finish. There are red wine qualities to this beer without being overly dry or heavy, it is easy to drink and remains light and refreshing though out the bottle even after it warms a little
Mouthfeel: Thin, light. Good carbonation. Flavor lingers in back of throat and tongue.
Overall: I think this is a good example of a Flanders Red, not as sour as other beer of this style offered by the Bruery or Duchesse, but it would be a good start for anyone looking to try the style out. I think it would pair great with blue cheese, earthy vegetables and grilled meat.
Firestone-Walker Union Jack IPA Bottle: 12 oz, ABV: 7.5%, IBU: 70, Serving Temperature: 50° F, Glass Type: Pilsner glass
Interlude: The IPA has an interesting history, origins of the IPA began in England by Bow Brewery, a favorite of the East India Trading company due to its location in an important port city. The first recorded “India” pale ale was a pale ale known as October beer, which was more aggressively hopped than other pale ales of the time. It was noted that this beer’s flavor profile improved during the favorable cellaring conditions during nautical transport. It quickly became a favorite among consumers in India.
Today, the style has exploded into something uniquely American, with the epicenter of the movement on the west coast. There is little arguing that California is home to some of the world’s most respected breweries (and some of the best riding as well). Firestone-Walker, located in San Luis Obispo, is one of those special breweries that does not make a bad beer. They also hosted their first Criterium this year, training trip anyone?
Appearance: In homage to the IPA this beer fits the standard it is a bright, clear amber orange. Effervescent white head that lingers and laces nicely.
Aroma: Upfront, I get grapefruit notes as well as a hint of some pine mixed in. The hope notes are not over the top like other examples of this style. There is a sweetness and bready-ness that lingers in the aroma that you can almost taste.
Taste: Due to the aroma you are tricked into thinking you will be tasting sweet caramel malts upfront but you actually get a nice blend of bready malt flavors and a bunch of a grapefruit. After the initial taste the sweetness lingers and grapefruit gives way to tropical fruits like mango and guava. The alcohol is nicely hidden and leave a hint that it is there with a mild numbness of the tongue.
Overall: This is a great example of a west coast IPA, boarding Double IPA. It is available year round and is a must try for anyone who considers themselves a hop-head. This, however, is not a session beer, but would pair great with BBQ chicken, ribs or pulled pork.