Sierra Nevada 2015 Estate IPA

Sierra Nevada’s 2015 Estate IPA

Well now that’s hi-falootin’ for beer, even craft beer. Here what we gots is a “homegrown” IPA, certified organic, and using hops and barley that the SN people grew out on the back forty. It’s even dated like a vintage, 2015 in this case, and they call it an “Estate Ale”, and it’s $9 for a 24-oz bottle. Folks, we are dangerously close to using words like “terroir” and “provenance” here.

But it comes from Sierra Nevada, and this brewery has consistently scored well in my tests, they own 2 of my Top Five IPA slots, and three of their ales scored at 9 or better here. So it’s an expensive IPA, but the pedigree is good, let’s take it for a spin.

Cloudy, always a good sign when filters are not allowed to rip half the flavors out of an IPA. Dark for an IPA, and that’s usually a good sign too, this is a true copper color so the malts were probably tortured to perfection. The smell is hopped delicately, and nearly a liquor smell.

A sip? Not bad, not bad, but this 6.7% alk IPA has got a little oddity to it. Wet hops and organic barley make sure that this is certainly a rheinheitsgebot-compliant beer, but there’s a bit of musty to it. The taste hints at those things i don’t like about Belgian beer: a dusty old taste, like this was worn a few times and hasn’t been washed.

The barley really shines through here, in other SN ales the hoppity flavors are wildly in control. Here, the hopping is modest and balanced, so the malts all taste toasty and carmelized. But it’s got that Belgian taste to it, like a mushroom grown in a shoe. Sweetness is high, likely due to well-roasted grains without hi-hops to hide behind.

So, no. I’m not a fan of the organic estate-grown pure and hipstery IPA in my hand today. It’s just got that Belgian taste, which is trendy now, but i simply never acquired that taste. This hit the local store a while or two ago, and i saved up for a bottle before they sold out. Glad i tried it, and because of the SN brand i know that if i never tried it, i would kick myself and forever wonder if i had missed the greatest IPA evah in tha wurld.

So i had to try. I tried and it’s not for me. C’est la vie. Rating: 4.3, sorry Sierra Nevada. It’s got that “white ale” taste to it, and if you ask me, which nobody ever does, it could use more hops.

Flying Dog Raging Bitch Belgian IPA

Flying Dog’s Raging Bitch Belgian IPA

That dog has a fat vagina. Thanks of course to Ralph Steadman, the twisted gentleman who did the artwork for all of Flying Dog’s labels and cartons, and if you don’t know him by name, you know his art from various places and didn’t know who it was done by. Notably, Ralph did the illustrations for stories by Hunter S. Thompson, including Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas. Even more hilarious by “Gonzo” Thompson, if that’s even possible, is his tale of being sent to cover the Kentucky Derby one year, accompanied by a shy and timid young illustrator, who Thompson promptly drugged and corrupted the morals of… that was Ralph Steadman’s first trip to America, in more ways than one.

Now you know why he makes art like that.

On to the beer, but first about the carton which a sixer of these comes in: the funny stuff is on the bottom, make sure to empty the carton before checking it out. This one has an account of Flying Dog ringing up Steadman and asking him to make an illustration for this beer. Steadman: “It took you 20 years to give me a name like Raging Bitch.” Finally, if you’ve seen the movie “It’s A Wonderful Life” then you’ll get a great laugh out of FD’s reason to recycle the bottles and carton. That’s right, Zuzu, that’s right.

The beer itself, i don’t much like it. The color is great, a deep mellow orangey amber. The smell is great, smells like plenty o’ hops here. The trouble is with Belgium. By now you know that i don’t like Belgian beer, and this is a “Belgian Style IPA”. The concept is ridiculous on the face of it, and inside the glass, the non-Belgian parts of this beer are good. The body is heavy and lip-smacky, the hops are indeed floral and fruity.

But to me, Belgian beers taste like dust. Really, like you picked something up that’s covered with dust and licked it. It’s a musty corrupt taste, like that grayish-blackish stuff in the corner of your basement that you’re not sure if it’s a mold or a fungus and aren’t sure you want to know. Well, that’s what Belgium tastes like to me, and it’s what wipes this beer out.

The alk content is a thrilling 8.3% and that has it’s uses, like just before bedtime, but why not just call up the Makumba for that, which is tastier and higher alk, and a Double IPA with no bits of Belgium in it at all.

So the tale of the Raging Bitch is great beer potential, yet brought down by the sinister influence of Belgium. Truly, without the Belgian element this beer would be highly rated. But with the musty rotting-mushroom taste which apparently drives them wild in Bruges, all i can do is rate this one at a humble 4.4

Magic Hat Low Key IPA

Magic Hat's Low Key Session IPA
Magic Hat’s Low Key Session IPA

Another one of those “session” IPA’s, and darn it, i’m tired of not knowing what that means. Hold on a minnit, let me force the Googer to tell me…

OK, ok. That was easy. Apparently, “session” simply means 4.5% alk or lower, so you can then drink it during your “session” of worktime. 4 hours is a likely “session” so 2 beers at work these days, maybe more in thee olden dayes when people had to work from sunup to sundown. And the low alcohol won’t make you fall over on the job, which bosses always hate. Don’t even ask me to cogitate what the workday beer allowance was before child-labor laws…

So this one fits, it’s at 4.5% alk on the dot. The color is pale, happily golden, and vigorous effervescence makes it a lively brew. The taste, however, is quite light as well. I believe there are hops in this, but they are just not slapping me across the cheek, like a good IPA ought to.

Beer body is heavier than the color would suggest, so quality malts used here, but the hoppiness is more than understated, it’s almost absent. It’s a fine beer, but just not what i’m looking for in an IPA. I want a pinecone shoved up my ass, grapefruit coming out of my earholes. Certainly not a bad beer, but what it is, as opposed to what the label says it is, leaves it at 4.4 for a rating. Sorry, Magic Hat Guys, your #9 rocks, but the Low Key Session IPA is a little too, well, low.

Rohrbach Red Wing Red Ale

Rohrbach's Red Wing Red Ale
Rohrbach’s Red Wing Red Ale

Youngers won’t remember, but once the Berlin Wall came down and the Kremlin got de-communist-ified, it was safe to make “red” beer again without some rat-faced Congressman using you as a scarecrow. Even Genesee did it, making “Genny Red”, but my favorite was Carlsberg’s version, the Red Elephant, which came in an oilcan 25 ouncer, and which would trample you.

Now since Rohrbach Brewery is in Rochester NY, and the home baseball team is the Red Wings, simple to predict that eventually we’d get a Red Wing Red Ale, and here it is. One ding against Rohrbach is that they don’t put much info about the beers on the side of their cans, or on the bottom (i looked, and it has a use-by date down there and “please store cold”). Rohrbach doesn’t tell you how strong their beers are, and i found out the hard way that their Highland Lager is quite a bit stronger than suspected.

But a plus for Rohrbach is the 1-pint cans with easily recycleable hard plastic clusterers. Not like the usual soft-plastic can clusterers, where you have to grab the scissors and cut each loop to be a responsible person and prevent seabirds from strangling.

As for the beer itself, this red ale is clear with a healthy coppery tone, a mellow taste and that customary “red beer” aftertaste of iron. Juicy midranges in the taste, like oatmeal with orange syrup, or saltines with nutella spread. Overall a tasty brew, but pricey at $9 for 4×16 cans = only 64 ounces.

So it’s a fine beer but i’m going to give a seemingly low rating. Part of that is the price, part of that is the fact that Red Elephant was the only one i really liked out of the flood of reds in the 1990’s. If you’re after a red, then this one is for you. I just prefer other types of beer. So this one gets a 4.5 from me.

Oskar Blues Pinner IPA

Oskar Blues Pinner IPA
Oskar Blues Pinner IPA

Tasty, almost salty, canned IPA in the wry-humor Oskar tradition. 4.9% alk here and not terribly hoppy. Can’s outside claims this as a “throwback” IPA, so perhaps that means “before people went goofy about hops” and “before nutsos started trying to out-do each other in alcohol content.” So this is a mildly hopped IPA, in modern comparison, just more hoppy than regular beer so you can tell it’s an IPA.

But there is that saltiness. Had a few IPA’s where the citrus and evergreen nearly combined into a salt flavor, nudged right up against that border. But this one falls over the line. It’s not distracting enough to make the beer wretched, but salt does some weird things to other tastes. It makes a beer’s natural bready taste cross over into crackery. Makes pine taste like resin and makes citrus taste like blood.

No kidding, drinking this i thought a couple times “hey, that kinda tastes like blood.” So no, i won’t buy this again. Will enjoy the other five cans, but will think twice about spending $10 on another sixer of a different variety of Oskar Blues beer. This one rates a 4.9 in my book.

Narragansett Lager

Narragansett's Lager
Narragansett’s Lager

Hi neighbor!

A newcomer to this area in NY, although apparently something of a staple on the New England seaboard. And the reason it’s popping up in NY: now the stuff is being brewed by the Genesee Brewery in Western NY and exported to its natural habitat, the docks of Rhode Island. And not a moment too soon, in my opinion.

The well-priced 30-packs are $19 ($18 on sale), at least close to the source, and for that money it’s a fine beer for sitting around watching the Olympics. $4 more than the same pack of a Genny product, but that extra 13 cents per beer makes a world of difference. Narragansett is drinkable on its own, whereas Genny beer and Genny Cream Ale are not. With the Gennies, you have to get a companion six of a dark beer to mix some flavor into each pintly pour.

The alk percent is not listed on the packaging, but this is obviously made for a long day fishing, and does not trash your noggin even after a few pints. The particular can pictured above is actually one of their “throwback” series, and is the beercan seen in the 1976 movie Jaws. They needed a bigger boat, but the beer was just fine for hunting the great white.

Their preferred nickname is “Gansett” and the website is that plus dotcom, since they don’t trust people to remember if there’s two R’s or one. I say WTF, since they’re counting on people to remember a double T at the end. Goofy. My nickname for this decent lager is “Nargy”, though when in a mood for a flourish i might call them Narglebargles.

It’s trash beer, i’m not going to lie about this, but it’s a drinkable trash beer… in fact the only trash beer which is drinkable on its own, without needing to be jumped up by adding a few oz of black+tan. As trash, it’s only going to rate a 4.1 here, but if you’re baking clams for fifty people and need a couple hundred beers, this beer won’t embarrass you.