REVIEW: Hopothermia by Alaskan Brewing Company

Quick Characteristics
Brewery: Alaskan Brewery Company
Location: Juneau, AK
Style: American Double IPA
ABV: 8.5%
IBU: 70
Appearance: Fresh, Shiny Copper with Fluffy Off-White Foam
Aroma: Citrusy, Fruity Mix; Notes of Apricot & Pineapple
Flavor: Balanced, Surprisingly Smooth & Mellow
Availability: Year-Round
Pairs With: Spicy Food, Bitter Salads, Pizza, Wild Game (you caught yourself)

Most everyone knows the on-going love affair between the American craft brew industry and their IPA’s, Imperial IPA’s, and Double IPA’s. So, it will be no real surprise that here I sit reviewing another offering to this already crowded arena. Don’t get me wrong I’m right there with most hopheads in the feeling that “the more the merrier.” This latest addition comes to us from the far, cold north. Alaska. That’s right far to the north they labor to bring us their love affairs, their versions of the common styles.

Alaskan Brewing Company opened in 1986, but remained unknown to a large portion of the lower 48, until recently, when they widened their distribution. I didn’t know a thing about them until they expanded into New Mexico in 2013. This brewery is one of the most decorated Great American Beer Festival entrants and continually turns out high quality beers without taking themselves too seriously.

“A glass to the northern country, and a beer bearing hidden bounty.”

Hopothermia comes in a nice four-pack. The artwork is understated and nice. The cartoon is green with a frozen hop cone making up the degree sign between hop and thermia. There are funny things to read all over the cartoon (like I said, seems they don’t take themselves too seriously). They even wrote a poem to go with this beer. These guys are men after my own heart.
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REVIEW: 400 Pound Monkey from Left Hand Brewing Co.

Quick Characteristics
Brewery: Left Hand Brewing Co.
Location: Longmont, CO
Style: English IPA
ABV: 6.80%
IBU: The Monkey Isn’t Telling.
Appearance: Light-Golden Pour with White Foam Head
Aroma: Subdued Citrus & Grain with Hoppy Freshness
Flavor: Earthy Pine, Grapefruit Hints, Malt
Availability: Year-Round
Pairs With: Coconut Chicken with Curry, Burgers with Caramelized Onions

Colorado seems to be full of top notch craft breweries these days and Left Hand Brewing Company is no exception. They have a nice year round lineup of beers including the one siting before me now, fondly named 400 Pound Monkey. I’m not too sure what gave them the idea for the name, the beer doesn’t taste like a 400 pound monkey at all (bad joke… sorry).

Actually the name, as far as I can gather, came out of a discussion over extreme beers for an article Lew Bryson was writing for Beer Advocate Magazine. In the article Eric Wallace quotes his VP of brewing as saying “Any monkey can put 400 pounds of hops in a kettle,” and with those words I can only speculate that both an idea and a name were born.

India Pale Ale’s are gaining more and more of a foot hold within the craft brewing community and there are more consumers out there than ever willing to take the plunge into bitter beers. So, why another IPA? Well, judging from the article just quoted, I think maybe the brewers up at Left Hand got it in their heads that they might be able to pull off something a little different than the usual “mostly” American IPA offerings out there. They decided to try to make an English style IPA.
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REVIEW: BridgePort India Pale Ale from BridgePort Brewing Co.

Quick Characteristics
Brewery: BridgePort Brewing Co.
Location: Portland, OR
Style: American India Pale Ale (IPA)
ABV: 5.50%
IBU: 50
Appearance: Slightly Hazy, Warm Yellow Body
Aroma: Pleasant, Light Citrus & Pine Florals
Flavor: Balanced; Earthy & Grassy, Doughy & Malty
Availability: Year-round — Bottle & Draft
Pairs With: Grilled Lamb, Curry, Gorgonzola, Carrot Cake

Everyone knows that Oregon is the state to be in if you want a craft beer in America. It has the second highest number of breweries per capita of any state, and the fourth highest amount overall. It is home to the city with the most breweries – Portland has 52 in the city limits, with an additional 19 sitting just outside in the major metropolitan area. It is also one of the most historic places for craft beer, with microbreweries dating back over 30 years.

If you want to talk about Oregon beer, you have to start with the granddaddy of the bunch, BridgePort Brewing Company and their flagship beer, BridgePort India Pale Ale. It is a beer that has won awards in multiple decades and in multiple countries, and that is ranked highly by a number of publications world-wide. Often this can be misleading, as many highly-touted beers merely hold cult appeal, like exclusive Belgians often touted as “best in the world.” In the case of BridgePort’s India Pale Ale, it has definitely earned its praise, and is a beer that can be enjoyed my every craft beer drinker, not just those with tastes for certain styles.

Appearance

Bridgeport IPA

To start off with, it has a wonderfully unassuming appearance. The bottle itself is rather plain, while when you pour it out into a pint glass, it has a slightly hazy, warm yellow body. The pour will produce an average-sized, off-white head that sticks around for a bit, and leaves good lacing. Altogether pleasant, if not a bit unimpressive.

Aroma

The nose is that of light floral, citrus and pine aromas, the hops are definitely pleasant and the main feature, but are not punchy or overwhelming. There is a certain fresh grain aroma as well, fairly faint but definitely there. It lends a doughy, bready aroma to the overall smell of the beer.

Flavor

The taste is incredibly balanced, with the right touches throughout. There is a solid base of pale malts, producing a touch of sweetness. The citrusy hops are much more pronounced in the taste, as they take over and are the main flavor. There are a wide mix of tasting notes – earthy and grassy, doughy and malty. The flavor is more akin to a British IPA than the usual West Coast IPAs that this will invariably draw comparisons to due to locale. The bottle conditioning also adds a hint of yeast character, but not enough to be off-putting.

Tasting Notes

This India Pale Ale has a body that is on the light end of the medium range, with lively carbonation that may be a bit too much for the style. It is one of the dryer IPAs around, with slightly oily lingering on the tongue afterword, but it fades quickly.

This is not a brutal hops assault, as many craft beer drinkers have come to expect from an India Pale Ale. This has lead to many of the hop-heads looking for outrageous IBU numbers and obsessions with trying to name the hops in a beer to address the brew with a bit of derision. The fact is that BridgePort India Pale Ale is one of the most well-balanced and pleasant IPAs out there, an IPA for folks who don’t really like IPAs. It won’t dissolve the enamel off of your teeth or destroy your palate for the day – the bitterness is moderate, and easy to get past.

BridgePort IPA Label

BridgePort India Pale Ale has also earned plenty of recognition from critics, with a number of awards hanging around its longneck. These include a gold medal at the World Beer Championship, two silver medals at the World Beer Cup, a gold at the Brewing Industry International Awards in Germany, and two silver medals at the Australian International Beer Awards. This amount of worldwide awards demonstrates just how well balanced and easy to appreciate this beer is.

The BridgePort Brewery touts itself as “Oregon’s Oldest Craft Brewery,” although that can be debated. What can’t be debated is that when Oregon opened up to craft beer, BridgePort was one of the first in the pool, opening in 1984 and continuing to be one of the state’s largest producer today. Founded by local winemakers, it was later bought by Gambrinus, who expanded its capacity hundreds of times over, going from 600 barrels per year in the early nineties to 100,000 barrels currently. All that time, BridgePort India Pale Ale has stood tall as their flagship beer, and looks to do so for another 30 years.

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REVIEW: Götterdämmerung IPA from Stone Brewing Co.

Quick Characteristics
Brewery: Stone Brewing Company
Location: Escondido, CA
Style: West Coast IPA (with Pilsner Malts)
ABV: 9.5%
Appearance: Bright, Deep Gold
Aroma: Hoppy Grains/Grass, Grapefruit and Lemon
Flavor: Smooth Citrus, Slightly Bitter & Well Balanced
Availability: Limited
Pairs With: Rotisserie Chicken, Crab Cakes, Cajun Shrimp

Stone Brewing, out of Escondido, California, has long been an unapologetic purveyor of high-flavor beer. One of their mottos – “Fizzy Yellow Beer is for Wussies” – is pretty emblematic of their approach to beers. Over the years, they have begun releasing anniversary beers, once-a-year beers using flavor combinations, beer styles, or brewing methods that have not been found in Stone beers before.

This year’s 17th Anniversary beer, Götterdämmerung IPA, translates to an apocalyptic event, while the beer itself translates to a hoppy IPA. Not just any hops, though – all of the hops have ties to German brewing. Whether it is Sterling, a US-bred hop developed from the German Saaz hops; Herkules, a new breed of hops from Germany that imparts stone fruit characteristic; or Hersbrucker, a classic German hop with intense floral aroma, all the hops and malts are what is traditionally used to brew German lagers and European pilsners. By changing up ratios and the recipe, Stone has taken these traditional lager ingredients and fashioned a new twist on a West Coast Double IPA.

Appearance

The bottle has the usual Stone appearance – the gargoyle and artwork, the story on the back of the bottle. But once you pop the cap off and start pouring, you’ll notice this isn’t the typical Stone beer. Best served in a snifter glass or a shaker pint, the appearance is a nice, bright gold, a very deep color, while the head is frothy and white, leaving some lacing along the sides of the glass as you drink it. It is a clear gold, no murkiness or particulates.

Aroma

Gotterdammerung IPA

The aroma is not too punchy or overpowering, surprisingly. Usually Stone’s beers punch you in the face with hops aromas, but this is subdued. There are hints of grains, grass, grapefruit and lemon in the aroma, but it is all smoothly blended with no one note overpowering the others.

Flavor

The taste is also quite surprising. Labeled a West Coast Double IPA, and being one of Stone’s brews, you expect overpowering hops, with relatively poor balance. Götterdämmerung doesn’t do that though, as it has a very smooth, balanced flavor profile. Sweet, biscuit malts are very much present, reflecting the pilsner and lager background of the ingredients. There are hints of citrus fruits throughout a mouthful, especially lemons and grapefruits. It is slightly bitter towards the end but, again, not overpowering. They have balanced it well enough that the taste of alcohol – it does clock in at 9.5% alcohol by volume, after all – is almost completely buried, with only a hint of alcohol working its way through. They have also managed to balance it well enough that, even though it clocks in at 102 IBUs (International Bittering Units), it doesn’t taste like it, and it doesn’t produce the dried-out, soapy post-beer taste and feel in your mouth.

Tasting Notes

Götterdämmerung is medium-bodied, leaning towards the light end of the spectrum. It also has a medium amount of carbonation, just enough to liven it up, but not too fizzy. This makes for a crisp, refreshing beer that is well suited for the warmer weather, but is also welcome into the cooling fall temperatures. This is not a beer that will age well though, so you’ll want to crack it open and drink it in short order.

Located in Escondido, Stone Brewing Co. is often recognized by craft beer fans as one of the top breweries in the United States, as well as around the entire world. They are not as thoroughly decorated as some, with only a handful of GABF and World Beer Cup medals, but their sturdy, flavorful year-round brews, special releases, and Anniversary Ales keep customers coming back year-round. The attitude of founder Greg Koch is also some of the attraction – he is opinionated, a major voice in the craft beer scene who doesn’t just tout his brand, but pushes for the success of craft beer as a whole. He personifies the brash attitude behind the brand, one of big character and rebellion.

Stone Gotterdammerung IPA

Some of Stone’s Anniversary Ales have been revived at later times, for special releases. One, the Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale, an American Black Ale introduced as Stone’s 11th Anniversary ale, has even become one of their year-round staples.

So it’s possible that we could see Götterdämmerung again in the future, or a version thereof. Even if we don’t, you can be assured that Stone will try and top this ale for next year’s 18th Anniversary beer, so you should start looking forward to that.

Stone 17th Anniversary Götterdämmerung IPA

To learn more, watch as Stone Brewmaster Mitch Steele explains Götterdämmerung IPA in the video below.

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