Last weekend my friend Kina facilitated the delivery of two growlers of beer from Barley Brown’s over in Baker City: their GABF-gold-medal-winning Turmoil CDA (Cascadian Dark Ale) and a new beer, Speed Wobble IRA (Imperial Red Ale).
I’ve had Turmoil before (and reviewed it here) and drinking it fresh again is eye-opening: this may be the best Cascadian Dark Ale (or Black IPA, or American Black Ale, or whatever you want to call it) being brewed, anywhere, right now. (Deschutes Hop in the Dark is another at the top of that list; I wish now I’d picked up a bottle to compare the two side-by-side.) It’s got all the resiny, green hop character you want and the dark malts come through with a luscious, roasty note but there’s no harsh or astringent qualities at all: on the contrary, it comes across as creamy and I can’t figure out how they do that. It’s extremely balanced and drinkable and the hoppiness meshes perfectly with that dark creaminess.
The Speed Wobble is a double or imperial red ale, which means it’s another beer that’s largely Northwest-oriented and that speaks to its character. It’s also very good; the big dose of hops in the nose are viney and,er, hoppy, very green, sticky but not citrusy at all. Lots of resin (my friend Paul suggested “dank” as in cannabis, but I didn’t get that at all). When you taste it there’s more of that same hop character going on but it’s more spicy-bitter, and it leaves a noticeably “prickly” hop aftertaste on the tongue. The malts (from memory) are biscuit and toasty, slightly roasty, and impart a nice deep red color to the beer. Also super drinkable, and while I can hardly claim to have deep knowledge of the Imperial Red Ale “style” (is there even one?), to my mind this is now the canonical example.
High praise, and I’m aware it comes across a bit as boosterism. But these are good beers, and now I need to put “trip to Baker City again” on my to-do list; I told Shawn Kelso (the brewer over at Barley Brown’s) on Twitter that I need to pick his brain about Turmoil…