Bend’s Crux Fermentation Project has sent me several beers, several of which have been put away for later consumption (Tough Love, Freakcake), a couple of which I have drank and enjoyed and written up notes for. Crux is one of my favorite Bend breweries right now, though sadly I don’t visit nearly as often as I’d like. (I was there this past Saturday, and enjoyed both the Parkway Pilsner and the French Connection Imperial IPA.)
They have taken to bottling a select few of their beers in 375ml bottles, some capped, some corked and wax-dipped. Of these two I’m reviewing, the Half Hitch was merely capped while the Better Off Red was corked, capped, and wax-dipped, which is how they treat the “[Banished]” series of beers they bottle. (The Banished beers are specially barrel-aged, in which case they are “banished” to an out-of-the-way spot in the brewery to age.
Half Hitch Imperial Mosaic IPA
This beer is 10% alcohol by volume, with 80 IBUs. Crux’s description says:
Medium bodied with intense hop flavor and aroma. Complimented by fruity, floral, and citrus American Mosaic Hops. The intention of this beer is to exhibit the fresh and bright character of Mosaic hop.
Appearance: Golden honey-orange in color with an impressive pile of lacy fluffy head.
Smell: Fruity and catty, lots of guava and mango, perhaps green apple as well. Also notes of what I call sweet hop “syrup” that I often find in high alcohol Imperial IPAs—which I’m sure is the interplay between the hops and the alcohol itself.
Taste: Syrupy-sweet bitterness, with a big alcohol sweet characters as well, which takes the beer almost to cloying. Has that “hop burn” with a little bit of fruit at the end, but it’s not as flavorful as the fruitiness of the nose suggests. Perhaps more barleywine in character?
Mouthfeel: Thick and full-bodied with a bitter wash over the tongue; finished sticky and cloying.
Overall: Not bad at all, but maybe too big and doesn’t have that big (non-bitter) hop flavor that I would expect. I think more of a barleywine here as I noted in tasting notes, similar to how Dogfish Head’s 90-Minute IPA comes off to me (which to my estimation is also a barleywine).
Better Off Red Flanders-style Red Ale (“Banished” barrel-aged series)
This beer is 7% alcohol by volume and only 18 IBUs. The “Banished” version spent time in barrels. Their description of the regular version is this:
Crux’s interpretation of a traditional Belgian-style red ale. Malty sweetness is enhanced by a slight acidity. Hints of spice and fruit entice with each sip. This beer is awesome and is the base recipe for our barrel aged sour ale that will release after 9 to 12 months of aging.
And here’s their notes on the barrel aging:
Flanders Reds may be called the Burgundies of Belgium, but we age our take on this complex, slightly tart style in Oregon Pinot Noir barrels for nearly a year. A fresh batch will present spicier notes while older versions pick up more oak and yield cherry flavors. So we blended them figuring we’re better off presenting this exotic mélange simultaneously.
Appearance: Clear amber bottle glass color with a tan head that was fizzy, but fell to a thin skein fed by tiny beads of bubbles.
Smell: Sour cherries, ascetic tartness, and a touch of Brettanomyces giving it a nice funk. There’s also a bit of sweet hard candy pairing with the cherries.
Taste: It took a few sips to get acclimated to this beer. It has a woody bitterness, like cherry pits, with a funky tart that was nail polish-y at first. It never quite loses that slight acetone note. Not too tart on the tongue, there’s a mellow ascetic acid character and maybe some fruitiness that backs that up, but really the Brett funk blends with that acetone to give it a bitter bite over a sweetly malty body.
Mouthfeel: Smooth, medium bodied, with a bite from what sour character there is present.
Overall: Interesting but if anything it’s probably not tart or funky enough for my taste when I think of Flanders Reds.