Crux Fermentation Project: Half Hitch and Better Off Red

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

Crux Fermentation Project Half Hitch Imperial Mosaic IPAThis 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).

Untappd. BeerAdvocate: 92/100. RateBeer: 3.64/5, 97th overall percentile.

Better Off Red Flanders-style Red Ale (“Banished” barrel-aged series)

Crux Fermentation Project [Banished] Better Off RedThis 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.

Untappd. BeerAdvocate: 3.72/5, only 8 ratings. RateBeer: 3.34/5, only 8 ratings also.

Happy #IPAday once again!

Today is IPA Day, the global toast and celebration to the staggeringly popular India Pale Ale style. It’s as much a social media movement as it is a celebration of beer, the purpose of which is “to unite the voices of craft beer enthusiasts, bloggers and brewers worldwide, using social media as the common arena for connecting the conversation.”

To that end, participating is easy: drink an IPA today, and “share your photos, videos, blog posts, tasting notes, recipes and thoughts on IPA with the world. Be sure to tag your posts on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+ and other social media platforms with the #IPAday hashtag.” That’s it.

As for myself, I may be drinking this monstrosity:

Quart can of Mission Brewery IPA

Yes, that is a quart—full 32 ounces!—of Mission Brewery IPA!

Or perhaps something else, I haven’t fully decided yet. But when I do, I’ll post it online—keep an eye out on Instagram, and/or Twitter, and/or Untappd to see what I drink!

Happy IPA Day—what will you be drinking?

Nosdunk Brewing: Walla Wheat, and Stout

Nosdunk Brewing is a small-scale production brewery located, in Walla Walla, Washington, and they are just over a year old. I don’t know about their fermentation capacity, but their brew system is a 55-gallon system from Blichmann Engineering (that’s about 1.75 barrels); they don’t offer a tasting room or are open to the public, but their rotation of bottled beers (Kolsch, Wheat, Stout) can be found at select establishments in downtown Walla Walla.

Which is where I found the two bottles—in downtown Walla Walla, at Salumiere Cesario, when we were visiting in late June. I picked up two bottles each of what they had available, their Walla Wheat and the Stout.

One thing you’ll note in the pictures below is the two different bottle styles; clearly they are hand-bottling the beers, and using whatever bottles they can get a hold of. Nothing wrong with that, just an observation.

Nosdunk Walla WheatWalla Wheat: 5.2% abv:

This classic wheat beer combines 2 row malt and wheat for a balanced blast of citrus.  We added a twist and fermented this beer with a kolsch yeast strain.  Brewed with Centennial and Magnum hops.

Appearance: 22-ounce bottle that has been bottled by hand, the cap retains the telltale dimple. The beer pours honey-orange and hazy, bright around the edges. It has a finely bubbled, thick white head.

Smell: Fairly clean, wheaty character with a hint of tart, probably due to the nature of the wheat. No real esters or phenols.

Taste: Heavy, a bit under-attenuated so it has a sweet character to it which makes me think of bread dough. A little “off,” not infected, just that the technique isn’t there, I’m thinking. (Perhaps the bottle was old?) A bit vegetal—grassy, herbal greens.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied with a sweet/under-attenuated finish.

Overall: A little too vegetal-y, should be crisper and drier.

Untappd. BeerAdvocate (only 2 ratings). No RateBeer entry.

Nosdunk StoutStout: 4.5% abv:

Nosdunk Stout offers a tasty flavor profile that combines roasted, slightly burnt malt notes, coffee, and even a touch of chocolate. A dark colored beer nice creamy head of foam.  Brewed with Fuggle hops.

Appearance: Opaque black-brown, with a thick tan head on top, with nicely-laced legs.

Smell: Coffee and dusty, roasty malts. Hits a nice mark for “malty dry stout,” a touch of molasses and licorice.

Taste: Standard dry stout with a bit of sweetness in the malts, caramelly molasses perhaps, or perhaps even a bit of lactose. It’s decent and drinkable, nothing offensive here even if it is a bit average.

Mouthfeel: Medium-full-bodied with a dry bit of roast in the finish.

Overall: Decent dry stout, right in the middle of the pack.

Untappd. BeerAdvocate (only 2 ratings). RateBeer (0 ratings!).

Portland Brewing Oregon Honey Beer

Portland Brewing Oregon Honey BeerI received two bottles of Portland Brewing’s Oregon Honey Beer a little while back (a 12-ounce and a 22-ounce), their summer seasonal that had not been brewed for the past five years or so. At 4.8% abv it’s a nice-drinking summer ale, and though the website indicates it’s only available through the 15th of this month, I’d wager you’ll be able to find it on the shelves for a bit afterwards. And going into the dog days of August it’s worth checking out.

The brewery’s own description is pretty straightforward:

Brewed with Oregon-sourced white clover honey and Willamette hops, Oregon Honey Beer is crisp and refreshing with just a hint of sweetness.

Appearance: Clear, yellow-gold in color, with a white head that thins out quickly. The head is fizzy, not fluffy.

Smell: Sweet grain aroma with a touch of corn and sweet pale malts. Slight grassy, very clean.

Taste: Light, clean, a hint of sweet corn and a touch of grass hops (as promised by the aroma). Easy drinking, with a fizzy effervescence. The corn character has a nice presence and it presents with a lagered character.

Mouthfeel: Light and crisp, finishes a touch sweet and very clean.

Overall: This is a clean, easy drinking summer beer. Nothing flashy but nice for hot weather.

Untappd. BeerAdvocate: 66/100. RateBeer: 2.45/5, 12th overall percentile.

The Session #90: Beer Fight Club

The SessionYesterday was the first Friday of the month, which means it was time for another day of The Session, the monthly collective writing of beer bloggers centered around a suggested theme. This month’s host is Hipster Brewfus, who has suggested a topic that could easily spin into the controversial: Beer Fight Club.

Have you ever drank a beer that became a battle, more than an enjoyable experience? Maybe a beer that was far bigger than you had anticipated? Something you felt determined to drink, just so you can say you conquered that son of a bitch, and you are all that is powerful. Or perhaps it is something that is just so bad, all you want to do is slap it around a bit. Or maybe you were on the verge of passing out, but you just wanted that one last beer, and the valiant struggle between taste bud fulfillment and the velvety embrace of sleep that ensued.

You picking up what I’m putting down?

It’s time put down whatever praise you were about to dole out, and serve up a nice can of ass whupping.

If ever there was a class of beer more akin to battle than experience, it’s probably chili beers. And I actually like chili beers, but more often than not, they are just studies in abuse because the brewery didn’t know how to handle chili peppers in a beer (more likely) or because they actually thought it would be a good idea to over-heat the beer to create a liquid lava. A few get it right, and strike the right balance between malt and heat, or even better, end up with an unlikely recipe that becomes sublime. In the latter category, Portland’s Burnside Brewing gets it absolutely right with their Sweet Heat, an apricot wheat beer seasoned with Scotch Bonnet peppers.

In the former category, however, there are just too many examples of liquid pain that simply strips the enjoyment out of drinking the beer. I’ve actually avoided Stone Brewing‘s two beers, Crime and Punishment, because of reviews I’ve read indicating they are abusingly hot and I’ll just pass, thanks. That, and the high cost of those beers; I simply cannot fathom paying a large amount of money for a beer I will actively not enjoy.

There have been others over the years that hit all the wrong notes for me too. Cave Creek Chili Beer, the novelty beer with the jalapeno pepper floating in the bottle, many years ago—my first chili beer (I think someone gave it to me) that was something like putting cayenne pepper in Corona. Or Calapooia Brewing’s Chili Beer, a 22-ounce bottle of which I bought which tasted like liquid capsaicin and took me something like three hours to finish. Closer to home, 10 Barrel Brewing once did a chili version of their Sinistor Black Ale, I think it was, on their X-tap that I tried a sample of… nope! Too hot.

Look: if you can’t balance the peppers and heat into the rest of the beer, you shouldn’t be making a chili beer. And if you’re doing it simply for the heat, well, that’s just stunt brewing which is a whole different rant.

I actually like chili beers—when they’re well-made. More often than not though, they’re… not. Which is fine if you’re a masochist, I suppose. Otherwise: no.