Another post of Tuesday Tastings for this second week of May, featuring an iconic IPA and a couple of out-of-season reviews.
It probably doesn’t need to be said that Bell’s is one of the oldest and most-respected breweries in the United States, dating the first commercial sale of beer to 1985 (making them 30 years old this year). And of course a number of their beers are iconic even to those who have never tried them before—such as Two Hearted Ale, their signature year-round IPA. It’s not available in Oregon; I’d managed to score a six-pack when in California for last year’s Beer Bloggers Conference. No, I did not save a bottle since then to write about now—the last one was consumed in November.
I always think of Hemingway’s “Big Two-Hearted River” with this beer; I’d like to think that was the influence. Bell’s description:
Bell’s Two Hearted Ale is defined by its intense hop aroma and malt balance. Hopped exclusively with the Centennial hop varietal from the Pacific Northwest, massive additions in the kettle and again in the fermenter lend their characteristic grapefruit and pine resin aromas. A significant malt body balances this hop presence; together with the signature fruity aromas of Bell’s house yeast, this leads to a remarkably drinkable American-style India Pale Ale.
Through some twist of fate I seem to remember taking down notes about this beer but for the life of me I cannot find any. But—working from memory, and (un)reliable as that might be—I really enjoyed this beer and found it to be worthy of the praise I’ve seen others heap on it. Solidly bitter, with a nice dose of finishing hops, and just enough crystal malt in the body to balance it between crisp and thick. With all the talk these days of “West Coast IPA” and “Northwest IPA” and “English Style IPA” what occurred to me with this beer was, it’s a really nice blending of the East Coast/English-style India Pale Ale (in the malt body) with the floral, fruity hopping of the Northwest, without straying too far into either—which made me want to think of it as a “Midwest IPA.” (Because why not throw another IPA variant out there?)
It’s good; very good. If you have access to it, drink a lot of it.
Yes, a Christmas beer! I do rather enjoy the offerings from New York’s Southern Tier Brewing, and after featuring their Krampus in last year’s Advent Beer Calendar, I found a bottle of it locally so of course had to try it.
They bill it as an “Imperial Helles Lager” it’s 9% abv and part of their “Seasonal Imperial” and named after the mythical creature that accompanies St. Nicholas in some German culture traditions.
Brewed with the spirit of Krampus, the fanged, goat-horned bully that is, as European tradition suggests, the evil sidekick of St. Nicholas and enforcer of the list. While St. Nick delivers presents to the good boys and girls, Krampus is there to punish the naughty children. This Christmas season, enjoy a Krampus Imperial Helles Lager and decide whether you are naughty or nice. Finished with lager yeast and aged cold for no less than 30 days, it is the medley of rich, dark malts and aromatic hops that make this a diabolical brew, threatening to warm even the most frigid of hearts.
Appearance: Amber color with orange tints, fine off-white head with good lacing. Clear; the light shines nicely through it.
Smell: Herbal hops with notes of sage and pine, slightly boozy. Clean profile overall, befitting a lager.
Taste: Pine, resin, a wave of that sage-y hoppiness, nicely bitter over a big malt backbone. A warming booziness which lends to the overall bitterness. Interesting, it has more of an herbal presence than I would have guessed after cold conditioning for a month, but finishes cleanly bitter.
Mouthfeel: Medium-full body with a piney but clean finish.
Overall: Big, almost spicy with hops, not as lager-y as expected because of that herbal presence but still an interesting beer.
Silver City Brewery Oktoberfest
And traveling even farther back in time from Christmas… Oktoberfest! Silver City dates to 1996 and is located in Washington; I picked this beer up while up in the state for last year’s Great Pumpkin Beer Fest. I do love the Oktoberfest style, so I always get a little excited when that time of year rolls around.
It’s 6.25%, though I can’t find any descriptions on the brewery’s own website, so I borrowed the one from RateBeer:
Silver City Oktoberfest is an authentic interpretation of this classic amber lager. Just a few sips of this luscious brew and you are transported to the great beer halls of Bavaria. You will enjoy the rich malty sweetness, and spicy hop character of this popular Silver City seasonal brew.
Appearance: Very clear golden orange, off-white head that’s fluffy and persists nicely.
Smell: Malty with rich notes of (I think) Munich malt and a touch of that steely, slightly roasty character that I like in the style. Touches of noble hops.
Taste: Malty and clean with a slight mineral-y profile. Pretty classic presentation of the style to me, sweet without being cloying, with a grassy hop that’s mellow and mild but balanced.
Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied and finishes nicely clean.
Overall: I like this, I found it to be a good version of the style.