Bit of a wide variety in styles for this week’s Tuesday Tastings, with a Belgian-style Witbier, Imperial IPA, and barrel-aged Strong Ale on tap.
It’s hard to beat The Lost Abbey in just flat-out a lot of styles, though perhaps they are better-known (outside of Southern California, anyway) for big, barrel-aged, rarefied beers than what you’d expect to find from this fall seasonal, a 4.8% abv Witbier brewed in the Belgian style. As expected, this is a well-brewed example of the style, though the backstory to the label is pretty dark:
Convicted of a dark art, the crowd will gather to watch as they raze your [“you” are the Witch] earthen existence. An intolerable pain is the cross you’ll bear that day as you are removed from this righteous world. No one will summon the courage to save you in fear of their life. It sucks. But such is the life of a witch. In honor of your fleeting existence, we brewed Witch’s Wit. A light and refreshing wheat beer, it’s exactly the sort of thing you might expect to find being passed around the center of town on witch burning day. Say hello to the Prince of Darkness for us.
Appearance: Straw-colored yellow, slightly hazy, white head didn’t last terribly long but it is effervescent.
Smell: Classic wit notes—coriander that’s a little bitter, raw wheat, a hint of bubblegum, a bit of barnyard funk, bitter pithy citrus peel.
Taste: Dry, mellow, nice touches of spice (coriander) add depth to a clean wheat base. Citrus peel is there in the back, adding to the dryness which quenches the thirst well. Again, very classic profile leaning dry.
Mouthfeel: Light with a dry and refreshing finish.
Overall: Very nice, I like the restrained approach I get from this.
Deschutes Brewery’s annual Hop Henge “Experimental” IPA is always a fun and anticipated appearance each year, because you just never know quite what you’re going to get—in other words, what does “experimental” mean this year? Unfortunately for this year’s version I don’t know, haven’t seen any details other than the list of hops used. This was the bottle they sent me back around Christmas, and since it was released in 2014 but really considered the 2015 edition, it’s dual-yeared—I’ve seen it labeled and referred to as 2014/2015. So there you go.
Their description this time around is minimal:
Stonehenge is a mystery. Hop Henge is a discovery. Millennium, Cascade, Centennial and Chinook hops come together to erect a hop sanctuary. Revere the almighty hop!
This year’s was a hefty 9.5% abv and 90 IBUs.
Appearance: Amber-orange color, clear, with a creamy off-white head.
Smell: Lemony, resiny, pithy. Lots of resin, woody hops and stems; pungent in that direction. Lemon rind and pith, along with sweet tangerine.
Taste: Sticky, with resiny hop bitterness right up front. My friend Paul had this on tap at the Pub when it came out and proclaimed it very lemony and light; I’m not finding it overly so. The hops are less nuanced here in the flavor than they are in aroma, perhaps heavy-handed. They are more resiny (again with that word…) and “Southern California” in character to me than I’m used to from a Deschutes—indeed, an Oregon—beer, big and sticky, not terribly well balanced to the malt. It’s a throwback flavor to me.
Mouthfeel: Medium-full-bodied with a sticky, bitter finish.
Overall: To me this is more of a SoCal Imperial IPA than Northwest, which to my thinking is a step backward (especially considering Hop Henges of years past).
Solstice Brewing C.W. Schnocker
Solstice is Prineville, Oregon’s sole brewery, and their first winter seasonal (released in 2013, I believe) was a 9-something percent abv strong ale they named “Winter Schnocker.” They took that first beer, and put some in a CW Irwin Whiskey barrel from Bend-based Oregon Spirit Distillers, left it for most of the year, and bottled it up special as their first bottled beer in time for the 2014 holiday season. It came out of the barrel at 10.5% abv.
I like what Solstice has been doing and try to get out there for lunch and beers when I can (it’s a bit of a drive, about 25 miles) and have enjoyed their beers. So I picked up a bottle of this at The Brew Shop out of support for the local brewing scene. Unfortunately, and I hate to say it, it didn’t hold up as well in the barrel as I would have hoped. (Unless of course I had a bad bottle.)
Appearance: Dark brown, with amber highlights, just like the color of the bottle. Clear with a minimal bit of foam that fell to a thin ring quickly.
Smell: Boozy, woody, a touch oxidized. Raisins, dark (burnt?) caramel. It develops more sherry-like oxidized notes as it warms.
Taste: There’s an astringent, woody off-character to it, with a bit of oxidized wet cardboard, and I can be sure but it might have picked up a bug somewhere along the line. I’m not picking up any of the whiskey notes. Thinned out from its time in the barrel but I’m not sure if it was a benefit.
Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied but thin feel to it, with a line of astringency running through.
Overall: Unfortunately I don’t think this worked out very well, it’s picked up too much astringency and oxidation. Applaud the effort, though.