American IPA

Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye IPA

Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye IPABeer No. 69 – Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye IPA

Is this really a problem?

The New York Times is reporting that large-format, 750 ml and beyond brews will face, and maybe already are facing, an uphill battle with craft consumers. Among the complaints are:

  • Cost/value 
  • Sessionability
  • Brewers are putting all the good stuff in this format
  • This isn’t beer

Some of these points are more interesting than others. Like beer isn’t beer if it’s bottled and priced like wine and scotch and fancypants.

I’ll admit that price isn’t, at the moment, a barrier for me. And except for nights like tonight, with a late start forcing my hand to the 12-ounce section of the beer rack, neither is sessionability. That’s why it’s hard to take the complaints of these beer sommeliers – whose job it is to sell large-format craft beers – too seriously when they say large-format craft beers “can be problematic to sell.” To Mitt Romney, sure. But you work at a hip restaurant in New York City. You mean to tell us you can’t sell two or three beers? Because fundamentally that’s all large-format is.

Anyway, it seems the biggest challenge here is philosophical. Too many craft consumers have their identities wrapped up with their beer, defined positively as “it’s local” or negatively by what it’s not (“anything but Bud Light”). Fine, that’s not the best definition but we now have some parameters. We also have some assumptions, including “This is beer.” By comparison, what’s obviously not is wine, and bourbon. So when craft brewers start experimenting with barrel aging, craft consumers bristle. People don’t like to have their assumptions challenged.

Make no mistake, this isn’t about price or the lament of hipster sommeliers. We are entering the next phase of brew development and should support these efforts, not undermine them. Beer has been evolving for thousands of years. Dogfish Head Midas Touch (Beeradvocate 84, ratebeer 93) is an homage to three drink ingredients – barley, grapes and honey – discovered in the burial site of King Midas. You have to believe the ancient Greeks and today’s beer geeks didn’t use the same methods or stylistic flourishes.

Beer is evolving. It will continue to evolve. And I guess I can’t and won’t get too worked up over someone who wants to charge $14 for 750 ml of a Farmhouse Ale aged in red wine barrels. That sounds like something someone put a lot of time and effort into, and more importantly it sounds highly quaffable.

Beer Notes: It seems the whole-cone hops get lost in the caramel ryeness of it. But it is crisp – rather so – for a rye beer so maybe that is the whole-cone hops coming through. Pleasant finish, decent effort.

Beeradvocate Rating: 88

ratebeer Rating: 98

Hayward Abbey Rating: 84

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Weyerbacher Last Chance IPA

Weyerbacher Last Chance IPABeer No. 62 – Weyerbacher Last Chance IPA

STYLE: American IPA

ABV: 5.9%

LOOK: Sudsy copper and gelatinous. Not more than a bubble or two of carbonation and no head to speak of.

NOSE: An English IPA vibe. Much less American than expected. Some floral, piney hops are there, mostly overshadowed by leather and pavement if that makes sense.

MOUTH: Harsh. Astringent. And a too-long finish for what it is. Pulling myself together – petals, soap bar, one-way road, grapefruit rind.

Beeradvocate Rating: 80

ratebeer Rating: 78

Hayward Abbey Rating: 76

Uinta Hop Notch IPA

Uinta Hop Notch IPABeer No. 58 – Uinta Hop Notch IPA

If they made beer cologne – and if they don’t they should – this wouldn’t be a bad place to start.

STYLE: American IPA

ABV: 7.3%

LOOK: Creamy head sits nicely atop a surprisingly clear amber, more vinegar than oil. Slow but persistent carbonation up the gut. I can tell already, the lacing, it’s there.

NOSE: Classic West Coast IPA. Sugared grapefruit right away. Also orange. Also pineapple. And also nectarines. There’s a wonderful little piney note, like if you took a citrus cocktail and stirred it with just a needle or two. Tempting and coy.

MOUTH: It can’t replicate the nose, and that’s a shame because I had orgasmic hopes for a mouth parade. What I need here is some sweet honey tang and something that sticks in my gums for a minute. This, I’m afraid, is too light to be excellent. But not to get too caught up in the negatives, because there are some, let’s cover the positives. Because there are just as many. Sharper pine without being overwhelming. Clever bitterness. And a nice malty gulp.

Beeradvocate Rating: 89

ratebeer Rating: 96

Hayward Abbey Rating: 86

Hoppin’ Frog Hopped-Up Goose Juice Rye IPA

Beer No. 55 – Hoppin’ Frog Hopped-Up Goose Juice Rye IPA

No, I didn’t get a case of Westvleteren XII, but I did snag this limited-issue, better-than-expected Rye IPA from Akron.

STYLE: American IPA

ABV: 7%

LOOK: The kind of beer you want to drink. The kind of beer you need to drink. Orange and mellow maroon with a deceptively medium body that from some angles boasts a jelloy consistency. I wish there was more to the head that fizzles quickly as the carbonation, what there is of it, races to the top.

NOSE: Stinky cheese, heavy rye, dog park, and pent-up pine. A more sophisticated Rogue Dead Guy Ale.

MOUTH: It might be the mood I’m in. I don’t miss the hops, even though I was promised – indeed, induced by – an aggressive dose. It’s smooth, earthy, smooth. And I think I’m starting to fall for All Things Rye. There’s more here of course: grass, chives, and balance. The texture, among other things, will bring me back, somewhere in the fine line between wholesome and chewy. Excellent.

Beeradvocate Rating: 85

ratebeer Rating: 98

Hayward Abbey Rating: 91

Oskar Blues Deviant Dale’s IPA

Beer No. 52 – Oskar Blues Deviant Dale’s IPA

The canned beer re-revolution continues apace with this subdued IPA.

STYLE: American IPA

ABV: 8%

LOOK: Thinner than I remember, translucent paprika. I’m not sure body is the top priority for a brew intended to be consumed on the patio. A decent enough head that gives when you go and sways when you pull – enough, in fact, that I can steal a sip without frothing my lips.

NOSE: Back to basics in the right kind of way. Pine, orange peel, sugared grapefruit.

MOUTH: Solid, clean, and not at all sweet. Twigs, mellow grapefruit, a little too malty to pop. A wee bit light on the finish, maybe a lack of carbonation, maybe intentional.

Beeradvocate Rating: 90

ratebeer Rating: 99

Hayward Abbey Rating: 88

Cellar Rats The Piper’s IPA

Beer No. 51 – Cellar Rats The Piper’s IPA

I get it. If you’re not experimenting, you’re not trying. It’s not avant-garde. It won’t make the beer magazine cover. Still, I can’t wrap my head around these sugar-sweet IPAs.

STYLE: American IPA

ABV: 7.3%

LOOK: Root beer float head, it comes quick. Looks a lot like Buffalo Bill’s Alimony Ale. There’s a nice roasted color beneath it all, if it would just come down so I can drink the stubborn thing. It defines retention.

Cellar Rats The Piper's IPA  NOSE: Flat Christmas cookies. One-dimensional.

MOUTH: Brown sugar and gingerbread, especially on the lips. Malt for days, a hit of copper bitterness right in the middle. The texture is there, clinging in the right spots for the right amount of time. It just isn’t calling me back for more.

Beeradvocate Rating: 74*

ratebeer Rating: 28**

Hayward Abbey Rating: 72

*18 reviews

**15 reviews

Rogue Yellow Snow IPA

Yes, I’m back. No, I won’t be taking down the post before this.

It’s not that I want a reminder of the mistakes – the overdrinking, the not being there, the drunk driving. I don’t because they still sap the color from me. The thought now, especially after seeing her ten little fingers and ten little toes, it’s still more than I care to remember. But it is there, and it is useful. I’m not sure I can ever make peace with it, though I do know I couldn’t be happier that I am here with a healthy, happy peanut who maybe looks just like daddy. Here’s hoping she also has mommy’s patience, beauty, and resolve.

The ex-Catholic in me is craving penance, just one nonalcoholic Kaliber leftover from the third trimester. Just not today.

Thank you b for your encouragement with this project.

Rogue Yellow Snow IPABeer No. 50 – Rogue Yellow Snow IPA

I was kind of hoping #50 would be a milestone. It is in a way. But the brew itself, while decent, lacks the celebratory pop.

STYLE: American IPA

ABV: 6.5%

LOOK: I need to get used my new surroundings, tasting downstairs instead of the guest bedroom. Apricot orange, dirty. Hazy in the right light and a nice little head.

NOSE: Soft pine and what else?

MOUTH: Cold, especially for a beer that’s been at room temp for nearly an hour. Hoppy bite at the end, but I’m missing the expected floral and citrus notes. I could chalk it up to being out of the game but that’s not quite true. I think it’s just wanting.

Beeradvocate Rating: 86

ratebeer Rating: 96

Hayward Abbey Rating: 78