Beer of the Week: Midnight Sun XXX Black Double IPA

By Iron Chef Leftovers

If you want to consider Alaska as part of the Northwest, then Midnight Sun Brewing in Anchorage is definitely a brewery that should be considered one of the best in the Northwest. If you are like me and think that a brewery 1800 miles from Seattle is not really part of the Northwest, then you can call Midnight Sun possibly the best brewery in Alaska, a state that has a surprising amount of great breweries. My only knock on Midnight Sun is that their beer is spendy. Take the recently consumed XXX Black Double IPA, which ran about $12 for a 22 oz. bottle. Of course I had to try this beer since I don’t think I ever had a double black IPA, so price be damned, I bought it. The beer clocked in at 8.5% ABV and 87 IBU.

From the Midnight Sun website:

Originally brewed in 2009 to celebrate Specialty Imports’ 30th Anniversary, XXX Black Double IPA is now produced each winter as one of MSBC’s four “seasonal double IPAs”. XXX offers bold, American hop character — comfortably cloaked in dark, luxurious malt. This exciting “winter warmer” will take the chill right out of your bones. Curl up with this session-beer-meets-nightcap.

Although XXX pairs really well with roasted meats and vegetables, it also complements creamy desserts and cheeses, especially those that feature burnt sugar and nutty flavors.

Sometimes XXX just means 30.

XXX-art-only3The beer pours jet black with a creamy brown head. Significant roasted notes with hints of citrus and coffee in the background and a touch of boozy vanilla show on the nose. The beer starts out on the palate with a slight sweetness from the malt before quickly moving into a strong hop character with distinct notes of mango and passion fruit up front, then moving to dried citrus with just a hint of citrus peel. The finish is slightly boozy with strong notes of roasted coffee and hints of vanilla with touches of orange blossom and peel interspersed in a very long finish. Despite the boozy quality, the alcohol is balanced and there is no alcohol burn and the flavors are deep and layered, bringing this CDA to the next level. I would definitely drink this one again as a rare treat to be enjoyed in the fall and winter months in the Northwest.

Midnight Sun XXX Black Double IPA rolls down the lane with 4 turkeys out of 5.

Beer of the Week: Oakshire O’Dark:30

By Iron Chef Leftovers

Oakshire is a relative newcomer to the Northwest Beer scene, opening in 2006 in Eugene, Oregon. They have been around the Seattle market the last few years, available both on tap and in bottles at better bottle shops and supermarkets. They produce a relatively small, but solid, lineup of beers, with O’Dark:30, a CDA or black IPA, being their spring seasonal.  The beers are reasonably priced, coming in at around $6 for a 22 oz. bottle.

From the Oakshire Website:

Dawn has not arrived, but we are awake, brewing this beguiling combination of dark malt and NW hops. Dry hopped with Cascade and Centennial Hops, this beer has a powerful hop aroma and flavor tempered with a sturdy malt backbone.

Style: Cascadian Dark Ale
OG: 15.0 Plato
IBU: 70
ABV: 6.3%

bottle_template_CDAThe beer pours jet black with a creamy tan head, it really poured like a Guinness, but that is about the only similarity O’Dark has with the beer from James Gate. Light notes of roasted malt and chocolate appear on the nose with hints of citrus and fruit peel that permeates the nose but doesn’t overpower it. With the first sip, I was surprised by the amount of roast that appears up front coupled with lighter notes of chocolate that fade quickly before moving into the hop profile – slightly fruity with notes of citrus peel and very light bitterness, surprising for a beer with a high IBU and roasted malt profile. The hops linger and fade after close to a minute and the beer leaves you with a very pleasant chocolate and orange peel finish. Incredibly well balanced and layered, this beer has deep complex flavors and a big hop profile without being palate killing or overly bitter.

Oakshire O’Dark:30 clocks in with a solid 4 half-past-the-hours out of 5.

Beer of the Week: NW Peaks Cascadia Shale Ale

By Iron Chef Leftovers

untitle8dIn 2012, NW Peaks made a dark version of their Eldorado Pale Ale which was outstanding.  In 2013, they made a hoppy dark beer called Cascadia Shale Ale. The beer was a bit big at 6.5% ABV and was available on tap at the tasting room.

The beer pours very dark brown in color with a light tan head, showing lots on malt on the nose with hints of chocolate and hops supporting the malt. On the palate, the beer is hop forward; mild bitterness with hints of pleasant and not overpowering citrus followed by malt with hints of chocolate before finally yielding back to hops with more light bitterness and a hint of alcohol and resin on the very end of the beer. I would have liked a slightly smoother finish (the beer did come off as slightly hot) but it was still outstanding and complex with multiple layers of flavor. This was a somewhat malty version of a CDA, perfect for an overcast Northwest evening in the fall.

NW Peaks Cascadia Shale Ale rumbles in with 4 subduction quakes out of 5.

Beer of the Week: Populuxe CDA

By Iron Chef Leftovers

The nice thing about Populuxe and their ever-rotating tap list is that I can drink a beer, take a couple of months to review it and it will eventually end up back on tap. This means that, unlike some of the beers that I am taking so long to post the review of (say Pumpkin beers in March), there is a good chance that you will be able to drink this beer somewhat soon after I review it. Populuxe continued their foray into the world of hoppy beers with the release of the CDA; Cascadian Dark Ale, or as it is otherwise known, a Black IPA.

The beer pours jet black with a tan head. Lots of citrus and hop notes with a bit of roasted malt hiding on the nose. The first sip reveals some chocolate up front, yielding to delicious roasted flavors that linger for a long time before giving way to an explosion of hops and citrus peel in a very long and pleasant finish. A little bolder than the roast on most other CDA’s (which tend to be more hop forward), but very assertive and hoppy enough to please the most ardent hophead. The best part of this beer is how layered it is. It moves away from the one dimensional palate that you get from a number of CDA’s, which look like a dark beer, but taste just about like an IPA and gives you something much more interesting. The amazing part of this beer is that you still and pick out those layers when you are on your second pint.

When this beer shows up on the tap list again, get yourself down to Populuxe and have yourself a pint.

Populuxe CDA sneaks in under the cover of darkness and scores a strong 4 things that go bump in the night out of 5.

Beer of the Week: NW Peaks Black Eldorado

By Iron Chef Leftovers

NW Peaks is a nano-brewery located in Ballard, literally inside of a converted trailer. They are a brewery with a small production system and are only available on tap at their brewery and a few select locations (check their website for details). What they lack in size, they make up for in flavor, brewing a number of the styles that you would expect (Pale, Stout, Saison, etc.) as well as a few interesting beers for their Mountain Beer Club (check it out here), in an ever rotating tap list. One of their recent beers was their take on a CDA which they called Black Eldorado (their beers are named after mountains).

From their website:

The name. The mountain. Eldorado is a majestic mountain and stands at8,869′, the 25th tallest peak in the state. Many hikers will be intimately familiar with cascade pass trail at the end of the Cascade River road. The commonly used climbers path leaves the road about 4 miles short of the cascade pass trail head. The relative burly trail climbs several thousand feet through forest, talus, and rock leading to the Eldorado glacier with great views of the summit and the rest of the cascade river basin. While these views are excellent the real treats come at the top of the eldorado glacier where you get views of the Klawatti-Inspiration-Mcallister icecap and is knife-edge summit ridge.

The Beer. We took our pale ale recipe, a nice light pale with citrus notes, and threw in some Blackprinz and chocolate malts to it to add some color a a slight roast note to play off of the citrus hops. Black Eldorado presents itself as a light, nicely balanced version of a cascadia dark ale. Light on the palate with a nice combination of light hops and roasty malts.

Malts: Pale, ESB, Wheat, blackprinz, chocolate. Hops: Apollo, cascade, chinook, centennial ABV: ~5.25%

This beer pours brownish-black in color with a short, white head. Lots of roast and chocolate with a floral citrus hop background that hides itself nicely behind the stronger aromas of the beer. The initial taste yields a good amount of roast malt and overtones of chocolate lingering nicely on the palate before yielding to the hops. There are light notes of grapefruit and citrus peel appearing magically after the initial roast fade and they continue to linger for a long while before finally yielding to a pleasant bitter ending. More roast and malt flavors with less hops than most CDA’s but a delicious treat to enjoy when it is on tap. Incredibly well balance and easy to drink, it has all of the hop character of a big IPA, the roasted qualities of a dark and the drinkability of a pilsner coming together in a beer that you could easily knock back a few.

Black Eldorao self-arrests at a final rating of a perfect 5 Ice Axes out of 5.