Beer of the Week: Port Brewing High Tide Fresh Hop IPA

By Iron Chef Leftovers

port-brewing-company-high-tide-fresh-hop-ipaIt is strange that I had a bottle of fresh hop beer sitting in my fridge for several months without having opened it or even realizing it was there. That is what happened with the my 22 oz. bottle of Port Brewing High Tide Fresh Hop IPA. The beer was fresh hopped with Centennial and Simcoe hops and came in at 6.5% ABV. Because it had been sitting for a while, I figured that I would have pretty low expectations of the beer, and honestly, figured that all of the hop flavor would have been dead by this point. I am happy to report, I was wrong.

The beer pours golden in color with a hint of orange and an off white head. There is significant hop character on the noes with strong notes of citrus and citrus peel with light notes of grain and resin. A major citrus bomb on the palate – the beer starts off with a slightly tannic dryness before quickly switching to hops, and lots of them. There are strong notes of citrus peel and grapefruit before finishing off with more citrus peel and a pleasant lingering bitterness on the front of the tongue that keeps going for quite a while. Well balanced and higher alcohol than most fresh hops, it goes down smooth while displaying nice character.

Port Brewing High Tide Fresh Hop IPA cycles in with 3 ebb tides out of 5.

Beer of the Week: Populuxe Fresh Hop Chinook Pale Ale

By Iron Chef Leftovers

imagesCAAR87MMI will admit that it is a bit odd writing about a fresh hop beer in March, but yes, I still have a backlog of beer notes to get through (it is getting better) so eventually I will catch up and you will be seeing reviews for beers relatively close to their release date. Populuxe did make a couple of fresh hop beers in 2013, one with chinook and one with citra hops. This was the chinook version of the pale which clocked in at 4.8%.

The beer pours light orange in color with a mellow hop character and hints of citrus. The beer starts out on the palate with a nice grain character before quickly becoming more complex and hoppy – orange and grapefruit first make an appearance, giving the beer a slightly sweet character, before heading in a different direction with light notes of citrus peel and spice, medium notes of green hops and a pleasant bitterness. The beer finishing with long notes of pine needles, hops and citrus coupled with a very long mild bitter finish. The beer is layered and complex at the same time being easy drinking and not palate blowing. This was probably my favorite fresh hop beer in 2013.

The Populuxe Fresh Hop Chinook Pale Ale strikes the line and lands a whopping 5 big fish out of 5.

Beer of the Week: NW Peaks Cave Ridge Rye

By Iron Chef Leftovers

For our loyal readers, I am going to take us back on a trip to January in my beer of the year post:

This really was a challenge – I had about 15 beers that I scored 5 points so I took down my list from there to 4 contenders for the best. It was actually going to be 5, then I realized that the one that would have been in the 5th spot has not yet had a review posted, so, it is an early contender for 2014 (and no, I won’t tell you what it is).

Well, I am ready to reveal what that 5th beer is since this is the review for it. In some ways it is better that the review slipped to 2014, it would not have won in 2013, but it is really the front runner for 2014’s title of beer of the year.

From the NW Peaks website:

Cave ridge, fresh hop, rye. Cave ridge rye features fresh simcoe hops, imparting a beautiful/delicate piney aroma and acidity in the beer. To feature the simcoe hops, we put the hops on top of a light, dry pale. We used ~35% rye, which aids in drying out the beer, but also adds a little complexity complementing the simcoe. Some might find this a strange pairing, but they work really well together in Cave Ridge rye.

untitle8dThe beer pours a very pale yellow in color with strong notes of berries, grain and mild notes of rye on the nose. The beer starts out quickly with a quick hit of hops showing some light resin and pine before moving into heavy rye notes with a mild fruitiness before finishing off with a tinge of very pleasant bitterness, pine needles and more rye dryness at the very end of the beer, showing notes of raspberry on the finish as the beer warms. Layered and complex, the beer doesn’t have the strong bitter/citrus hop character of most fresh hopped beer, but is much deeper and show how the hops can play with several other complex players, making a the hops an important member of the symphony rather than the star of the show.

NW Peaks Caver Ridge Rye stirs the cauldron and makes a prediction of 5 oracles out of 5.

Beer of the Week: NW Peaks Crooked IPA

By Iron Chef Leftovers

October bring fresh hop season in the beer world, which is fun since I love the freshies. The problem is that this year has led to a number of disappointing beers – beers that I have liked in the past just haven’t been as good. Maybe my tastes are changing or maybe I am just understanding more about how the beers are composed and seeing the flaws. Either way, NW Peaks gave us 2 fresh hop IPA’s in October. The first of the pair is the Crooked IPA. From the NW Peaks Website:

The name, freshies. We’ve been blessed with a wonderful summer this year and it’s continued into the fall. We hope you have been able to take advantage of the lengthened season! Sooner or later winter will be upon us and we’ll turn our thoughts to snowy adventures and finding all of the finest powder and “freshies” we can. One of the more popular places to go is Snoqualmie pass for the winter playground. Snoqualmie Mountain, the tallest mountain in the area, is a great mountain for non-aided winter recreation. Cave ridge is the standard climbing/snow shoe route up the ridge on the S, while the ‘Crooked’ couloir is a great back country ski down the mountain (note – rapel may be needed depending on conditions)

Crooked, fresh hop, IPA. Crooked IPA was made with amarillo fresh hops, imparting a distinct hop aroma/flavor in the beer. All of the fresh hops were added at the end of the boil (others varieties were used for flavor and bittering) and contribute almost exclusively to the aroma. There is a nice malt backbone and a full bodied IPA.

untitle8dThe beer pours hazy yellow in color – much more cloudy than I was expecting, with lots of hop character on the nose, supported by some grain and hints of pine and citrus. The beer starts off light with notes of grain before moving into bold hop notes – citrus, pine needles, resin and a very mild bitterness, before transitioning off into a pleasant juicy citrus peel finish with a hint of bitterness that seems to keep going in an incredibly long fade. Solid hop character with a nice malty background, really showcasing the hops with a great deal of depth. This beer is exactly everything that I love about fresh hop beers.

NW Peaks Crooked IPA tries to straighten out and fly right with a sneaky 5 juvenile delinquents out of 5.

Beer of the Week: Elysian Prairie Rose Wet Hopped IPA

By Iron Chef Leftovers

untitle3dThis was a very disappointing season for fresh hopped beers. Even ones that I have had in the past and loved seemed to be lacking something this year. One of the few exceptions to this was Elysian’s entry into the style, their Prairie Rose Wet Hopped IPA. Elysian described the beer as follows:

Named for the scented flowers of the Yakima Valley and the Texas Panhandle – Amarillo – Prairie Rose is a fresh hop IPA bittered with eponymous hop shooting stars – Galaxy and Comet – to a magnitude of 60 IBU’s and finished with 40 pounds worth of we Amarillo hops from Virgil Gamache Farms. 6.5% ABV.

The beer pours vaguely orange in color with citrus and citrus peel dominating the nose with background green hops and grain. A burst of citrus on the palate initially but quickly moving to slightly floral hop bitterness with a touch of resin. The beer then finishes with a mild burnt citrus peel that lingers pleasantly with just a hint of bitterness. Big bold hop character dominates without overpowering your palate, leaving a rich and complex flavor profile when you debate if a second pint is a good idea.

Elysian’s Prairie Rose Wet Hopped IPA saunters in riding high with a handsome 4 gauchos out of 5.

Beer of the Week: Elysian Trip XIV Imperial Fresh Hop

By Iron Chef Leftovers

beer_188108A couple of times a year, the brewers from New Belgium and Elysian get together and brew a beer in a collaboration series called “Hop Trip”. These beers are generally unusual and pretty good. In honor of fresh hop season, they brewed an Imperial Fresh Hop, basically a fresh hop double IPA. I couldn’t find much info on the beer other than it was 8.6% ABV and ran $6.99 for a 22 oz. bottle.

The beer pours hazy orange in color. There is light grain on the nose, but it is dominated by citrus and green hops with hints of spice in the background. The initial taste is potent – burnt orange peel and citrus juice on the front end followed by green hops and resin with a long, slightly bitter, grapefruit finish that lingers with a slight sweetness. This beer is a great balance of sweet and bitter with huge citrus character. This is definitely one that you don’t want to drink if you don’t like a big hoppy beer, but it is complex and assertive and should please just about any hop head.

Elysian Trip XIV Imperial Fresh Hop meanders down the road with a smooth 4 Winnebagoes out of 5.

Beer of the Week: Big Al’s Brewing Fresh Hop Harvest Ale

By Iron Chef Leftovers

When it comes to fresh hop beers, most of the local Washington breweries tend to go with an IPA or a Pale Ale style to showcase the hops. On occasion, you get a brewery that tries to do something different. Seattle based Big Al’s Brewing did that with the release of their Fresh Hopped Harvest Ale. I couldn’t find a description of the beer online so all I can tell you is that I had it in a 22 oz. bottle which was purchased at a local bottle shop for about $5.

The beer is a reddish-amber color. The nose is dominated by lots of malt and grain, with hints of citrus and hops in the background. The initial taste brings roasted malt on the front of the palate, so roasted that it is almost chocolate like, followed by a slightly grassy hop flavor. As the beer warms, it becomes slightly more bitter, the malt becomes more restrained, and the green hops become more citrus like, but are still a secondary player to the malt in this beer.

Personally I felt like this beer lacked balance between the malt and hops. The hops flavor, which is what I am really looking for in a fresh hop beer, seemed to be lost at times and just overpowered with what is a really malty beer. I appreciated the effort that Big Al’s put into this beer to make something different, but I think it needs some additional work. I would probably buy this beer again next year to see if it has gotten any better, but I don’t think I would run out and buy more than one either.

A disappointed Big Al’s reaps 2 combines out of 5 for their Harvest Ale.

Beer of the Week: Hale’s Ales Cascade Mist Wet Hop

One of the great things about where I live is that I have 5 (and soon to be 7) breweries within walking distance of my house. It makes for a regular rotation for me to stop in to each of these places and try the new and exciting stuff that they have on tap, and, in the case of Hale’s Ales, try the beers that they don’t bottle. A recent trip to Hale’s yielded such a treasure – the very last of their fresh hop beer. I unfortunately can’t find any stats on the beer (I did find a single reference to it being 5.5% ABV), so you are just stuck with my description.

The beer is very pale yellow in color with a snow white head. I took one look at it and thought to myself that this was going to be a major letdown. It wasn’t helped when I took a whiff of the beer – faint notes of grain with very mild hops, if you did not know what you ordered, you would possible be thinking pilsner. It is a good thing that I did not judge a book by its cover. The first sip delivered a very crisp and refreshing beer with lots of hops flavor up from with notes of orange and lemon lingering for a short time before giving way to citrus peel, grain and hop resin. A slight bitterness hides in the finish on this beer, but it is not particularly pronounced and it provides a nice counterbalance to the citrus notes. It is also just enough to remind you that this is a fresh hop beer but not off-putting to the point where a non-IPA drinker would hate it. There is great balance between the citrus and grain and it is a nice change of pace from the fresh hop IPA’s that tend to dominate the market in Seattle. When this beer makes a comeback, you should belly yourself up to the bar at Hale’s and knock back a few of them.

Hale’s Cascade Mist was an unexpected surprise when I went in the brewery and it made for a very happy Iron Chef when I left.

Hale’s Cascade Mist Wet Hop wafts in with a cloaking 4 cloudy days out of 5.

Beer of the Week: Deschutes Brewing Chasin’ Freshies

By Iron Chef Leftovers

If there is one thing that you can count on from Deschutes Brewing out of Bend, Oregon is consistency; there beers are easily a great “fall back” if you’re looking to have a couple and don’t want to break the bank doing it. You can never go wrong cracking open a Black Butte, Mirror Pond, Inversion or Red Chair. They also produce a special series of beers; usually hop monsters, in their limited Bond Street series, which usually border on spectacular. This year, they produced a fresh hop beer, Chasin’ Freshies as part of the series. The beer was available in 22 oz. bottles and ran about $6 at your local bottle shop.

From their website:

Alc. 7.4% | IBUs 60
22 oz serving

Like fresh powder, it’s a seize-the-moment thing. At harvest, we rush Goschie Farms’ Cascade hops fresh from vine to kettle. Not any Cascades, mind you, but an heirloom strain, from a single field, restored from the original rhizome. Hope you’re as hopped up as we are.

Malt: Pilsner Malt, Flaked Oats
Hops: Bravo, Fresh Heirloom Cascades

The beer pours a very pale yellow in color, almost surprisingly so – I looks like it could pass itself off as a saison. Any confusion over what you are drinking is eliminated when you smell the beer – the nose is dominated by floral and grassy hops and something that I couldn’t quite idenitfy, which might have been the oats included in the brew process. The initial taste is more malt forward than I was expecting, but it is a brief hit of malt and is followed by a huge punch of citrus with hints of resin and grass in a long and pleasant finish. The beer is not overly bitter and the hops are the star of the show, but still show great balance between the malt, bitterness, alcohol and citrus. Despite its light color, the beer drinks like a much bigger beer and does a fantastic job of displaying exactly what I want in a fresh hop beer and showcasing its pedigree.
This is definitely not a beer that you would want to drink if you did not like hops, but if you do, you should be chasing this one down during its limited run next winter.

Chasin’ Freshies gets run down with a high-speed 5 Smokey and the Bandits out of 5.

Beer of the Week: Bridgeport Fresh Hop Pilsner

By Iron Chef Leftovers

Bridgeport Brewing, out of Portland, Oregon, makes some very solid and occasionally spectacular beers. You can never go wrong with picking up a Hop Czar or Blue Heron – they won’t blow you away, but they are beers that you will enjoy drinking. In 2012, Bridgeport decided to try a fresh hop beer – a pilsner. I personally thought that was a gutsy move – pilsner is an under-represented style in the Northwest and because it is more delicate, it can be easily overwhelmed by hops if the balance is not just right. Of course, seeing the beer available in 22 oz. bottles, I had to pick one up.

According to their press release, the beer comes in at 8% ABV and 44 IBU. The beer uses Oregon Tettnang and Austrian Aurora hops to give it is complexity.

The beer pours golden yellow in color with a white head, exactly what you would expect from a Pilsner. A complex nose is dominated by lots of grain and sugar with plenty of green hops in the background, a wonderful balance of the two – lets you know you are drinking a pilsner, but this one has some legs to it. The initial taste is very crisp and dry with pleasant grain and a very quick grassy hop finish. The beer is not overly floral and is balanced with a hint of sweetness at the very end that comes out when the beer warms a bit. For an 8% alcohol beer that is on the lighter end of the spectrum, the alcohol is well hidden and I would not have guessed the ABV in that range.

The Fresh Hop Pilsner is not the most hop forward beer that you will ever drink but it had a good balance between grain and hops and would be a pleasant enough to drink it you wanted to experience a fresh hop beer without going toward the pale ale/IPA hop bomb end of the spectrum.

Although not a style I tend to prefer, Fresh Hop was a pleasant drinking experience and I would love to see Bridgeport bring it back in 2013.

Bridgeport Fresh Hop Pilsner crosses over with a respectable 3 suspension bridges out of 5.