Beer of the Week: North Sound Vanguard Lager

By Iron Chef Leftover

The second of the 3 DNA project beers comes from the guys at North Sound Brewing in Mt. Vernon. If by chance you have never heard of them, you should make a stop by their brewery next time you are up north – they make some of the most under the radar beers in Washington. They drew Vanguard hops for their beer, which are “Slightly flowery, mild. Similar to Hallertau Mittlefruh and saaz in aroma. A gentle hop for subtle bitterness, aroma, and flavor.”

The beer pours pale yellow in color with a slightly hoppy, almost pilsner like character on the nose. The initial sip is surprisingly hoppy with a slight sweetness before yielding to a long floral hop backbone with notes of resin and grain before moving to a place with a light grapefruit and bitterness and finally finishing off with a pilsner like finish. The beer drinks like a hoppy pilsner, but is described as a lager with very littler lager character. The beer allows the hops to shine and has enough layers of flavor to please any discriminating palate.

The North Sound Vanguard Lager sends out an advanced force with 4 beach heads out of 5.

Beers of the Week: Anacortes Brewing/North Sound Brewing Maple and Smoke

By Iron Chef Leftovers

You may remember last week when I posted a terribly disappointing review of the Rogue Voodoo Maple Beer and I said the following:

I am willing to admit that I am not a huge fan of rauchbier, but I can appreciate the subtle flavors that smoke can add to a beer, lifting it up to a different plain. Stay tuned to next Tuesday where I actually review a beer that does this.

Well, lucky for you, I am going to keep my word and take it one step further, I am going to give you 2 beers that use maple and smoke well.

Back during Seattle Beer Week, Beveridge Place Pub in West Seattle held an Iron Brewer event. Basically a pair of breweries are given an ingredient that they have to use in a beer and then the two are put up head to head in a blind tasting with the winner receiving the most votes. In this case, North Sound Brewing and Anacortes Brewing were paired up together in this smack down. Here is what they turned out:

Anacortes Maple and Smoke – Amber in color with hints of brown depending on how the light catches it. Strong notes of maple and smoke on the nose, covering any other scents in the beer. Tasting it was a different experience; the beer was not as big as I was expecting, starting out slightly sweet with notes of nuts and malt and finishing up with a long maple syrup ending. There is very little smoke on this beer and it tasted like drinking a lightly smoked, maple glazed almond – all that was really missing was the salt. The beer was well balanced and easy to drink but I found myself wanting just a hint more smoke flavor to add more complexity.

The Anacortes beer fanned the flames with 3 roasters out of 5.

North Sound Maple and Smoke – tan/orange in color with light smoke and hops dominating the nose on this beer and maple in the background if you go looking for it. Slightly sweet on the initial taste before yielding to some resin hops and grain and then finally finishing with a long, slow transition to light smoke and hints of maple – reminded me of smoking fish over maple but being some distance from the fire. Incredibly restrained with the use of maple and smoke – they are there and in balance with the other flavors, but don’t completely overwhelm the other notes in the beer. North Sound made a maple and smoke IPA.

The North Sound beer torched the competition with 4 bonfires out of 5.

A few things about this event – there were 6 beers (3 pairs of beers with different ingredients) and I thought the North Sound was the best of the 6. I was absolutely convinced the North Sound beer was brewed by Anacortes – North Sound is not known for their IPA and Kevin at Anacortes brews what I feel is the best one in the state. These beers go to show that you can brew something with smoke and not have it taste like you are eating a smoldering log.