Beer of the Week: NW Peaks Rye IPA

By Iron Chef Leftovers

untitle8dAnother review of a NW Peaks IPA? The gods must be crazy. I had actually been waiting for this one since the guys at NW Peaks told me it was one their brew schedule. I have become a huge fan of rye beers and they had tremendous success with their Cave Rye last year, so I wanted to know what they could do with a full blown rye IPA. I don’t think it is currently available at the brewery, but it clocked in at a nice 6.5% ABV.

The beer pours orange in color with a nice white head and there is an explosion of citrus on the nose when you first smell this beer, but with deeper investigation, you will find additional notes of orange peel and orange blossom, spice and rye and grain notes. The beer starts off with juicy fresh squeezed orange and tangerine with orange blossom without being cloyingly sweet before brining mild amounts of bitterness into the picture in the form of citrus peel combined with some grain and spicy heat. The beer finishes extremely long with signifiant citrus tempered with a pleasant bite of the rye and coupled with a hint of resin and spice in a moderately bitter finish. Not quite a good as my favorite rye IPA, Reuben’s Imperial Rye IPA, this beer is extremely well balanced and very easy to drink and is outstanding in its own right.

NW Peaks Rye IPA finishes strong with a perfect 5 stone mills out of 5.

Beer of the Week: NW Peaks Luna dIPA

By Iron Chef Leftovers

For the first couple of years of their existence, NW Peaks resisted brewing IPA’s, becoming the sort of anti-Northwest Brewery. They really had no reason to – they brewed some great beers in styles that were not always common, using different ingredients. That has slowly changed and NW Peaks threw its hat into the IPA arena first with the Challenger IPA and now with the Luna dIPA – their first crack at a double IPA. In NW Peaks fashion, they couldn’t just brew any old double IPA, they went out and brewed one using all Southern Hemisphere hops.

From the NW Peaks Website:

The name. The mountain. Luna is the center mountain of the Northern Picket range, arguably the most remote and inaccessible are of the N Cascades (along with the S. Pickets). There really is no good approach; any choice involves a lengthy slog and bushwhack. For those that venture into the area, the rewards are worth it as you are surrounded by gorgeous environs with a feeling of isolation. Since Luna Peak is the center of the N. Pickets including Mt Challenger (the namesake of our IPA), it was a perfect name for the bold and big double version of the style.

The Beer. Luna IPA is a beast of an IPA coming in at 9.5% ABV with about 3 pounds of hops per barrel. Luna starts with melon and tropical notes dominating the hop aroma and flavor. This leads to a crisp, hoppy bite, but one that doesn’t overwhelm your senses. Luna fermented dry (for the style), but the malt backbone, sweetness of the fruity hops, and alcohol warming support the hops harmoniously. The resulting beer is a great interpretation of the style that features unique hops, a full flavor profile, and pleasant drinkability.

untitle8dThe beer pours deep orange in color with a nice white head. There are strong notes of grain and citrus on the nose with hints of mellon and notes of wood. The beer starts off on the palate with just a touch of grain before moving quickly int a significant profile of mellon and tropical fruit with a hint of sweetness, reminding me of eating a juicy cantaloupe. The finish brings additional flavors of pineapple and passion fruit with a tiny amount of bitterness that lingers for what seems like forever and brings just a touch of warming heat from the alcohol. The beer is incredibly well balanced and different, its complexity hides the fact that this beer is a monster and you can easily drink 2 or 3 in one sitting without feeling like you have killed you palate like with most double IPA’s.

NW Peaks Luna dIPA sends Alice to the moon with 5 Pows! Right in the kissers out of 5.

Beer of the Week: NW Peaks Single Hop IPA with Crystal

By Iron Chef Leftovers

untitle8dKeeping with a theme of single hop IPA’s, NW Peaks released one also recently, this one done with Crystal hops. It was a new beer for the crew down at NW Peaks and an IPA, so it was definitely on my must try list.

The beer pours hazy pale yellow in color with notes of lemon and lemon peel and touches of grain and grassy hops. The beer starts off with a strong grain profile with just a touch of sweetness before quickly moving into a mild bitterness showing hints of lemon peel. The beer finishes long with notes of lemon juice (without the acidity) and a pleasant bitterness with just a touch of astringency (surprising but not unpleasant) and hints of grassy notes giving the beer a bit of a bite. The beer drinks fine and is a nice use of Crystal hops, but it lacked a great depth of flavor that you would normally expect from an IPA and it seemed just a bit unbalanced.

NW Peaks Single Hop IPA with Crystal goes into the china shop like a bull with 2 horns out of 5.

Beer of the Week: NW Peaks Peak 6522

By Iron Chef Leftovers

untitle8dI was cleaning off my iPhone and I happened to stumble across notes for a beer that I had not previously published – NW Peaks Peak 6522. It was a one-off experimental beer that they produced back in 2013 and I don’t really know much of the details on what the style was or the stats because they just are not in my notes (I don’t know why). So you get to enjoy the notes for what they are, just a flat out description of a beer (After reading what I wrote, I can tell you it is a dark beer and I believe it had the inclusion of almond fondant, or at least that is what my spotty memory is recalling).

The beer pours jet black with a pale white head. Notes of cola, nuts and sesame dominate the beer with hints of caramel – kind of reminds me of a jack and coke. The beer drinks lighter than expected, starting out with hints of caramel before progressing to light roast and mild almonds and finishing slightly sweet with a very long background almond finish. Very well balanced and subtle with amazingly well integrated alcohol. The roasted flavors are a bit more prevalent as it warms, but it is still subtle and balanced.

NW Peaks Peak 6522 reaches the summit and catches 5 sunrises out of 5.


Beer of the Week: NW Peaks Magic Brown

By Iron Chef Leftovers

I have come to realize that one of my guilty pleasures in beer drinking is brown ales. For years, one of my favorite beers was Sam Smith’s Nut Brown Ale, and then, for some reason, I took a very long break from drinking them. In the last couple of years, there has been resurgence in browns, and with that, they have become my dirty little secret – a beer that I wouldn’t generally order, but when I am in the mood, there is nothing quite like a brown. NW Peaks does a couple of browns – the Pecan one they do in November and the Magic, which makes an appearance in March.

From the NW Peaks Website:

The name. The mountain. Magic is situated right off of Cacade pass (near Sahale), but it is just S and E from the pass rising above Trapper Lake. I climbed Magic Mtn on the front end of a week long trip, on the famous Ptarmigan Traverse – one of the most traveled alpine climbing traverses. The day trip to Cascade Pass is certainly one of the “must go to” areas of the N Cascades, with several options for continuing the trip, including over to Magic and it’s environs.

The beer. Magic Brown fits the schizophrenic March Seattle weather perfectly. It is dark and malty for the cold/wet, but it’s body is light enough that it will be great on a warmer day as well. Unlike the typical “brown,” we built this brown up to have some more residual malt character by adding some extra munich, caramunich, and other specialty malts, but keeping the overall alcohol content and roast character down.

Malt: ESB, Special B, Crystal, muncih, caramunich, carafa 2, flaked. Hops: Apollo, golding. British ale yeast.

untitle8dThe beer pours deep brown with hints of amber. There are strong notes of malt on the nose with mild hints of chocolate, coffee and hops. The beer starts off on the palate with a pleasant grain note and a touch of sweetness before moving off into very light notes of milk chocolate with just a hint of coffee hiding in the background. Those flavors are joins by a malty sweetness that embraces the roast and the finish displays just a touch of hop character, playing hide and seek on a long fade. Not as deep as some browns, but easy to drink and well layered.

NW Peaks Magic Brown takes the stage and pulls 3 rabbits out of a hat out of 5.

Beer of the Week: NW Peaks Esmeralda Ale

By Iron Chef Leftovers

untitle8dSorry for the delay in posting some beer reviews. Seattle Beer Week and a few personal issues kept me from keeping up with the posting. I am back now, so you get to “enjoy” my reviews again.

Having been a member of the MountainBeer club at NW Peaks for over a year now, we are starting to see some of the beers make a return appearance. Since they are only brewed once a year, they warrant inclusion in my beer notes as well as posting here, just so I can compare how the beers and my tastes changed year over year. I posted a review of the Esmeralda Ale a mere 9 months ago and that was actually 5 months after I drank the beer. This time I am posting a review of it just 2 weeks after I drank the 2014 version. I am getting better at timely reviews.

From the NW Peaks Website:

 The name. The mountain. Esmeralda is located in the Teanaway River drainage just S of Ingalls peak and SW of Mt Stuart – one of our favorite areas. It’s on the other side of the Teanaway River from its beastly neighbors and is a much easier approach/climb than that of it’s neighbors. The “class 2″ trek to the summit offers some great views of the massive Mt Stuart and the Stuart range and is part of a great loop for a day hike.

The story of two experiences. Because of its popularity from past renditions, we bring Esmeralda Ale back for another late winter mountainBeer. Of course it is always fun (or not) to remember the comedy of errors that was our first batch brewed on our current system (Esmeralda Ale), while now we have everything dialed in.

The Beer. Esmeralda is one of our ‘adjunct’ beers for March. The adjuncts in Esmeralda are corn and molasses that create a unique character. The corn provides a nice sweetness and smoothness and complements the molasses notes. Esmeralda was fermented with an English ale yeast adding a smooth fruity flavor on top. With very little few hop notes, the slight grain sweetness and dark sugar properties are uniquely featured.

Malts: ESB, munich, corn, special B, biscuit, carafa 2. Hops: Apollo and Goldings. Fermented with British Ale yeast. OG/TG 1.058/1.016 ~5.5% ABV

The beer pours light mahogany brown in color with a thin tan head. The beer has a significant up front nose of corn and grain with hints of spice and grass and just a touch of bread. It starts out on the palate with a slight grain and corn sweetness before bringing in a very light hop bitterness that stays until the end of the beer, when it couples with a pleasant note of corn cakes, molasses spice and an almost pilsner maltiness that linger in a crisp, long fade. This is a full-bodied beer and different from almost anything out there, this beer brings hints of fresh corn to the party in a well-balanced and easy drinking way.

NW Peaks Esmeralda Ale travels down the yellow brick road with 4 flying monkeys out of 5.

Beer of the Week: NW Peaks Challenger IPA

By Iron Chef Leftovers

It is almost suicide for a NW brewery to not have an IPA regularly on tap, just because it seems to be the default beer of a number of NW craft brew drinkers. Because of that, there is significant pressure on breweries to not only produce the style, but to do it well so they don’t get lost in the shuffle. For the early part of its existence, NW Peaks did not have an IPA on regularly, but that changed about a year ago when one of their regular commercial customers asked them to brew one, which lead to the Challenger IPA.

From the NW Peaks site:

The name. The mountain. Mt Challenger anchors the NW boundary of the Picket Range, arguably the most remote, inaccessible area of the N Cascades. The main feature of Mt Challenger (maybe besides its jagged, rocky summit and sub-summits) is the Challenger glacier – the largest in the area spanning nearly 2 miles and about 3000 of vertical feet. It’s a great climb, with a long approach (which many might consider a climbing excursion in itself), fun glacier slogs, and a nice rock pitch at the end. A truly great mountain and great back country climbing excursion. A perfect namesake to our traditional NW IPA.

The Beer. We tried to emulate the stunning features  of Mt Challenger in the IPA.  We started by selecting 7 varieties of hops, each used at 1 specific time during the process to bring out a unique flavor and bouquet that had both the traditional citrus notes as well as other complementary notes, in this case stone fruit.  The malts were chosen to support the hop character, add a little complexity, and give Challenger IPA a nice balance, one that would feature, but not owerwhelm with, the hops. The result is a nice drinkable hop forward IPA featuring citrus and stone fruits on a solid, medium bodied backbone.

ABV: ~6.5%

untitle8dThe beer pours hazy golden orange in color with a nice citrus and grain nose. The beer starts out with a pleasant amount of citrus before shifting into a slightly floral sweetness, lingering for a few moments before bringing a mild bitterness of resin and citrus peel. The beer finishes long, bringing all of the flavors together with hints of grain tying everything into one cohesive unit. The beer has plenty of character and a nice balance between bitter and citrus, making this a pretty easy beer to drink with a great lingering finish. The different variety of hops bring a nice layering to the beer and the 6.5% ABV is not at all perceptible.

NW Peaks Challenger IPA rises to the occasion and accomplishes its task with 4 double dares out of 5.

Beer of the Week: NW Peaks Early Morning Espresso Stout

By Iron Chef Leftovers

untitle8dFebruary was stout month for NW Peaks and we got a returning favorite in Stuart and a new beer – Early Morning Espresso Stout. This beer is brewed with beans from Ballard Coffee Works, who are one of the places around Seattle that you can find NW Peaks beers, so this was a collaborative effort as well as the first time that NW peaks is brewing a coffee beer. I was excited as it was a combination of a brewery I love and a coffee roaster that produces some of the best quality beans in the city.

From the NW Peaks website:

The Name. The mountain. Early Morning Spire is set in a magical location of the Eldorado, Inspiration, and Mcallister glaciers. It is actually situated slightly off the glaciers in Marble cirque. Early Morning Spire offers great rock climbing in a remote place, so remote that it is best to take 3-4 days to climb (the approach is via Eldorado – nearly summiting – over a col into the marble cirque). While it has great rock routes, Early Morning spire can be done as a scramble, although getting from the glacier to solid rock might be treacherous depending on conditions. The name derives itself from a group that had to bivy near the summit (cold, unprepared), which caused them to summit just after first light.

The Espresso. We made this an espresso stout so what better name than Early Morning Espresso Stout – two of our favorite beverages made into one. We collaborated with one of our great customers – Seattle Coffee Works (Ballard Coffee Works) who puts out one of the finest products in the Seattle area. In the end, we chose to use their Emerald City toddy – delicious by itself – to accentuate the flavor and aroma of the coffee.

The Beer. Early Morning Espresso Stout was brewed to feature the coffee from Seattle coffee works. The base beer has a mild roast character, low body, and slight sweetness to support the espresso. The espresso flavor is at the forefront and brings in minimal acidity and coffee astringency. Instead, the cold toddy really adds to the flavor and aroma of the beer without contributing any harshness or excessive acidity. The result is a 5% ABV smooth, light bodied, light roasty stout with a great espresso flavor and aroma. Watch out, there will be a lot more caffeine in a pint than other versions, making it a great choice to have at first light.


The beer pours jet black with a beautiful tan head and eye-popping notes of roasted malt and ground espresso dominating the nose with just barely perceptible notes of chocolate hiding in the background. The beer starts out slowly, with hints of sugar, milk chocolate and light fruit notes before giving way to building coffee profile – it starts out mellow before becoming a deep, rich espresso. The bold coffee slowly fades into the finish, joined by a barely perceptible bitterness, touches of milk chocolate, caramel and malt coupled with a silky mouth feel. Coffee is definitely the star of this beer but it knows when to give way to the other flavors, producing a deep, rich beer. In talking to the head brewer about this beer, he would have liked to dial the coffee back just a bit to let the beer stand out more, but I think the balance was nice to the point that this beer would be an easy sell to even those who don’t like coffee beers.

NW Peaks Early Morning Espresso Stout hits the snooze button with 5 alarm clocks out of 5.

Beer of the Week: NW Peaks Stuart Stout

By Iron Chef Leftovers

I believe in the 150+ beer reviews that I have written, I think that I have only once reviewed a beer multiple times, Elysian’s Dark O’the Moon. Well, I am doing it again, this time with NW Peaks Stuart Stout. The beer only gets brewed once a year, so I felt it was a good time to review it again, especially since there were probably minor tweaks to the recipe.

From the NW Peaks website:

Since Mt Stuart is one of the most noticeable, bold, non-volcanic peaks in WA we tried to make the beer bearing its name similar. Stuart is medium-full bodied stout that is roast forward. The end result is a rich, deeply roasty interpretation of the style that starts smooth and ends with a slight lingering bitterness from the roasted barley . A fine beer to drink anytime, but best enjoyed in front of a fire on a cold rainy winter evening.


untitle8dThe beer pours jet black in color with a tannish-brown head and shows significant amounts of chocolate and coffee on the nose with backing hints of caramel, vanilla and malt supporting. The beer states out with notes of caramelized sugar before quickly moving into deep roasted flavors of dark chocolate and dark roasted coffee before beginning its finish with a very pleasant bitterness (think black coffee) with notes of vanilla and caramel coupled with a very long and mildly boozy dark chocolate finale that keeps lingering in a pleasant way. Layered and complex and creamy and unctuous, this beer is very drinkable and works well either with food or on its own.

NW Peaks Stuart Stout does it again with a solid 4 self-affirmations out of 5.

Beer of the Week: NW Peaks Black Berlinerweiss

By Iron Chef Leftovers

untitle8dWhat can I say, I am sucker for sour beers.  Mind you I do have my limits – if it tastes like you make pickles, I really don’t enjoy that flavor in my beer. Give me something with a hint of tartness and some complexity beyond that and I can almost guarantee that you will get me to try it. NW Peaks is back at it with their berlinerweiss, this time putting out a black version of the classic German sour, which is truly something that I had not seen before. I was excited to try it, but it meant that I was going to have to find some other folks to drink the beer with me, since my regular Mountainbeer friends are not much in the way of sour drinkers. Luckily, I know a couple beer people who were happy to share.

Unfortunately, NW Peaks didn’t put anything on their website describing the beer, but it I do remember it being something really low in alcohol (somewhere in the 3-4% range).

The beer pours light brown in color with a very light head and shows a complex nose – chocolate and roast are there without being dominating, coupled with notes of sour cherry and (surprisingly) some light notes of raisin make an appearance. All of this is supported with a tinge of floral barnyard character. The beer drinks light also, hints of roast and chocolate start before quickly yielding to a pleasantly mild sour component with hints of dried stone fruit that linger nicely before being joined at the end by light chocolate. The finish is dry and pleasant and the sour is balanced with the roast, making the beer surprisingly complex for both a small beer and a sour beer. There is an almost lightly gritty quality to the beer, giving it a very rustic quality.

If you don’t like sours, you probably won’t like this one, no matter how mild it is, but if you want to try something that is different without being completely bizarre, go for this. NW Peaks serves it in their taproom with a shot of raspberry syrup which does take the edge off the beer, but I honestly think that this one is better and much more interesting on its own without the syrup.

NW Peaks Black Berlinerweiss circles the city with a perfect 5 Alexanderplatz out of 5.