Beer 32 of Spring – Wicked Awesome

Jacks Abby Hop Union

Brewer: Jack’s Abby       Craft: Hoponius Union       ABV: 6.7%       IBU: 65

This is my first experience with Jack’s Abby and you never get a second chance to make a first impression.  Well, it’s a good thing that my first impression is wicked awesome!  I must say I feel kinda weird saying that, being from the Philly area, but when (drinking) in Rome, right?

Hoponius Union is an IPL, or India Pale Lager.  So Jack’s only crafts lagers.  Let’s talk about that.  There are only two kinds of beer – lagers and ales.  It’s all about the yeast and the fermentation.  Lagers are cold fermented – the yeast settle to the bottom and do their thing down there turning sugars into alcohol.  Ales are fermented at slightly warmer temps – and the yeast hang out up top and convert those sugars.  Lagering takes longer and is more labor intensive.  The process creates beers that are drinkable and refreshing.

And then there are variations on the theme once you decide to lager – IPL being one of them.  This craft is a Wicked Hoppy Lager, as it says on the bottle.  It’s definitely easy to drink.  It’s smooth, but refreshing.  And the hoppy action is bitter and citrusy, which counters that smoothness well.  At 6.7%, this is not quite a session beer.  But it sure drinks like one.  I could drink a few of these in a row no problem.  But I’d probably start to feel it sooner than I’d like…

I’m impressed.  Lagers are difficult to brew, let alone master.  And when you decide to make your whole lineup lagers, you better know what you’re doing.  Jack’s Abby certainly has mastered the craft.  If you’re in the northeast, find yourself some lager from them.  I’m looking forward to trying more of their crafts as soon as I can.

You may have noticed I started adding IBU to the blog.  This is for reference and for those of you that are interested in that measure.  IBU stands for International Bittering Unit.  It’s just a way to measure the bitterness of a beer.  The higher the number, the more bitter the craft.  Some folks like to know how bitter the craft is before they try it.  So it’ll be included from now on.

Rating: At least a six-pack

Beer 31 of Spring – Punk IPA

Brew Dog Punk IPA

Brewer: Brew Dog       Craft: Punk IPA       ABV: 5.6%

Let me introduce you to the Brew Dogs.  These guys know how to make beer and have fun doing it.  They push limits.  They ignore the status quo.  They make their own rules.  If you haven’t seen their show on the Esquire network, then pick up that remote and look for them.  It’s good watchin’.

Now to the beer.  This craft is easily one of my favorite IPAs.  A hearty malt base gives this Punk a solid foundation on which is built an IPA that challenges all others.  Are there others like this one?  Maybe.  But the way James and Martin crafted this Punk goes above the standard and sets a new level of quality.

The aroma is immediately citrus, with some malty sweetness and subtle hoppiness also wafting up.  When I drink it, I just want to keep drinking it.  The word balance is used a lot.  I’ve used it on many occasions.  I apologize.  Because this craft might be the definition of balance.  The malts provide a smoothness and a sweetness that start this craft off.  The hops add in those citrus notes.  And those hops also add in just enough bitterness to get your attention and keep you coming back for sip after sip.  As I continue to sip I get some caramel notes and even some notes of toasted bread.

Listen, I like this beer.  A lot.  And I’ve enjoyed the other crafts I’ve had from Brew Dog as well.  But this is my favorite by far.  And at 5.6%, it is easy enough to drink a few of these in a session.  Even better.  If you’re an IPA drinker, try to find this Punk and thank me later.

Rating: It wouldn’t be cheap, but I’d buy a case of this.  You get what you pay for, right?  This might be difficult to find, since they’re in Scotland and all of their beer is imported right now.  But I just saw today that they’re planning on building a brewery in Ohio.  Woohoo!

Beer 30 of Spring – Jab

Moat Mt Iron Mike

Brewer: Moat Mountain       Craft: Iron Mike       ABV: 5.6%

Can I tell you I so enjoy receiving gifts?  Yes?  Ok.  I so enjoy receiving gifts.  And frankly, who doesn’t?  Well, I’m an only child, so I’ve been slightly spoiled in my life and I like getting things.  Especially when those things are craft beer!

I’m guessing you’re guessing that I was given this craft.  I in fact was and am ever thankful to Uncle David for thinking of me.  People who know me know I have a thing for craft beer.  So every once in a while I’ll get a present from someone who is traveling somewhere and thinks “Hey, I’m in a place that Ed might not have been.  Let’s get him some beer.”  And how awesome is that!

This pale ale from Moat Mountain is a great introduction to craft beer from New Hampshire.  A solid malt backbone gives this craft a full body, and a warmth and subtle sweetness as well.  The bitterness I would expect in a pale ale is present throughout and balances the malts.  I even pick up on some very subtle floral and dried fruit notes.

With a name like Iron Mike, I kind of expected a knockout punch of a beer.  But instead I got a softly sweet and hoppy balanced, almost creamy drinkable jab to the gut.  I could pound a few of these jabs to my gut and be a happy man.  You can be sure, if I’m ever in NH, I’m making my way up to Moat Mountain.  See what I did there?  Can?  And it’s a pounder!

Rating: Road trip your way up there and enjoy!

Beer 28 of Spring – Peachy Keen

Dogfigh Head Festina Peche

Brewer: Dogfish Head       Craft: Festina Peche       ABV: 4.5%

What can I say – I have an affinity for anything Dogfish Head.  They were the first brewery I ever visited, which happened to be on an anniversary trip with my wife.  (Don’t I have an awesome wife?)  So it will come as no surprise that I really enjoy this craft.

Festina Peche is a perfect craft for those warm spring days.  The style of this craft is neo-Berliner Weisse, which translates to a tart, crisp, bordering on sour beer.  The peach is present throughout as a warm sweetness.  And there you have it.  Nothing too fancy here, and it doesn’t need to be.

I had just finished mowing the lawn and I was thirsty.  I wanted a beer that was refreshing, easy to drink, sessionable, and flavorful.  Festina Peche was a peachy keen choice.  I must say too, that, this craft would travel into summer perfectly well.  Those hot, humid, summer nights call for a craft such as this.  So if you’re willing to wait, grab some while it’s here and hold onto it until summer…

Rating: I’d pay for a case of this no problem.

Beer 27 of Spring – Stout?

Founders Black Rye

Brewer: Founders       Craft: Black Rye       ABV: 7.5%

Founders just keeps crafting quality beer.  Another solid effort.  This Black Rye drinks, for me, just like a coffee stout.  The roasted malts provide a nice backbone.  I get some cocoa, coffee, and roasted barley notes.  Founders dry hops this dark ale, as they call it.  That dry hopping gives this craft a dry finish and a bitter balance to the sweetness of the malts.

The distinct flavor of the rye – that grain that you know you’re drinking because it’s spice, it’s floral, it’s got a bite, it’s sharp, it’s hoppy, it’s bitter.  The rye just elevates this craft from a basic dark ale to a craft that I’m looking forward to having again.  And again.  I could drink this anytime of the year.  It’s too bad it’s only a seasonal release.  I guess I better get to the store and get some more…

Rating: Buy as much of this as you can before it’s gone…

Beers 24 & 25 – Pale Ale comparison

Victory

Brewer: Victory       Craft: Headwaters Pale Ale       ABV: 5.1%

Today I decided to drink a couple pale ales and figured I should compare them.  Because, you know, why not?  So first up is the Headwaters crafted by Victory.  The picture on the label on the bottle shows hops and barley.  Well that about says it all right there!  The barley provides a malty, bready character to the beer and the hops provide the bitter balance to the sweetness from the malts.  I see why my friend Brian loves this craft so much.  It’s easy to drink.  It’s well balanced.  It’s has flavor that, to me, is interesting for a pale ale.  It almost borders on creamy.  Good stuff.

Yards

Brewer: Yards       Craft: Philadelphia Pale Ale       ABV: 4.6%

This.  This is what, in my opinion, a pale ale should taste like.  Yards gets it right here.  The barley provides a biscuity, cracker-like character to the beer.  There is very little sweetness, which I prefer in a pale ale.  The hops provide a solid bitterness from start to finish.  Again, this falls in line with what I feel a pale ale should be.  That being said, I think it’s still easy to drink.  But it’s pretty straight-forward and simple.  Nothing too complex here.  I think though that there’s something to be said for doing something simple, but doing it completely on point and standard-setting.

If you can’t tell, I prefer the Philly Pale Ale.  The Headwaters is a quality craft and I would drink it again in a heartbeat.  But if we’re talking about pale ales here, which I am, (where have you been?), then Yards takes the win over Victory.  Is that like irony or something?

Rating: I’d buy a case of either of these crafts any day of the week.

Beer 23 of Spring – Outlaw

Two Brothers Outlaw

Brewer: Two Brothers       Craft: Outlaw       ABV: 6.3%

Warning.  Warning.  This is not a gateway IPA.  This here Outlaw is a hop lover’s craft.  The aroma is sweet.  There’s notes of malted barley, caramel, orange, tangerine, and bread.  This is definitely misleading.

Once you taste this craft, you’ll know.  You’ll know what I mean.  Hops.  Then hops.  Oh, and by the way, there’s hops.  Did I mention the hops?  Now, its not all hops.  I do get subtle, very subtle, notes of bread and tangerines.  But those hops though.  This is just a solid, consistent, malty, hoppy craft from Two Brothers.

I was introduced to Two Brothers by my Uncle Bryan, and frankly I’m thankful I was.  They make some good beer.  A couple other quality crafts they brew include Domaine DuPaige and Cain and Ebel.  Check them out.

So if you love hops, you’ll enjoy this beer.  If you’re a hophead, this craft is for you.  This is not West Coast.  This is not East Coast.  This is just, IPA.  Cheers!

Rating: Six-pack