This is a dry, crisp ale that is hopped up enough to be classified as an IPA, but is easy drinking enough to be a pale ale. The hops are not all that bitter, more mango sweet than anything, and at slightly less than 6% ABV, you can have a couple of these at a sitting. The Humming Ale tasted remarkably bright and fresh and vegetal, with plenty of flavor. It tastes like a summer beer brewed for the autumn. Unfortunately, it also appears to have been a limited release. A few days after trying this, I went back to my local beer emporium to grab some more, and it was entirely sold out, and the diminutive Chinaman who runs the shop told me “No More! No More!” If you find some, grab it, because it is a good one, 8/10.
Another winner from the good folks at Sierra Nevada. Using hops from New Zealand, the Southern Hemisphere Harvest is a big citrus and pine hop bomb, more of a sipping IPA rather than a chugging beer. To be honest, the flavor is so intense that finishing the bottle by myself was not quite challenging, but not exactly easy either. The fluffy two fingered head stuck around to the bottom of the glass, and the creamy mouthfeel and bubbly carbonation helped bring out the malty aftertaste. It only clocks in at 6.7 % ABV. Given the intense flavors, that ABV might have been higher. I am giving this an 8/10.
I loved this beer. It was to my tastebuds a typical West Coast Imperial IPA: High Alcohol (9.5% ABV), caramel malts, and hoppy as a mofo, with some mango and orange peel mixed in there as well. The Speakeasy Double Daddy IPA poured a cloudy orange with nice head retention. Mr. JK loved this one too. We paired it with some skirt steak and broccoli rabe*, and it was fantastic, 8/10.
*MR. JK and I have perfected the art of cooking greens. We blanche the greens (in this instance, broccoli rabe) in rapidly boiling salted water, then plunge into an ice bath to stop the cooking, and then drained and squeezed to get as much water out of there as possible. With broccoli rabe, the peeled stems are added first to cook them some more than the leaves, which cook quickly. Minced garlic and ginger are tossed into a hot wok with some sesame oil and cooked quickly, and then the greens are added to the wok, along with some super hot pickled peppers that Mr. JK picked up on one of his Chinatown excursions. Tasty stuff!
A little maltier than it’s cousins, the Red Rocket Ale is another winner from Bear Republic Brewing. This pours a dark amber, almost mahogany, and the hops aromas are up front, with bitter grapefruit and pine the most prominent. The malts give a nice caramel sweetness to the flavor, and there is a touch of spiciness to round it out. This beer walks a thin line between being a hoppy bomber and a malty amber ale, and if it strays too far in either direction it would not work, but Bear Republic gets the balance right. I preferred the Racer 5 and the Hop Rod Rye over this one, but only by a little, 7/10.
As I have pointed out before, pale ales tend be overlooked by beer dorks, mainly because they lack that extreme element that so many of us find appealing, and also because non-beer dorks can drink them without scrunching up their faces and saying “EWWWW, that is so bitter!” This should be an indictment of beer dorks, because a good pale ale is as enjoyable as any style of beer that is out there, but beer dorks won’t care as they search out the latest barrel aged IPA fermented with Belgian yeasts and Cuban brown sugar and a hops varietal that can only be found on southern slopes in the Himalayas, and I will be leading that search, god help me.
However, as I will surely need some refreshment during that search (“I hear that ten bottles were shipped by mistake to that bodega on Central Avenue in Newark! Grab the pistol and car keys! Let’s Go!”), I could certainly do worse than the Andersonville Brewing Company’s Pale Ale. Pale gold in color with a fluffy head, this pale ale has the most grapefruit aroma and flavor of any beer I have come across, and that includes the excellent Cross Cut Pale Ale that is brewed with grapefruit zest. The inscription on the can claims that the brewery is solar powered. I don’t give a shit about how green this beer is, but this dry, crisp, and refreshing pale ale is perfect for a hot and sunny day, 7/10, and if I am saving some polar bears by drinking it, that is all the better.
California’s Bear Republic Brewing has pretty good distribution in North Jersey, so it is easy to find and sample their beers. In fact, their distribution is so widespread, and Bear Republic beers are so easy to find, that I was positive I had reviewed one of their beers on Tilting Suds already, but I either cannot find the review, or beer has finally addled my mind to the point where I am recalling phantom reviews.
The Racer 5 India Pale Ale is a typical West Coast IPA, plenty of hops balanced nicely by the malts. The initial aroma is some grapefruit and pine from the hops and some bread from the malts, with the hops taking over in the taste. The 7.0% ABV is not noticeable at all. This is a very good IPA, 7.5/10.
The Hop Rod Rye is a different creature altogether. Brewed with rye malts, this beer pours a clear mahogany with a slight head which is retained to the bottom of the glass. The rye malts bring an earthy spiciness to the nose and the tongue, and the piney hops explode out of the glass. The rye malts and the hoppy bitterness try to outdo each other, almost like they are dueling to the death, and there is a mild brown sugar flavor that ties all of these flavors together. The 8.0% ABV is buried underneath all of these competing flavors, and is only noticeable when the glass is considerably warmed. The Hop Rod Rye is outstanding, 8.5/10.
As Bear Republic’s beers are so widely available, I have a tendency to skip them when I am making my selection in favor of beers that are obscure and/or beers with limited releases. That is a big mistake on my part, as Bear Republic is doing God’s work when it comes to brewing.
After my recent dipshittery concerning canned beer, I have made an effort to seek out other examples of craft beer in cans as a sort of penance.* I have picked up a few over the past couple of weeks, and give them the once over here.
The Phoenix Pale Ale from Pennsylvania’s Sly Fox was a tasty concoction. The toffee malts are balanced by the mild hops, with the hops a bit stronger on the tongue than in the aroma. This poured a beautiful clear amber, with a frothy but quickly dissipating head. There is no ‘WOW’ factor with this beer, but it is smooth and flavorful, and at 5.1% ABV, you can knock back a few. It has earned a spot at the back of the rotation, 6.5/10.
San Francisco’s 21st Amendment Brewing Company is not well known on the East Coast, but that should change soon as I am seeing their beers pop up in stores here more frequently. The Brew Free or Die IPA is smooth and mild, not too hoppy for a West Coast IPA, and the smoothness masks the 7.0% ABV. The hoppiness has a fruity aftertaste. Again, there is no ‘WOW’ factor with this beer, but it is another good one, 6.5/10.
Sweet Jeebus, this one knocked me on my ass. This was my last beer of the recent session with Mr. JK, and knocking back a beer with an 8.7% ABV when you are already pickled is not a smart idea. Drinking this was like getting cold cocked by Mike Tyson in his prime. I had another one for review purposes a few days later, and can report that the Oskar Gordon Ale is a fine beer. Hoppy and malty at the same time, the aroma and the taste are resinous, with a chewy mouth feel. You cannot drink many of these in a sitting, but the ones you do drink are enjoyable, 7.5/10.
*-Bless me, Father, for I have sinned
–What are your sins, my son?
-I made a misleading statement on the internet about canned beer
–Say three Our Fathers, three Hail Marys, and drink three canned beers