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Archive for the ‘IPA’ Category

Summer has arrived finally. The warm, somewhat humid, sunny day brought me to the beer store or, more correctly for the Live Free or Die state, the regular old grocery store, Hannaford. I rolled past the cooler windows looking for the just right brew for this bright summer day. I slid past all the IPA’s: Harpoon, Smuttynose, Red Hook, etc. I even passed up the thin little slot where the Harpoon Leviathan brew Imperial IPA sat. I went past the Guinness Extra Stout and even past the Sam Adams summer ales – summer this, summer that – wimp beer I say.

Pabst-1I know what was really on my mind – summer quantity – the volume pack – in cans – cold – budget priced, but… had to have the taste that came through in an ice cold can. Well it could have been Bud, which certainly fits that bill pretty much, except my summer brew secret is Pabst Blue Ribbon!

I’m not going to tell you that I would pour it into a pint glass and watch the head form, or remark on the grand color, or describe the array of tastes it releases. No, it is a thirst quencher first and foremost. It is crisp and clean, a touch of hops, a dry after taste but nothing to write home about. Pabst is durable and, unlike Bud, the last ounce in a slightly warmed up can doesn’t get skunked. None of that bad Bud aftertaste from the dregs.

One might wonder where Pabst has been over the years. They proudly write of the America’s Best award from 1893 on the cans. However as the Best Big Brewery they garnered awards in 2006 and 2007. Pabst serves as the brewery behind many old brands including Ballantine, Schlitz, Shaeffer, Olympia, Blatz and on and on.ourPortfolio-1

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Pabst six

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This past weekend a wedding happened in the family. All was perfect: the conversation, the reconnecting to seldom seen relatives, the accommodations, the food, and the drink. Well, the beer was fine and there was plenty and there were a few varieties. Nothing more could be asked for… except… what if the beer guys created the beer list for the wedding?!

Now a wedding brings all ages together; it brings all tastes together. There are always surprises, folks from far away, different cultures, different languages, heritage, traditions. And that was just what made this wedding great. So what would the beer list be?

Must have an American light, maybe Coors – a crisp clean drink. The quintessential pedestrian brew, Budweiser. Corona for those favoring south of the border? Maybe Dos Equis too. Heineken, no one in western Europe would fault that pick (remember this is a wedding not a bachelor party). Now, specialty brews – for the smart set – the young professionals – should have micro brew status but be familiar (this is not a beer tasting – beer complements the evening not commands it). New England should be featured, especially for those from afar who are sight-seeing in the area. Harpoon or Smuttynose IPA, there! two NE states and lots of character.  Samuel Adams Boston Ale… yes, good pick and a Long Trail Ale, there is Vermont, maybe Tuckermans, that is a well known landmark but a quiet brew fresh from the White Mountains. Now the old timers need attention, well certainly the IPA should fit but how about a stout…

An American stout, Sierra Nevada? if we can find a supply, Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout? but a New England stout??? Ah, two birds with one beer, 6288 Stout from Tuckermans. A great label, a solid regional brew, a reasonable stout and of course the title refers to the altitude of Mount Washington, site of the worst weather in North America.

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This brings me to the second half of the title, Harpoon. I have mentioned Harpoon IPA in other posts, “the standard setter for IPA’s” I said. What we have in Harpoon’s IPA is a brew for the long haul. We don’t buy it in four-packs; we purchase 12 bottle boxes which disappear from the fridge at an alarming rate. This is a substantially different drink than the Lion. It is steady, refreshing, and holds its attraction over time, day after day.

LabelHarpoon wasn’t always that way. When I first tasted the original Harpoon Ale I was sadly disappointed. Maybe it was the earliest days of Sam Adams and Geary’s Ale, before the craft brewing renewal caught fire. I found the brew unimaginative. after a few attempts to come to grips with Harpoon I gave up and stayed away for some time.

Eventually though with a revamped label and an IPA to offer I gave the brewery another chance. I have never looked back. They found the key to an ultra-fine brew. As Alex says in his comment to my Leviathan post where I say that Harpoon IPA is the standard setter,  “Could not agree more. It may even be the standard setter for beer in general.”

ipa_b_g_200x367(1)The real dividing line of beer is the brew that becomes a standard drink vs. the brew that is a novelty, a “seasonal”, an occasional, a “yeah, that wasn’t bad!” Harpoon IPA is the standard, much like Sam Adams is a standard. Lion Imperial is an occasional.

I popped a twelve pack of Harpoon IPA into the fridge recently and have reached in nightly with delight and poured a glass full. Ah, after a day of work, the hops bring out the crisp flavor with a fullness, a drinkability, a refreshing zing. Ah!

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SmuttyIPASmuttynose IPA has character… its own character. The bitters come with the first sip from the glass and grow in your mouth. This is the taste of my youth in mega dose. After a mouthful has drifted down into the internal plumbing the taste in the mouth holds the hops, a dryness that begs for another draught of the good stuff. Take a long pull and enjoy the rush of flavor, then the astringent aftertaste.

This IPA is akin to  Extra Special Bitters. A much more hoppy ale than Harpoon’s, which is pretty much the standard in our minds for regular IPA. I qualify with “regular” because the Big Brews/Imperials have some real rocket fuel versions that fit in another class.

Smuttynose Brewery is one of a dozen or so New Hampshire craft breweries (excluding of course the mega brewery Budweiser in Merrimack). It takes its name from an island off the NH/Maine coast about ten nautical miles from Portsmouth. This is the ale of the oldtime longliners in their schooners off the Isles of Shoals. It is the ale of the lobsterman among the rocky shoreline coves. It is the brew of the dorymen bent to the oars with a load of cod. It is the “finestkind”, “ayuh”, “fawe shuah”.

Excuse me while I fill up the glass with another. One is never enough of this class act brew.

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In mid December Beer Guy Jim pulled up to the garage and unloaded multiple boxes full of a wide selection of the finest brews he could acquire: Merry Christmas! My job was to revel in the bounty until Christmas Eve when the gathering of the clan began. Well, I practiced self control for a few days but my undoing was the fact the tops of the boxes were not closed. I browsed, nodding at some familiar fine labels. One evening as I started up the ramp to the kitchen my eye caught the Harpoon “H” on a bottle with a dark label I was not familiar with. Self control fled; I reached for the bottle neck and had it in the kitchen with the opener in my hand before I realized.

baltic_porter_4pkLeviathan Baltic Porter poured into the glass, a dark full porter. I took that first full sip. Wow! that was outstanding! This drink was such a dramatic surprise, rich, full taste, strong flavors, high abv (9.5%) but smooth and subtle, a real Baltic Porter. I finished this in short order, set the glass down on the counter and went to the garage to grab the rest of the four pack. None of these great brews made it ’til Christmas Eve!

But that is the prelude. A few days ago when I zipped up to Hannaford’s to grab that six pack of the “Black” as I mentioned in a previous post, I spied a lone four pack of the Leviathan sitting disheveled down on a low shelf amidst a jumble of ne’er do well beers. Automatically my hand latched onto it. This time a Leviathan Imperial IPA at 10% abv. This drink belongs right beside the Dogfish Head IPA’s, the 60 Minute and the 90 Minute both.

imperial_ipa_4pk

I think we beer guys here have a consensus that Harpoon IPA (the regular label version) is maybe the standard setter for IPA. This Leviathan model has the backbone of the regular Harpoon – the intensity of the hops as a constant throughout… start to finish – with deeper multiple tastes buried in this robust body. It is a strong ale that finishes very well. The last couple of ounces left in the glass as the conversation swirls and the cheese and crackers disappear is as tasty and true to the brew as the first powerful taste at the top of the glass.

Hats off to Harpoon on the series and their growing reputation around here for high quality brew. Harpoon IPA is in all the stores, now let’s start to see more of the Leviathan available. The one draw back to this big brew series is the price. Hannaford’s charges $10.50 (+/- a few cents) for a four pack. That makes it a specialty, not an everyday drink for sure.

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I cycle regularly in the morning along the local country roads nearby. One can keep a pretty good inventory of what beer the young bucks are drinking by the litter along the roadway. There are particular areas that bear the brunt of this abuse of the landscape. Generally Budweiser out-litters the others 8 to 1. Coors is a close second along with a scattering of Miller. More often than one might think Sam Adams lies amidst the others.

60-minute-ipaA few days ago, as I rolled along near one of the typical trash sections, I started as I spied a Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA. Wow! Who was this person who first drank the IPA out of the bottle, on the road, and then winged it out the window. It doesn’t fit. Why would this person bother ? Why not just a bottle of Bud? What attracted this character  to a classy ale which should be drunk with appreciation, observing the complex mix of tastes, the bitter hoppiness, the strength of the malt, the color in the glass.

And why was there only one Dogfish Head amongst the brown bottles lying along the road in the vicinity? I pondered as I rode along. Maybe a disenchanted young drinker surprised by the tartness, taking a long pull from the bottle, as his buddies slugged down Bud Lite, and choking a bit with the shock? Maybe a knowledgeable ale drinker who knew the taste and enjoyed each pull from the bottle? Then why fling it out on the side of the road?

I then thought of the statistical lay of the road litter. The fact that Sam Adams had found a place along with the mainstream beers on the road simply echoed the proportional distribution as expected. If so then maybe… maybe the 60 Minute bottle was the signal that Dogfish Head had arrived.

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haveraleA really good ale came my way this week, HaverAle. This Cream Ale has the strength of character of the older beers I have mentioned. The hops are very present, the finish smooth, the after taste lingers and a long pull at the glass begs for a second. Well done, Haverhill Brewery.

Actually, I would have called it an IPA – it has the zing, but the brewery makes an IPA, which I can’t wait to try. The Haverhill, Massachusetts brewery is housed in their own tavern, I learned, in one of the old industrial areas of the “Queen Slipper City” one of the great New England shoe manufacturing cities of the last two centuries. Where have I been that these brewers have not come to my attention? This is a fine quality, top notch ale. Very drinkable. Time to put this brewery on the short list for a visit. I peeked at the menu on their web site, yum.

Well, got to go, I need to pour another one.

 

 

HaveAnother

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