Friday, September 3, 2010

IPA Extravaganza at a Dinner Party

I love beer.  More than drinking it, I love tasting it - trying different samples, even ones that I hate, comparing & contrasting different styles, making up phrases with dramatic adjectives to describe it (even if I usually end up with "NO" or "WOAH").  This activity is always way more fun with companions.  The Lumberjack is an excellent beer tasting companion.  This is why I date him.

It's also fun to taste beer with large groups of people.  I like hearing multiple perspectives on each beer - often, someone else's description helps me clarify my own opinion, or someone else will taste something (recently Spitfire yelled "basil!" after I yelled "eucalyptus" and her description made the basil flavour become suddenly apparent to me - and after that, I kinda felt like I was drinking a salad.  but that is for another entry.) and it helps me get a broader view of the beer.  So when my friend Axe invited the Lumberjack & I over for dinner and put us in charge of the beer selection, I was thrilled.

[Spoiler Alert: it's really not a good idea to drink a bunch of IPAs back-to-back, as they ruin your palate and then you sit there thinking "uh, I think this is good?" and feeling foolish.  Or maybe that's just me.]

First up was Hops of Wrath from Dust Bowl Brewing (American IPA, 6.6% ABV).  I immediately liked this beer for the simple reason that the brewery is in Turlock, CA, which is where my family is from.  Unfortunately, that was the high point of the beer for me.  It was bubbly, but felt a little too pinchy on my tongue.  The flavour was too light, and there was no aftertaste.  It just didn't have enough attitude for me.  Nike agreed with me and thought the name was misleading, as the hops were far too mild.  Axe also found it mild, but thought it was more bitter - she liked it but wouldn't drink a lot of it.  Ms. Mars and the Lumberjack were much more descriptive, finding it fruity and interesting - Mars even tasted lychee?  I think she might have been lying.

Nike and Mars pulled out their Houblon Chouffe Dobbelen (Belgian IPA, 9% ABV) next.  It had a huge, fluffy head that looked like a soft cloud on top, and smelled like hay.  Nike and Mars both liked the floral, jasmine scent.  The Lumberjack pointed out that the yeast was much more interesting here than in the Hops of Wrath.  I pointed out that anything is more interesting than the Hops of Wrath.  Axe thought it tasted like summer days at the pool.  She also liked that it didn't have a bitter finish, unlike her other experiences with IPAs.

During dinner (delicious homemade pizzas), we had the 4th Anniversary Double IPA from Port Brewing which is one of my favourite IPAs; it has a really nice malty base to it.  Nike liked it too - it was his favourite so far - and Axe thought "the end is like fireworks."

YuleSmith Summer Holiday Ale (DIPA, 8.5% ABV) was a hit among all of us.  It smells like fruity hops (my favourite kind!), and has a huge head that calms down to a nice density, at which point it has a sweet honey scent.  It's bubbly, a little less solid than the Anniversary DIPA above, with a nice spicey kick.  The Lumberjack also thought it was fruitier.  Axe might have been getting a little intoxicated at this point, as she thought it "smells like bananas and tastes like abandonment."

Our last IPA was the Elysian Immortal (IPA, 6.2% ABV) which was smooth and subtle, and slightly spicey on the tongue.  Axe described it as the opposite of Coyote Ugly (instead, this beer is "Rabbit Beautiful") because, when waking up next to this beer, you would be thrilled at how much cuter it was than you thought.  Yes, this description made a lot of sense at the time.

After dinner, we pulled out the "dessert beers" - basically, an excuse to bring more things to taste.  I first pulled out Beer Geek Breakfast (Imperial Stout, 7.5% ABV), which remains one of my all-time favourite beers.  It's just SO GOOD.  Smells gently of hops, tastes thick and sweet with a nice coffee flavour, and the oatmeal adds a lovely viscosity.  Axe thought it tasted ashy, Flippant liked the charcoal flavour.  Mars liked the coffee/oatmeal combo, and thought it would make a great breakfast.  I couldn't agree more.

Then, we had Older Viscosity (Imperial Stout, 12.1% ABV).  I'm not a huge fan - it's just a little too dense and rich for me.  The Lumberjack loves it.  Axe, however, had a different option.  As her verbal description was a little too foul for my blog, I'll let her before and after pictures tell the story.


After that, she acknowledged "it gets better as you keep drinking."  Interesting.

The last beer of the night was Sierra Nevada's 30th Anniversary Helles Bock (8.3% ABV).  You may remember how much I love the 30th Anniversary Imperial Stout?  So much!  Because it's delicious.  Well, that's what I thought this one was.  I grabbed it off the shelf, planning to share one of my favourites...then the Lumberjack pointed out my mistake.  Oops.  However, this beer was pretty good too.  It was nicely balanced, with a very mellow feel to it.  It was tasty and calm - a good end-of-the-week beer.  Very relaxing.  It was a little wheaty around the edges, but I didn't mind too much.  Had a little spiciness, too.

The next morning Axe claimed to be affected by "beer allergies."  I see.

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