Hop Trip Beer Review

Of all the brews I have had, Deschutes Brewery tends to make the ones that wind up at the top of my list. Whether on tap or from the bottle, their beers are incredible. Hop Trip Pale Ale is a seasonal offering which boasts fresh hops, utilized within hours of harvest. This is a hop forward brew, featuring Bravo, Centennial, and fresh Crystal hops. It comes in at 5.7% ABV and 53 IBU’s. As with all other bottled beers I’ve had from them, they are bottle conditioned, meaning that carbonation happens in each individual bottle rather than carbonating before bottling. I love what this adds to the beers. While there can be some variance from batch to batch, the result is a more natural result, with effervescence and head retention that I find superior to other methods.

The beautiful caramel color is a spectacular first impression. It is clear with fine bubbles that float elegantly to the foam cap, with all the majesty of a fine glass of champagne—only prettier. The head retention is perfect, forming a thick cap that clings to the edge of the glass as it sinks nearer to the bottom, as if fighting to hold the glass full in futility. Aesthetically, this beer is right on the mark.

The aroma holds a medley of olfactory delights. The aroma notes seemed inverted, with the subtler hints manifesting in the beginning, giving way to the foundational aroma components throughout the remainder of the glass. The first hints were of melon and honeysuckle. It seemed to be a combination of the fresh hops with a slight malolactic component from the yeast. As I continued to examine the aroma, the yeast component came to the forefront, manifesting as yoghurt. A slight honey component presented itself as well, the only malt component that I could discern as I waded through the hop notes. At this point, I was blasted with citrus notes. Strong aromas of grapefruit and lemon took the helm and remained throughout the rest of the session.

The flavor profile was well balanced, with the strong malt profile working as a perfect counterbalance to the hops. This beer is almost 200 calories per 12-ounce bottle, which suggests some residual sugars and carbohydrates, which also contribute to the rich mouthfeel. The citrus and grapefruit notes of the hops were the most prevalent flavor, with some cereal flavors from the malt. Brief suggestions of the malolactic notes showed up in the flavor profile along with a tropical fruit note of guava. The fresh crystal hops in the aroma are brilliantly showcased in perfect balance with the flavor profile. The finish was long-lasting and very enjoyable. Strong citrus flavors of lemon and lime lingered playfully, tempting the lips to make another advance to the glass.

This beer is a pleasure to drink on its own, but would make a wonderful complement to bold flavored foods. I couldn’t help but think of how good this beer would be with a bowl of fresh tortilla chips, ceviche, and mango salsa. The citrus flavors would work harmoniously with one another, and some heat and salt would be a wonderful counterpoint to the bitterness of the hops. Pick up a six back of this beer as soon as you can. They only make it once a year during the hop harvest.

Humphreys Hefe

Hefeweizen style beers are a mainstay on most brewery lineups. The German style ale is both flavorful and approachable, making it a great beer for the would-be craft beer enthusiast and the hipster beer snob alike. While some breweries push the Hefeweizen style to incorporate new flavors and ingredients, there is something to be said for a solid classic hefe. Humphrey’s Hefe from Lumberyard Brewing Co. in Flagstaff, Arizona, is just such a beer. This beer comes in at around 5.6% ABV, and the flavor profile is precisely what one would expect in a hefeweizen while being well balanced and supremely enjoyable.

Upon pouring this beer, the first thing to pop out at me was the color and clarity. It was a light straw color and had just a slight haze, even after stirring up the sediment that tends to settle at the bottom. It seemed more effervescent than most hefeweizens, and the head consisted of large suds that stuck around fairly-well.

The aroma was right on the mark stylistically. The aroma and flavor components in Hefeweizen tend to come from chemical compounds called esters and phenols which come about during the fermentation process. Esters impart fruity flavors and phenols tend to impart spicy flavors. This beer was rich with the classic clove and banana characteristics that the style is known for. Apart from these two aromas, I found it difficult to detect anything else, other than faint hoppy aromas that didn’t manifest distinctly.

Banana bread was the first thing that hit my mind as I took my first sip. There was a malty component that came together with the banana and the spice components to give that impression. It had a creamy mouthfeel that further accentuated the banana characteristics. I found the flavor to be a bit more complex. There were brief hints of white pepper and coriander that would briefly rise above the clove flavor. At times the clove would give way to nutmeg. There was a bit of brightness as well that tended to present itself as lemon but would fade back to a sharpness that was less discernable. All the while, the subtle bitterness and maltiness created a solid backdrop for the other characteristics to play around.

The finish lingered with a slight sharpness and pleasant bitterness. The spicy notes kicked around for quite some time as well. This beer is a great representation of the Hefeweizen style. I would pair it with German fares like brats, schnitzel, potatoes, sauerkraut etc. It would go perfectly as an accompaniment to a charcuterie board with cheese and cured meats. The spicy characteristics and sharper flavors would cut through the fat of the cheese and cured meats, offering a nice counterbalance.

 

Omission Pale Ale

I tend to have a bit of hesitation when it comes to gluten-removed beers. Most that I’ve tried were lackluster at best. Many gluten-removed ales are made with sorghum, which doesn’t impart the same flavor as barley malt, a foundational flavor component, and sugar source. Omission Pale Ale is different. It utilizes barley malt, thereby keeping that classic barley malt flavor profile while removing gluten through a special process. If you didn’t know that it was a gluten-removed beer, there is nothing in the flavor that would lead you to believe there was anything different about it.

The color of this beer is alluring. I was taken back by the gorgeous copper orange color which was slightly cloudy. It retained a thick layer of foam, which is always a selling point for me, both for aesthetic reasons and aroma development.

The aroma consisted of strong notes of grapefruit and lemon. The aroma really surprised me. I had envisioned this beer lacking a strong malt component, not knowing the process that is used to remove the gluten from the barley. While there wasn’t much nuance in the barley aroma (sometimes it manifests in specific aromas like biscuit, bread, caramel etc.), it was distinct, as if you were hanging around in a brewery on a brew day. There were brief hints of cut grass and other vegetal components. Altogether, it was a very pleasant-smelling beer.

The surprises continued as I moved on to tasting it. Strong malt flavors were the foundation of this beer. Along with the strong barley, malt component was a molasses flavor that was very pleasant. Lemon remained as a strong component of the flavor. The bitterness was light and pleasant, making it a great choice for uninitiated beer drinkers. A slight papery flavor could be detected as well. It finished very shortly. The flavors did not linger for long at all, but it was predominantly the malt components that stuck around.

This is a great beer for everyday drinking, whether gluten intolerant or not. This beer is a testament to the brewer’s ability. It stands out from the pack of gluten-removed beer options as the best that I have had. It would pair well with any of your standard American food options, pizza, burgers, and wings. It is approachable and laid back with just enough complexity to keep it interesting.

 

November 28, 2017
Editor’s Note: This article originally contained the use of language, “gluten-free,” and has now been changed to “gluten-removed.”

Le Quatre Red Rock Brewing Co.

Le Quatre Saison from Red Rock Brewery, in Salt Lake City, Utah, was a fun find and drink. The Saison (“season” in French) is a farmhouse style ale that undergoes a unique brewing process. Historically, these beers were fermented during the winter to be consumed during the summer (thus the name). Most beers have a much shorter fermentation and aging period. Saison style beers fell out of favor until recently. The style has caught on with many American microbreweries and is now seeing a resurgence. The beers are known for their spicy and herbal characteristics, due to the addition of various ingredients beyond hops. I recommend drinking this beer from a tulip or standard wine glass to focus the aroma directly to your nose.

Le Quatre has a beautiful hazy straw color. It poured beautifully with abundant suds that collected into a thick cap of foam above the beer. I was disappointed to see the head quickly die and fail to be revived. I agitated it continuously while drinking to stir up the aroma. Head on the beer helps the aroma get up from the liquid and to your nose. This is important because much of the enjoyment of drinking beer comes from the aroma, which is why you should always drink craft beer from a glass.

The aroma profile was anchored by a strong yeast component. It smelled like freshly baked bread on my first approach. That quickly gave way to a wave of delightful spice and herbal notes. Coriander and a sweet lavender aroma made their way to my nose, lingering pleasantly even after setting down my glass. Those notes faded into a general herbal aroma, a lot like the bulk spice section in a health food store. A pleasant, sweet, honey aroma was detectable as well.

The flavor was surprising due to the sweet aromas of honey, lavender, and coriander. It was quite dry and there was a considerable spice component to the flavor profile. I tasted coriander and cloves. The yeast component was present with a subtle breadiness and a light mouthfeel. It took a moment to settle into the flavors because I had set the expectation for sweetness and was met with something completely different. It is a very dry beer. There was a faint sour component as well. Many farmhouse style ales have this type of flavor component, often due to bacteria that are sometimes added to create that effect, but came about originally because of the conditions the beers were historically brewed in farmhouse conditions.

The finish was yet another surprise; it swung into bitter flavor direction. It lingered for quite some time with elements of lemon peel and what registered to me as Campari or Angostura bitters.

This beer was a fun one! It was the first beer I had tried from Red Rock Brewing Company, and it did not disappoint. Saison’s are now out of drinking season (they are being brewed during the fall and winter) but don’t hesitate to grab one. Now that the brewing cycle isn’t dictated by seasonal weather conditions you can pick them up year-round. Drink this beer on its own to fully appreciate it. It is quite nuanced and I can’t imagine a food pairing that would make it better.  That is just a suggestion of course!

 

Burnt Mountain Brown Ale

The Zion Canyon Brewing Company in Springdale, Utah, makes some delicious brews. No trip to Zion National Park is complete without a stop at their brewpub at the mouth of the canyon. There really is nothing like a cold draught beer after a good hike. I have tried several of their beers, and I am always impressed. One that I hadn’t tried (a style that I am not generally fond of), was their Burnt Mountain Brown Ale. It was a very pleasant surprise, being very approachable and flavorful. It was served on tap, in Utah, so it was more akin to a session ale (meaning lower alcohol content) but it was delicious nonetheless.

The color was a rich chestnut brown. I found the color appealing, but it was very cloudy, likely from being unfiltered. While this may not be desirable to some, it didn’t bother me. If there aren’t large particles floating around, I don’t mind it. Cloudiness can also be an indication that there will be a creamier mouthfeel.  The head retention was poor, even after agitating it vigorously, only sticking around for a minute.

The aroma consisted of dark components like coffee and toast at first. There was a sweetness in the aroma that manifested as pomegranate at times, and dried fruit, like dates and apricots. The aromas seemed to morph quickly into other things. The hops came through in a vegetal note of alfalfa or grass. The aroma was sweet, suggesting burnt sugar, honey, and caramel at times. It was interesting to experience the aroma profile develop as I continued to approach the beer. At first, it seemed a little boring, but it quickly opened up as I continued to agitate it and get some of the aroma compounds floating from the bursting suds and into my nose.

The flavor was surprising because of the sweet and fruity aromatic notes. It was much drier than I expected, which was pleasant. It makes it a great beer to pair with food. Coffee and toast were the main flavor components. There was a yeasty component that came across as tannic. Briefly, I detected a black tea element in the flavor. Chocolate and bread flavors followed that, with brief hints of pomegranate. The pomegranate flavor came on the heels of the tannic, black tea notes. It tasted a lot like the pith of pomegranate, but very subtle. It had a good solid mouthfeel. The finish is where the hops became evident. It had a very long finish that was pleasantly bitter and clean. Green strawberry lingered on my palate and gave me the urge to go back in for another sip.

While this beer is not a powerhouse of bold flavor, it is reasonably complex and enjoyable. It is a great beer for a good pizza. Stop by River Rock Roasting Company and have it with one of their pizzas. While this beer is a safe bet for food pairing, I would be careful not to pair it with bold foods. Anything that has a hint of sweetness and acidity, would be great. Your standard autumn fare is great for this; soups and brothier stews would pair well.

Wasatch Devastator

After the last beer review, I decided to try another Wasatch beer. Devastator is the first real “craft brew” that I can remember drinking and enjoying. Back then it seemed a very strong beer, leaving me hardly able to finish two of them. The name and description of the beer are fun. The label features a red eyed ram, surrounded by fire, tearing through downtown Salt Lake City. The description on the can reads, “If you’re going to sin, sin big. With 8% alcohol by volume and a creamy richness, this brew has developed a serious cult following. Imagine that—a cult following in Utah?” This beer is irreverent on nearly every level. In a state where they only allow low ABV beer to be sold outside of the state liquor store, where alcohol consumption is tightly regulated, and the reason is abundantly clear, this beer takes on the establishment in a way that is entertaining and lighthearted.

The beer is a dark reddish-brown color that is free of cloudiness. It has large suds and poor head retention, even after a vigorous pour and agitation to see if I could get it to stick around. This ale smells sweet. The first impression I got was dates and raisins. I got a whiff of ancho chiles, strait from the bag when they are still fresh and pliable. There was a slight yeasty component; I’m hesitant to call it an off smell because it wasn’t unpleasant. Having brewed beer, I recognize the smell to be from the yeast. There were aromas of pumpernickel bread, followed by a slight orange aroma and nuttiness. I could smell this beer all day long. It is extremely pleasant on the nose and much different than the pale ales that I typically gravitate towards. I couldn’t detect any specific aromas that I could attribute to the hop additions. It seemed that they hopped it very lightly, only enough to offset the sweetness.

Most of the sweet aroma components were present in the flavor. It had a roasted malt component that seemed to morph into toffee and honey. I noticed a dark pipe tobacco flavor, black Cavendish tobacco would be a good reference to the flavor. Figs and raisins were also present in the flavor profile after a few swigs. The mouthfeel was thick and rich. With the higher alcohol content and residual sugars, it’s no wonder that it feels so rich. There was no bitterness that I could detect. In fact, I felt that it could be hopped more aggressively.  The finish was very short with the sweet dark flavors quickly dropping off. Half way through the beer, I could feel the higher alcohol content.

This beer would be a good pairing for foods that have a sour element, like brats with sauerkraut, or a Reuben sandwich. I would pair it with sweet items as well. It would make a good dessert beer. Indian curries would lend themselves excellently to this beer. The sweetness and dried fruit components would mesh well with the strong spice elements you find in those dishes. While it is quite sweet, I wouldn’t say that it is strong bodied. It is a great beer to pair with food, and that might bring out some hidden characteristics. I am going to try it with lamb curry soon!

Squatters’ Off Duty IPA

The breweries in Utah are some of my favorite. Not only were my first craft-beer experiences the creation of these breweries, but Utah is home. Squatters is one of the main breweries along with Epic, Wasatch, and Bohemian. They collectively produce some of the finest craft brews available. Squatters Off Duty IPA is a great example of craftsmanship. It is complex, approachable, and enjoyable. It is one of those IPA’s that could easily be enjoyed by novices and enthusiasts alike. ABV is about 6.5% (if you buy it at the liquor store or out of the state of Utah).

tumblr_inline_okhyrgUagG1tovnkl_1280.jpgOff Duty IPA is Golden Brown and slightly cloudy. It was quite foamy with about two fingers of head that stuck around nicely without much agitation to maintain. The aroma on this beer is very malty. I noticed bread, biscuit and brown sugar notes. As I continued to approach the beer, I noticed hints of graham cracker and caramel. It seemed to get sweeter smelling as I took in the aroma. The sweetness was accented by a subtle vegetal note of alfalfa. In comparing my notes to others, I found that many people detected dried fruit notes in the aroma, but nothing came forth distinctly in my experience.

The flavor was very malty as well, but the hops came through nicely, mostly in the form of bitterness. I detected dried fruit flavors of apricot and dates. The graham cracker impression continued throughout the flavor profile along with honey and caramel. The malt notes in this beer are very sweet, and the hops provide the needed counterbalance. It didn’t really register as bitter to me. There was a slight oily or metallic mouthfeel from the hops as well that was a good counterbalance to the rich mouthfeel and sweet malty impressions. The finish was lasting and pleasant, dominated by the hop oil as is appropriate with the style.

This is a great beer to serve with food. It is medium bodied and not so bitter that it will compete with food. Stick with medium bodied food selections. Salty and spicy foods go well with IPA’s. While some prefer to stick with Mexican beers when eating Mexican food, I really enjoy shaking it up with an IPA. This beer would pair nicely with Adobada or Chorizo street tacos, enchiladas, or menudo (tripe soup) for the more adventurous. Chinese would pair well with it too. Try it with the spicier options like Kung Pao and General Tso’s.