Looks like one of my favorite Big Sky Brewing beers is headed the way of the can.
According to CraftCans.com, Big Sky Brewing is in the process of adding its IPA to its canned lineup, which now includes Moose Drool, Scape Goat, Tout Slayer and, seasonally, Summer Honey.
The brewery has three new fermenters arriving next month which will allow for this addition to their canned lineup.
Look for it on store shelves sometime in the spring.
- Matt Pritchard
From Great Northern Brewing Co.’s Facebook page: “Going to the Sun IPA is now available for your enjoyment in 22 oz bottles. Just in time for the sunshine that we’ve been enjoying today in Whitefish!”
- Matt Pritchard
Here’s a nice look at this year’s 29th annual Great American Beer Festival, which was held last month in Denver. I, like any self-respecting beer drinker, love IPAs. Writer Eric Gorski of the Associated Press goes behind the scenes of the event’s most hotly-contested category, American-style IPA. Enjoy.
DENVER – The quest for top honors in American craft brewing has come here, to a hotel ballroom marked “restricted access.”
More than 140 bottles of American-style India Pale Ale sit stacked in donated Bud Light and King Cobra boxes, labors of hop love brewed by a cast of characters that includes an organic chemist, a man with a grim reaper tattoo and a guy who wants to make a beer that tastes like orange sherbet mixed with hot fudge ice cream.
Over the next nine hours, beer identified only by number will get sniffed, scrutinized, swallowed and spit out by judges at the 29th annual Great American Beer Festival, the world’s largest beer competition.
Only one American-style IPA will win gold, making it the craft beer equivalent of winning “American Idol.” Since 2001, no other contest category has been as competitive. “Every brewer wants this one,” as one judge put it.
It’s a simple case of supply and demand: the IPA’s popularity is soaring among brewers and drinkers alike, a testament to a maturing American beer palate and this country’s rich supply of hops in the Pacific Northwest.
“As you go through the journey of beer education and appreciation, hops and big hoppy character are something most people eventually gravitate toward,” said Greg Koch, CEO of Stone Brewing Co. in Escondido, Calif., a pioneer of the style. “They are just extraordinarily satisfying on the palate. Words almost fail for me. I feel like waxing poetic, and then my eyes sort of get soft. It’s a romantic subject for me.”
Consumers are showing the love. IPAs, distinguished by strong hop character and higher alcohol content than your standard 5.0 percent alcohol per volume beer, surpassed amber ales and trailed only pale ales this year among top-selling craft brewing styles at supermarkets, according to Chicago-based market research firm Symphony IRI Group. Eight of the top 15-selling new craft brands in 2010 are IPAs. (more…)
A friend recently told me he enjoyed an Arrogant Bastard Ale from Stone Brewing Company for the first time recently. He described it as very tasty with some sweet, malty overtones. Which is exactly how I’d describe it. But a review recently pointed out that Arrogant Bastard seems to have changed a bit from the brew it was a few years ago. I’ve never had it at the source, which is to say I’ve never had it fresh from the brewery, which is when beer is best. You remember the born on date campaign Budweiser was running on their cans? Sort of the same idea with craft beer. It’s a live product, which responds negatively to many environmental issues, not the least of which are jostling, light, storage temps, oxygen and a host of other issues.
If you go back in time many hundreds of years to when the British Empire was seeking to subdue the Indian sub continent for its rich trade in spices and textiles, it needed soldiers. And to keep soldiers happy in the hot and humid environment that is India, they needed beer. The empire had plenty of breweries back in England, but beer shipped around the horn of Africa reportedly tasted terrible to the soldiers and did nothing for moral. So it was decided to add more hops, which act as a preserver and higher alcohol content, which also tends to preserve beer, and ship this new product to the soldiers in India. Upon arrival, it was not the fresh, highly potent beer it was when left, but it was a mellow and drinkable beer that greatly improved the moral of the hot and miserable soldiers. (paraphrased of course)
My point is that as craft breweries grow and to sell their beer into other markets, they must change recipes to insure the beer still tastes good when it’s brewed in California and ends up in Florida. From my experience, nothing will ever taste as good and fresh as local beer, but it’s nice to be able to get that variety from out of state and still taste something authentic. But where is the line between what is served fresh at the brewery and what is decidedly different in a can or bottle on the other side of the country?
I’ve heard many reports that Brewdog, Scotland’s rogue craft brewery, has excellent beer when tasted at the source, but which is relatively travel worn by the time it reaches American shores. I think many of their bottled products taste amazing, at least the ones I can get in Missoula, but it makes me wonder if they taste much different at the source.
My question to you is, do you prefer your beer local and fresh, or are you good with a slightly different interpretation in a bottle or can designed to ship well?
A gentlemen handed me a bottle of Laughing Dog Brewing Company’s Rocket Dog Rye IPA while I was judging brewfest last weekend. At first I thought, “hey, you can’t influence the judges like this.” Then I realized that he was just handing out bottles to the crowd in general. And so it put my mind at ease.
Last night I had an invitation to go hang out with beer buddies Beau and Jon around their backyard campfire to sip some beer and enjoy some great conversation. Josh Decker, director of the amazing Home Resources, a local non profit that recycles building materials, joined us for a beverage and helped us frame a great conversation about living life post apocalyptically. I realize that might not sound like a great conversation, but it was, because we touched on recycling and sustainable living and many other things.
So we poured the Rocket Dog Rye IPA and settled back to let the warmth of the flames tickle our imaginations.
I was immediately impressed with the solid nature of this IPA. A big, malt backbone holds up some really nice bitterness and some astringency from the rye. But there is not an imbalance here. The bite is actually very good and offers some real complexity. The nose is all pine and citrus, with some bready yeast coming through at times.
The orange firelight played with the color a little. I would’ve like to have seen it in standard light. It made the beer appear copper or orangy. But the flavors on this IPA were very solid and worthy of finding another bottle or two of this. I haven’t seen this particular one around town yet, but beer buddy Beau has seen Laughing Dog beer at Worden’s Market.
Oregon might be discovering something Montana has known for quite a while. Mainly that there are a lot of West Coast IPAs out there, and finding your place in the mix means being just a little different.
Bridgeport Brewing Company’s Hop Czar Imperial IPA impressed me for it’s rich and deep malt backbone, which provided a really nice ladder on which to stack the copious amounts of chinook, nugget, cascade and centennial hops. In a way, it has a more British feel to it than a lot of the overly hop balanced West Coasters.
But malt comes with a price. The hop profiles don’t sing quite as much, and the beer definitely has a heavier feel to it. You don’t get that oily, hop resin presence you get with West Coasters, and which can actually make a big IPA feel a little lighter than it is.
But I know that this style of beer does appeal to a lot of people who don’t go for the ginormously hopped West Coast IPAs.
The only thing I really don’t like about this beer is the designation as an Imperial IPA. At 7.5 percent abv, it doesn’t ring in with an Imperial feel, and I don’t like when beer companies used terms like Imperial as marketing gimmicks.
Who knows, Bridgeport may feel that this qualifies as an Imperial, what with it’s big, rocking malt body and triple-hopped status, and that fact that it’s brewed from their original IPA recipe, but the term used loosely in marketing still bothers me.
I enjoyed this beer immensely, because I love that it represents the ever-changing whims of brewers who are trying to gauge the differing tastes of the beer-loving public every day. To that end, I thought the plan of going to a much bigger malt backbone really paid off. This beer is a nicely balanced IPA that might appeal to people who don’t mind big beers but who’d rather not have something dripping with hop bitterness in every taste. It is a much more balanced beer in some ways.
And yet you still get the beautiful citrus and fruitiness from those now famous Northwest hops.
And Bridgeport earns even more points for their bottle conditioning. They put a lot of effort into packaging, and I tend to notice their standout bottles in the beer aisles.
You can find Bridgeport Brewing Company’s Hop Czar at Worden’s Market.
It wasn’t really an Oscar-night thing, but Beau brought over some Stone Brewing Company IPA and some Deschutes Brewing Company Hop Henge IPA round about the third quarter of the big show. Can’t fault him though, he’s a volunteer for Big Brothers & Sisters of Missoula, and he spent most of Sunday afternoon hanging out with his little brother.
While Jeff Bridges was thanking his mom and dad for raising him in the “business” and cradling his gold statue, Beau and I sniffed the two big West Coast IPAs to see which one had the bigger nose. By color, the Hop Henge had a bit of a burnt caramel edge over the ripe barley color of the Stone IPA. But in smell, the Stone held a bit of an advantage with a wonderful aroma of fruity and flowery hops. I’m guessing they achieve this by the two weeks of dry hopping the beer is said to go through.
But in the glass and on the tongue, the Hop Henge comes out a bit ahead of the Stone IPA. The body is bigger and able to handle the 8.75 percent ABV like a linebacker carries his weight. The rich burnt caramel color translates to malty sweetness that plays cloyingly with the massive amount of cascade and centennial hops. My personal feeling is that the Hop Henge is probably in a different category. Perhaps it should be compared to a Stone Brewing Company Ruination IPA instead. On it’s own though, the Hop Henge is an outstanding achievement in the big IPA category. Despite using the cascade/centennial combo, it’s a very balanced beer with some exciting citrus and ground fruits on the tongue. Particularly strawberry and maybe some pineapple with a bit of summer herb garden, though I couldn’t pin it down to one particular herb.
The Stone IPA is a slightly lesser beer, but it just might be put together better. The nose blows off straight flowers and citrus with what I swear was a breeze from Northern California’s eucalyptus forests. There is a breadyness on the tongue that is decidedly absent in the Hop Henge. But the balance is where this beer scores its points. Traditional citrus and pine sit atop a balanced body like a multi-discipline athlete. Some beers are built like long-distance runners. They are built for the long haul, but they are skinny to a fault. Other beers rest on a comfortable, well-trained frame.
In the end, the Hop Henge weighs in a little stronger and with a little more reach than the Stone, but this match might just be unevenly weighted. Who knows though, another person might decide that the Stone had more than enough to stand up to the big Hop Henge.
I tried New Belgium Brewing Company’s Ranger IPA a couple of weeks ago during Super Bowl, and I was pleasantly surprised. This is not a Northwest-style volcanic IPA, but it’s something I’d definitely drink on a regular basis. I think the evolution from Fat Tire to the wide release of an IPA is interesting. Companies that don’t have an IPA as their flagship beer or prominently featured in their main distribution beers seem to be playing catchup these days. That’s simply my opinion from observation, but IPA is the logical next step on the palate after ambers and pale ales, so if the demand is there, I suppose it makes sense.
The proverbial question in Missoula, Montana these days is: When will the Kettlehouse Brewing Co.’s Northside taproom open?
There is no good answer for that, as evidenced by brewery owner Tim O’Leary’s cryptic post on Facebook recently.
Tim O’Leary I’m thinking a reasonable opening date of June 2osomething is not out of the question for the Northside. We’re canning and trying to get caught up on distributor’s orders first.
But, if you read between the lines, you’ll see that one, they are brewing and canning at the new location above the Orange Street underpass. You can also see from another cryptic post by O’Leary that the new Double Haul IPA cans are soon to be released.
So, if you’re a glass-half-full kind of person, then this is a good day for you. If you’re anything else, go have a beer and try to relax a little.
I’m not going to assume all of you have seen the movie “Beer Fest,” but if you have, then you know what I mean. I’ve always wanted to drink from a boot, and thanks to beer buddy Beau, I can now say I have.