Wednesday, June 18, 2008

It Was Such A Beautiful Day on Tuesday

It was 70 degrees. Sunny. A crisp spring breeze was blowing through. After two straight weeks of hot and/or humid and/or torrential downpours, it was a welcome respite to segue into summer. And what better way to celebrate than with a couple of uber-hoppy India Pale Ales.

Of course, the big news this week is that Stone Brewing Company is coming to town. But they aren't here yet, so the Stone IPA, a 77 IBU Magnum and Centennial hop-cicle, will have to wait a few weeks. In the meantime, we can enjoy some great beers purchased over at Star Liquor on Willy Street: the New Holland Existential Ale and the New Glarus Hop Hearty IPA.

New Glarus Hop Hearty IPA
6-pack purchased for $7.99 + tax, 6.10% ABV. East Kent Goldings and Cascade Hops. BA. RB.
Appearance: served at 51.5 degrees, a thick, bubbly off-white head over an opaque fine-leather body; fine bubbling
Aroma: a fresh spray of citrus and hops greats the opening of the bottle; a surprisingly strong musty, bread-like caramel malt aroma; the goldings are upfront, and the cascades come in and fade quickly, leaving the subtle, floral notes behind
Flavor: surprisingly muted; the bitterness is definitely there, but for all of the aroma, where did the flavor go? Each of the flavors hinted at in the aroma eventually come through, but you really have to look for them; repeated sips bring the flavors out more;
Body: soft and medium bodied, with a long, drying, almost peppery, finish
Drinkability: the flavors add up while you drink it, but if you let the flavors go between sips (what, are you a nursing major?), it can be hard to pick them up; while the cascades make this is a uniquely American beer, its lack of assertiveness renders it more continental; while it defies expectations, the Hop Hearty is a very subtle, well-balanced IPA

New Holland Existential Ale
Purchased for $7.49 + tax for a 22 oz, 10.5% ABV. This has been described as either an extremely hoppy barleywine or a really big IPA. It was released on April 21st, so at this point it is about 2 months old – the hops should still be fresh. BA. RB.
Appearance: thin, off-white head; crystal-clear, no beading or bubbling; a deep golden body
Aroma: hops; that's all there is to it; hops; if you've ever opened a 1 oz package of hops and taken a deep breath while holding it up to your nose, that is what this smells like;
Flavor: thick and citrusy; I wish I could say there was some malt in there, there is, it pokes its head through every now and then; but the hops
Body: thick and syrupy, if there were such a thing as hop juice, this would be it; about the consistency of orange juice, and a very similar flavor
Drinkability: much like the Sierra Nevada Harvest, or the Dogfish Head 120, if you consider yourself a hop-head, you owe it to yourself to find a bottle; if you don't like hops, you can pass

Summary: While I had been hoping for a hop bomb to start the evening in the New Glarus Hop Hearty IPA, I was pleased to find something much more refined and complex. Typical of Wisconsin breweries; taking a style that most Americans expect to be over-the-top, and turning down the dial a little, relaxing a bit, demonstrating quality brewing skills with complexity and finesse. The Existential is a conversion beer; in other words, if I thought I knew somebody that could be convinced to drink craft beers and never look back, I could give them a bottle of this.

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