Victory DirtWolf Double IPA Bites Just Right

vicgtory dirtwolf double ipaThis post was originally published by AlcoholProfessor.com.

A few years ago, my ex-girlfriend and I decided to plant some American hops in our back yard; I thought it would prompt me to finally experiment with home brewing. It did not. Instead, the hops took over the back of the house and became a rabid beast that I ultimately had to cut down in its prime before it consumed us entirely.

Victory Brewing Company’s DirtWolf Double IPA is named in tribute to hops, and the way they “rise from the earth with the voracity of a wolf among sheep.”

The name is appropriate indeed. Featuring four different hops – whole flower Mosaic, Simcoe, Citra and Chinook – DirtWolf is as complex as they come, frankly. The hop blend swirls flavor all over the palate, and bites you when you least expect it.

DirtWolf pours a light, hazy orange with minimal, white head and plenty of thick lacing; the nose was tamer than I’d expected when poured into the glass. But on first drink, you’ll know this IPA is as aggressive as the very cool label art suggests.

For my nose and palate, the citrusy quality is what took charge. There certainly are other fruit notes going on in this beer, but due to the citrus, I would hold this forth as something that could almost pass for an extreme breakfast drink. I would say that’s especially true if you were using it to wash down an omelet with plenty of spicy sausage and a few dashes of hot sauce.

The body is crisp at first, but that grows into a thick mouthfeel that lingers, leaving with it a tingly bite mixed with a pleasant, creamy sensation. As the hints of pine and earthiness take hold, you find your palate not only happy, but feeling a bit challenged as well. That’s a good thing.

I couldn’t track down any IBU information on DirtWolf, but it’s not a Hopslam kind of beer – this one is more about flavor complexity than all-out bitterness. It works very, very well. I’d guess it at maybe 75 or 80, but a guess is all it is. I’ve been fooled before.

“As brewers who enjoy experimenting with beer styles and ingredient varieties,” said Victory President and Brewmaster Bill Covaleski, by way of press materials, “we are constantly looking to keep our core audience captivated and interested while creating opportunities to attract and introduce those new to the craft brewing movement. We think, and hope, everyone will be as please as we are with the result.”

I certainly am. And based on some of the ratings I have found online, I’m not alone in this. Now I’m wondering if I should re-plant those hops in my backyard. Just for another challenge.

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Green Flash Green Bullet IPA Hits the Mark

beer - green flashThis one was originally published by the Alcohol Professor. Here are a few paragraphs and a link to the full article.

San Diego’s Green Flash Brewing Co. finally green-lit a small batch favorite for national release; packed with New Zealand hops, Green Bullet is now widely available nationwide on tap, in four packs and in 22-ounce bottles.

And if you haven’t yet tried it, well, it’s kind of mind blowing.

Green Bullet has become a bit of a cult beer, much like Green Flash’s Palate Wrecker. Since it has been available previously only in limited quantities – it was the brewery’s 9th Anniversary beer in 2011 – it has become a sought-after favorite of hopheads.

Ah yes, the hops. The beer is named after the primary hop used in brewing the beer, Green Bullet hops. Another New Zealand hop, Pacific Gem, is also in the blend, balancing floral with fruit characters to create – take a deep breath – this triple IPA. Yep, triple. This beer packs a wallop unlike most double IPAs you’ll find, and those tend to punch you in the mouth.

Read the full story at AlcoholProfessor.com.

Another Weekend of Louisville Beer (and More) …

louisville beer - nabc pickmans ale

New Albanian’s Pickman’s Ale: Mildly hoppy. Sessionable. And great with beer cheese.

I got around this past weekend. I was actually in search of cider for a story I’m working on for another website, but I really like hoppy more than fruity. So I made it a point to have some Louisville beer along the way.

My first stop, on Saturday afternoon, was at New Albanian Brewing Company. I was in search of Gale’s Hard Cider, by way of Thomas Family Winery, but there were no bottles left (drat!). Instead, I tried a New Day South Cider, which wasn’t bad at all. Then I cleansed my palate with some breadsticks and had a (NABC) Pickman’s Ale, which is one I don’t believe I have tried before. I’m an APA guy, so I couldn’t resist, and it didn’t disappoint.

Anyway, it’s long on kick (6.5 percent ABV), medium on hops (52 IBU) and just what I needed to go with NABC’s spicy beer cheese. It has a burnt orange color, thin head, medium hop nose, just a touch of citrus tone and a quick hop bite that gets there before you expect it to. The hop flavor then continues to emerge drink after drink. Thumbs up.

louisville beer app - buckheads

Pick a beer. Any beer.

On Sunday, I watched some football with my pal Greg and had a flight over at Buckhead Mountain Grill in Jeffersonville, where Tisha Gainey always has a kick-ass selection. It’s always fun to use Buckhead’s Craft Beer App, in any case, scrolling through what’s on tap, separating the ales from the lagers and whatnot. I worked my way up the hops ladder (after tasting one Angry Orchard Cider) with Upland Campside Session Ale (4.5 percent ABV, 50 IBU); Daredevil Liftoff IPA (7.2 percent ABV, 72 IBU); Sun King Bitchn’ Camaro (8.7 percent ABV, 89 IBU), and Stone Ruin Ten Imperial IPA (10.8 percent ABV, 110 IBU).

I let Greg have a taste of the Stone Ruin. Here was his reaction: “That grabbed a hold of my whole mouth! Holy shit!” After that, he said, “I’m going back to my Miller Water.”

Yeah, I couldn’t taste anything by the time I finished off that flight. I also went a bit outside the region with the Stone Ruin, but I figured it was the perfect way to cap off a hop orgy like that one. Glad I only had four-ounce pours of those, though. Yikes. I bet Greg wishes he didn’t even have the one sip.

louisville beer - apocalypse irish red ale

Apocalypse Brew Works Irish Red Rapture: So smooth and creamy, it’s like bathing in a pool of kittens.

A bit later, still on a quest to find ciders I could write about, we wound up at O’Shea’s Irish Pub in the Highlands. There, I was greeted by something on a different part of the beer spectrum, but also one of my first loves: an Irish red ale. But not just any Irish red — it was an Apocalypse Brew Works Irish Red Rapture. How could I resist? And luckily, my palate had been wiped clean by tasting samples of cider.

At 5.9 percent ABV and 26 IBU, it looks like a brown ale, and even has coffee on the nose. It’s so creamy and malty. This is the kind of beer I typically go for in fall and winter. I wrote in my notes, “Leah rules.” Obviously, I was referring to brewer Leah Dienes.

After that, I went home and watched football. And fell asleep in the process. Totally worth it.

Blue Stallion Brewing Opens in Lexington

louisville beer - blue stallion german pilsner lexington

German Pilsner.

Took a mini-road trip with my girlfriend Cynthia on Saturday to check out the newly-opened Blue Stallion Brewing in Lexington: beautiful tap room, lots of German-style beers, a few guest taps and a welcoming feeling.

Oh, and would you believe this? Before they even opened, they were forced to change their logo by the local convention bureau. Maybe Blue Stallion and West Sixth could start a support group in Lexington for embattled logos. More on that in a moment, though.

Blue Stallion’s beers are of the German variety; pilsners and dunkels are the order of the day, but all the beers are lagered and filtered. In addition, a few ales make their way into the mix. But the main point at Blue Stallion is that the beers are, according to the brewery’s website, “approachable.”

At Blue Stallion, they “no longer accept that a casual beer needs to be yellow with no character or flavor.”

So if you’re looking for an Imperial IPA, well, know that the hoppiest beer brewed at Blue Stallion is the Pilsner, at 45 IBU (although they do have a few guest taps for hopheads). But it opens the door for a lot of people to find a beer they enjoy. Here’s a brief rundown:

Hefeweizen (3.8% ABV, 14 IBU): This one is smooth and fruity, with a hint of banana. Light body with a floral nose, it also offers up hints of clove. Imagine if Blue Moon didn’t suck, and you’re in the ballpark.

Scottish 70 Shilling (3.2% ABV, 20 IBU): Seriously? Only 3.2% alcohol by volume? Talk about sessionable – I could drink 10 of these and probably still be going strong. Actually, this is a very light brown ale with just a hint of caramel and malts, and as such was Cynthia’s favorite. It got its name because a pint of it would have cost 70 shillings back in mid-19th century Scotland.

louisville beer - blue stallion sampler lexington

Sampler and the “uber-bar.”

Munich Dunkel (5.4% ABV, 25 IBU): A mild version of a classic dunkel, this one has plenty of malt character and a bit of sweetness. In fact, Cynthia referred to it as “adult root beer,” which isn’t far off. This one packs a bit more punch than the Hefe or 70 Shilling. Solid.

Smoked Lager (5.7% ABV, 19 IBU): This one is smoky, as you’d expect, but not offensively so. If you’ve had the smoked beers at Against the Grain, for instance, you know a strong smoke flavor. This one is not nearly as bold; in fact, the smoke presence is just enough to wake up the taste buds. It also leaves a nice tingle on the palate. According to the Blue Stallion website, this beer is based on a German legend: “An accidental fire in a small regional brewery exposed the stored malt to the smoke for several hours. Because the brewer did not have the money to afford a new batch of malt, he was forced to use the smoked malt in his beer production.” People liked it, and it stuck. It may not be true, but it’s still a good story.

Wee Heavy (9.5% ABV, 28 IBU): Appropriately named because while it’s easily the heaviest beer currently on tap at Blue Stallion, it’s surprisingly light bodied. In fact, I was shocked when I learned it packs 9.5% ABV. The Scotch ale has flavor reminiscent of molasses. Be careful with this one, kids.

German Pilsner (4.9% ABV, 45 IBU): My favorite of the day, this is a classic German-style pilsner, with just enough hop bite to let you know it’s there. Crisp and slightly bitter, it features two different kinds of noble hops. More, please.

louisville beer - blue stallion logo lexington

Note the new logo.

While there, I spoke to co-owner Jim Clemons, who told me the tap room was basically built out by hand, taking about nine months to complete. The bar, I noted, is quite high – so high that when one sits there on a bar stool, it puts the bar level at about chest high, leaving you eye to eye with your beer.

Clemons referred to it as the “uber-bar,” and said it was only designed that way due to piping that had to run under the bar and needed to be at a certain height. The bar itself is made from barrel slats, which gives it a rustic-meets-modern look.

Clemons said Blue Stallion may be the smallest brewery in Kentucky, at least based on output. He said whereas most brewers can get a batch of most beer styles ready for tapping in two or three weeks, it takes six weeks to finish a Blue Stallion beer, due in part to the lagering process and also due to the step mash process they use, which slows the heating process but also helps the brewers avoid using any acids or chemicals in the brewing process.

“We’re very proud to do it the old-fashioned way,” Clemons said.

There’s no food menu at the tap room, but people are free to order pizza delivery or bring whatever they like. One couple who sat at the bar and watched sports on the flat screens brought a bag of salsas and other dips from Trader Joe’s, and casually snacked as they sipped their beers.

louisville beer - blue stallion original logo lexington

Blue Stallion original logo.

Oh, and note that the logo on the glasses and at left is different than the one used on the website (bottle photo, above). That’s because the Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau took exception to the original logo since it resembled their own. It wasn’t exactly a West Sixth vs. Magic Hat situation, though.

“They asked us to change the logo, and we did,” Clemons said. “We wanted to be accommodating.”

It’s commendable. One logo lawsuit in Lexington is plenty.

Ten-Buck Steak and Beer at Cumberland Brews

cumberland brews L&N #152 - Louisville BeerGotta love Cumberland Brews; it’s a warm, cozy place with solid beers and great food. And sometimes you can also get a really good deal.

Take Thursdays, for instance. I stopped in yesterday for lunch upon hearing that Cumberland offers a Thursday special of steak and beer for 10 bucks. My immediate reaction was that it sounded too good to be true, and you know what they say about situations like that.

But I’m here to tell you that the New York strip I had was the real deal: eight ounces, tender and tasty, and seasoned with black peppercorn. And it came with a pile of delicious hand-cut fries and even a miniature red velvet cupcake. Oh, and for the $10, you also get a pint of your choice.

I mean, it’s darn near ridiculous. For the quality and amount of food I was served, I doubt I could have prepared that meal at home for the price. And that doesn’t even factor in the beer.

Oh yes, the beer: My pint of choice (OK, I may have had three, sue me) was the L&N #152, a “steam beer” that is actually a lager, but drinks more like an ale. Presumably named after the Louisville railroad (for which my dad briefly worked back in the late 1960s), L&N #152 has a dark body and plenty of hops — OK, perhaps not enough for a hophead (it’s 40 IBU), but enough to provide a familiar bite and tingle sensation on the palate. That’s good enough for me in the right situation.

It pours a deep amber with a creamy, tan head, and packs a nice malt body to go along with the hops. It reminded me slightly of one of my local favorites, Irish Rover Red, which as an ale that is more malty but with fewer hops. The L&N also has an almost dry sensation on the palate, which isn’t there in the Rover Red.

If  you haven’t tried it, I’d recommend it highly on a Thursday. Or a Wednesday. I’m told you can get a bison burger and a pint for $10 on hump day, which is a pretty sweet deal too.

Louisville Slugger Bats and Beer

louisville slugger - beer

Wait … is that even a Louisville Slugger?

Anyone heard about this Hops for Heroes project? It is designed to raise funds to assist military families, but the local kicker is that nine brewers from around the U.S. are using Louisville Slugger bats to ferment beers.

It’s a new one on me, but it sounds like some of the beers could be a hit (sorry!), like this Phoenix Ale Brewery Homefront IPA. The Phoenix New Times describes it thusly: “… Brewed with orange peel, hopped with Chinook and Cascade, then rested in fermenters atop unvarnished maple bats from Louisville Slugger. According to Phoenix Ale, there’s no difference between them and the ones you’d use to play in a baseball game.”

So do they also use pine tar? Because that got George Brett into a lot of trouble.

I guess what’s a bit surprising is that no one here in the Louisville area got involved. It’s an interesting concept, to be sure, and as a baseball fan I’d love to try one of these beers. Here are a couple random reviews of the Stone Brewing Co. version, if you’re interested.

Anyway, this project is in its third year, so it’s not exactly a rookie (gah!). Maybe one of our local brewers will take a swing at it (stop it!) just for fun. Which one will … (ahem) strike first?

OK, I’m done.

Chilling With Michael Beckmann at Boombozz Taphouse

louisville beer - boombozz taphouse

The Boombozz Taphouse in the Highlands has, well, lots of taps.

Michael Beckmann sells a lot of craft beer at his Highlands Tony Boombozz location. A lot of it. And it’s not just because there is only one non-craft or non-local tap, either.

The general manager and brains behind the beers thinks a big part of what drives craft beer’s popularity is growing rebellion against big corporations. Secondly, people like to drink locally.

“Localness is what drives craft beer,” he said.

He told me this as I sipped a New Albanian Brewing Company Houndmouth, one of several local and craft beers I tried while sitting at the bar with Beckmann and his girlfriend Caroline. His taps are always rotating in new brews, stuff from local and regional breweries as well as from around the world. It’s quite a journey for the taste buds.

I also tasted Southern Tier Live, Widmer Alchemy Ale, Mikkeller Wet Hop Kellerbier, Country Boy Cougar Bait and Sierra Nevada Oliva Quad. I’ll spare you wordy reviews, but the Mikeller reminded more of a pilsner than an ale, and the Oliva Quad was so interesting, flavorful and ripe with plums that my first thought was that it would be delicious poured over pancakes.

Beckmann spoke of how he makes sure his taps always feature local brews, and that he does a “TALL4small” (tall beer for a short beer price) special every Thursday for local brews only. “I love supporting the locals,” he said. “And it works.”

He wants a visit to Boombozz Taphouse to be an experience, versus a get-drunk session; no two beer drinkers are created equally, and yet he also wants to make sure each person’s palate gets some respect. (He said one woman actually wrote a dissertation about how well she was treated at Boombozz as a female beer drinker. Apparently, the bar staff didn’t jump to the conclusion she would want a Blue Moon with an orange wedge.)

louisville beer - boombozz tap room beckmann

Michael Beckmann and Caroline Knopf both enjoy a tasty brew.

And while there is a shortage of such beers in the taps, Beckmann also makes sure there are “simpler” local and craft beers bartenders can recommend to customers looking for a new experience. The house BoomBrew, for instance, is the very drinkable Bluegrass Brewing Company Amber. In fact, in recent weeks there’s been no corporate beer on tap at all.

“We went through April and May without it, and no one complained,” he said. At the same time, “I don’t think anybody here is going to make you feel guilty about ordering a Bud Light.”

So, he makes sure to have the corporate beers always available in bottles, just to be safe.

But for those who like their taste buds to be challenged, the Boombozz Taphouse is a great place to be. Beckmann and his bar staff like to mix it up. Literally. For instance, he recently mixed the Southern Tier Live, Mikkeller Wet Hop and Widmer Alchemy Ale. Another popular blend was a Cumberland Brews Roasted Pumpkin Ale with a Southern Tier Creme Brulee.

“It tasted like pumpkin pie with whipped cream,” he said.

And next time you’re in, be sure to ask him about the seven-stout blend.

Anyway, for Beckmann, his position at Boombozz is like “a play thing.” He likes to not only treat his customers, but to also treat himself.

“And I’ve got the pick of the litter here,” he said.

Evil Twin Ryan and the Beaster Bunny = Yum

Stopped in the Irish Rover last night looking for something different to try, and got my first taste of Evil Twin Ryan and the Beaster Bunny. It’s not a beer I’m going to obsess over or anything (besides, it’s apparently a limited edition), but it was a darn good pint – if you’ve had it, you know what I mean.

I do like the hops, and this one delivers nicely. It’s got an assertive hop character without being one of those beers that grabs you by the neck and says, “I’ve got LOTS of hops. Wanna see?” In other words, it’s a solid, no-frills, quality farmhouse ale.

Anyway, the bitterness lingers at the back of the mouth with the nose and front end having a bit of a citrusy quality, only mildly fruity without going over the edge into sweetness. It pours a slightly hazy gold, and quite frankly looks pretty darn inviting in the glass. Of course, pretty much every beer looks inviting to me.

Oh yeah, and be careful – when bartender Jason handed me my pint, he called it a “heavy hitter,” meaning that it packs 7 percent ABV. Probably good that I only had one.

Anybody else out there had this one? I’d go back for another without hesitation. Looking forward to trying more Evil Twin brews in the future, too. Heck, you have to love a brewery that makes a pilsner called “Low Life” (has to be a play off Miller High Life, right?).

Not sure you’ll get me to try any of those “Hipster” beers they make, though. I don’t have any desire to know what a hipster tastes like.

Note: Apparently Jason said “farmhouse” ale when I asked about it, and I thought he said “Falco ale.” It only said Evil Twin on the tap handle so far as I could see, so I thought I heard “Falco” (a name I’d heard of). Once again, good thing I only had one or I might not have found my way home. Idiot.

West Sixth IPA: More Than Just a Cool Logo

louisville beer - west sixth ipaFinally wrapped my taste buds around a West Sixth Brewing Company IPA this week. As you probably guessed, I’m now a fan.

It’s truly a well-crafted India pale ale, with all the hoppy goodness you’d expect and just enough malt characteristic for balance. I sensed a hint of citrus, with a minimum of sweetness (not a fan of the assertive sweetness found in some pale ales), and the beer’s mouth-feel was perfect, from my perspective. The creaminess of the body makes it drink lighter than the hoppiness would suggest, giving it a great combination of drinkability and flavor.

Normally, I kind of worry that craft beer in a can is going to be compromised from a flavor standpoint, but that sure isn’t true in this case. In fact, I’d drink this from a can any day over the highly lauded Bell’s Two Hearted Ale from a bottle. But that’s just me.

If you’re interested, West Sixth IPA got some pretty good marks over at BeerAdvocate.com. Oh, and I really like that cool West Sixth logo … ahem.

ABV: 7 percent