Monthly Archives: May 2015

What Did the Frog Say? “Knee Deep! Knee Deep!”

Knee Deep Brewing

KD Trio
Let’s start off with a “hop trio” that I had at home, three nights with one bomber each night.

KD HoptLabelCrop

Slightly hazy amber in the glass with an off white head. The aroma is of strong pine & citrus with a layer of bread dough underneath. The bread is there in flavor too, almost a sourdough, this time with the hops underneath, herbal and piney. The finish shows that the emphasis was aroma hops more than flavor and in turn more than buttering . . . that means that the finish wasn’t intensely hopped, or at least not after the nose and flavor. 9.0% ABV, 102 IBU on the original scale of 0 to 100, and things only go up from here!

KD SimtraBottleSimtra Triple India Pale Ale

“Not meant for aging – enjoy this triple fresh.” So says the bottle, and maybe triple means “the hops hit from three feet away.” These hops are potent. Pours golden straw with a bright pale yellowish head, foamy & persistent. The nose delivers spicy hops, but then a rich caramel malt emerges followed by lots more hops. The flavor starts with bright stone fruit quickly overwhelmed by earthy piney spicy hops. The mouthfeel is much lighter than the alcohol content suggests, and it has a refreshing quality like a session beer for a very short session. The long finish has a sweetness that bobs up and down in a sea of hops. It’s hard to call this balanced and yet it isn’t wildly hoppy. 20+ minutes later, sitting and sipping, a thought came to me: “oh, man, I love this stuff” . . . and I haven’t had enough for the palette version of beer goggles! 11.25% ABV, 131 IBU

KD HopDeRangedLabelCropHop-de-Ranged

“A Quad IPA That Borders on Insanity.” Sounds like my kind of beer. It’s light amber and effervescent, supporting a bubbly lemon cream head. The hops hit as the cap comes off but are somewhat restrained with bread malt playing off the spicy earthy hops. The flavor hits with a wood note like a baseball bat to the tongue. There is no restraint to the flavor hops, but a bit of molasses softens the blow, ending with a candy-like quality carrying into the finish. The bittering hops show some restraint too, or perhaps my taste buds are in hop shock. There’s no heat meaning that the power is somewhat hidden, so this could knock a surprised someone on their ass. 13.1% ABV, “IBU: Ask Jerry”

It would be very interesting to taste these three back to back to back, but you’d better have some help!

Coincidentally, the next night at Growler & Gill featured a tasting of Knee Deep Brewing. Naturally I asked who Jerry is, and he’s the brewer. As for the IBU I guess they can’t quite figure out how to quantify it. The presenter estimated “over 200.”

I said it would be “interesting to taste these three,” well make that “these four” as the tasting led off with:

KD LupulinLabelCropLupulin River Imperial India Pale Ale

Brewed as a collaboration between Knee Deep and the legendary Kern River, this pours medium amber with a generous ragged yellowish head supported by good effervescence. It has a very piney nose shading to citrus, a potent aroma with even a hint of cat pee. The flavor is quieter with more citrus but also with quite a bit of bread and caramel malt, striking a reasonable balance. The hops get earthier on the finish with a hint of candied orange peel. As a Double/Imperial it’s “only” 8% and as for the IBUs “ask Jeremy.” May I assume this is another brewer, perhaps Kern River?

The tasting continued with Simtra and Hop De-Ranged, then wrapped up with:

KD ImpTanillaImperial Tanilla

A porter brewed with vanilla, this pours opaque dark brown with a thin, brief tan head. It’s very roasty in nose and flavor. What I don’t get in the nose is vanilla. There’s a strong touch of dark chocolate probably from the malt, and there are hints of espresso. On the palette it’s very rich in body. It’s delicious and some vanilla comes in here though almost as if it’s from oak rather than beans. It’s very surprising how refreshing this is. The long finish is still predominately roasty. 10% ABV, 48 IBU.

I noticed something interesting. A couple of the people at the tasting say “I don’t like hops” and yet they liked these four, even though the lowest IBU was 48 and the highest ones were beyond estimation. To me, the key is balance; these beers offered so much flavor and malt and body that the potentially crushing bitterness becomes just one element of a rich experience. However, I had to tell the newly converted: “Welcome to the Dark Side!”

After the official tasting there was one more Knee Deep offering on draft:

Tanilla

This is the “non-Imperial” version with lots of mocha on the nose and palette, very much richer in both chocolate and coffee. It seems very different from its Imperial sibling. This is dark brown in the glass with a good light tan head but little body. So those are the two big differences, a lot more mocha but a lot less body. This delivers a nice quiet finish, but too thin, or at least too thin after all those heavy hitting offerings. 6.3% ABV.

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Ballast Point: The Sculpin Trilogy



Ballast Point Brewing Company

Here is the Sculpin Trilogy, three variations of the same fine IPA.

BPSculpinCropSculpin

A company flagship, this pours amber with a cream colored, fairly brief head. It has a full bodied nose of piney hops and caramel malt. Medium bodied and almost creamy on the palette, cookie & more caramel malt emerges in the flavor with subdued hops and a hint almost like a Belgian yeast. The finish carries these with more malt than hops. This beer is an exemplar of the IPA style. 7% ABV, 70 IBU

BPGrapefruitSculpinGrapefruit Sculpin

This has a more generous foamy head, but otherwise the same appearance as regular Sculpin. The aroma is of strong fresh grapefruit with a little sweetness like pink grapefruit or even orange sherbet. On the palette the fruit steps back and the bakery malt and piney hops come into balance with it. The finish is more bitter, like the rind rather than the flesh of the grapefruit, with hops riding along. 7% ABV, 70 IBU

BPHabSculpinLabelCropHabanero Sculpin

“Do you feel lucky? Well do ya, punk?” After Ghost Face Killah, I approach any “hot” beer with a bit of caution, but I am not to be deterred. This pours gold with a generous foamy white head. There’s an immediate aroma of citrus, a little pine, and a hint of pepper. On the palette things start with an effervescent medium body, initial malt, and the quick arrival of the strong flavor of habanero peppers. The heat then follows, sparkling wherever the beer touches. The heat is like a restrained hot salsa, spice and bite without blowing you away. The hops are there on the finish, with citrus and pine, amping up the lingering heat. Be a little careful where you put it in your mouth, it can bite tender spots. I don’t think I’ll swirl this one all around–oh, okay–it can be swirled but then the mild burn is everywhere. I feel a touch of sweat breaking out, always a good sign. This isn’t a session beer at 7% ABV anyway, but I wouldn’t want more than one or two . . . but I would want one! 70 IBU

Ballast PalePale Ale

Sculpin isn’t the only fish in the sea, but this is the one not named for a fish. The Pale Ale pours as advertised, pale with a brief bubbly white head. I get a very malty nose–bakery malt–with a nice brush of lightly spicy hops. There’s lots more malt on the palette with slight sweetness, swiftly dried out by hops with almost a mineral note. That dry malt persists on a medium long finish. Unlike the Habanero, one could drink quite a few of these. 5.2% ABV, 23 IBU

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Meet Beer from St. Louis

The Saint Louis Brewery – Schlafly

Schlafly  tap roomThey’ve been in St. Louis for 24 years, and I believe that the presenter, Mike Harbin, said that they are now the largest locally owned brewery in Missouri (now that Boulevard has been bought by Duvel.) The brewery favors simple descriptive names where form follows function . . . which is not to say that the brewery sticks to simple styles, as shown by Tasmanian IPA and Bière de Garde.
The Tap Room, their brewery building (one of two sites) has been there much longer than 24 years, since 1904 in fact. Having survived a century, multiple fires, and a mysterious visit to Manhattan, it has both the brewery and a restaurant that I would like to visit. Let’s have some beer!

Schlafly Summer

A lager in the Helles style, very clear straw with a brief 1/4″ white head. Light lace remains. There’s an aroma of crisp malt and light spice hops, German hops. The light body comes with dry crackery malt with subtle stone fruit. Those German hops come back on the very dry finish. Presenter described it as his lawnmower beer, at it certainly is a good crisp summer beer.

Schlafly AIPA LabelAIPA American IPA

This pours gold with a generous, barely off-white head. Thoroughly hoppy nose of lemon and herbs that I can smell two feet away, then I get malt and fruit like toast and marmalade. On the palette the hops turn piney with orange peel and malt underneath. The flavor then delivers waves of hops and malt and a peanut brittle sweetness just in the background. Almost chewable body as the waves continue giving rewarding complexity. The citrus hops really arrive on the finish, quite bitter but with dried fruit, sneaky sweetness and returning malt.

Schlafly Coffee StoutCoffee Stout

Opaque dark brown in the glass with a hint of redwood under a moderate nut-brown head. This dissipates after a minute or two, but still heavily laces glass. Dark coffee leads the nose with lots of heavily roasty malt and a chocolate-like sweetness. The flavor emphasizes chocolate malt and good coffee, but not sweetness. This is a dry stout not a milk or sweet stout. It’s after dinner coffee not morning coffee. Good coffee lingers on the dry finish. No bitterness and the smallest hint of sweetness comes back on the end.

Schlafly  BottleworksTheir other brewery, The Bottleworks, is much newer, but also sports an interesting restaurant.

I’m looking forward to sampling more of their 70-odd annual beers!

Images courtesy of The Saint Louis Brewery


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