Walter White Meets Japanese Etruscans with Hardcore Nuggets
Pours as a classic wheat: pale cloudy gold with a generous, though not persistent head. The nose is a bit like a saison, farmhouse funky followed by yeast and then toast. The flavor is of solid malt, subtle fruit and a surprising bitterness in the finish like a cross between a wheat and a pale ale. 7.5% ABV
As it says on the label, “An Imperial IPA brewed with wasabi,” it pours with a generous pale orange head (too generous, the way I poured it), over a red-orange amber; this heavily laces the glass, all the way down. The nose is citrus hoppy, with a very distinct tang of wasabi, but then, I was looking for it. That wasabi note gets stronger from sip to sip. As with Japanese food, wasabi is about the nose, not the palette. Yes, you can taste wasabi but mostly as a nice bitter note over a light, crisp body with a good malt backbone. This is a very refreshing beer, ideal for seafood including the obvious sushi or sashimi. It would cut right through the creaminess of hamachi or the richness of toro. Indian food and caramelized meats would go equally well. The finish is gentle citrus and mildly emergent hops, long-lasting. I like this a lot. 8.0 % ABV.
Continuing with Japan, this collaboration with Baird Brewing and Ishii Brewing is golden in the glass with an inch-high yellowish head. The whole leaf green tea is the first thing on the nose and in the flavor. The nose adds some pine from Australian hops, and a touch of yeast. The flavor has a nice malt backbone with a mouth-filling earthiness. The finish is Stone hard, herbal hops. This would go almost equally well with Japanese or Indian dishes, but not so much the creamy ones. So far every one of Stone’s collaboration series has been very interesting! I also find it interesting–and good–that the original 2011 version (according to Beer Street Journal) “was brewed in response to the 2011 Japan earthquake and Tsunami. It raised $64,000 toward relief efforts.” 10.1% ABV, 75 IBU
I first had this when visiting the brewery, and I’ve been looking for it ever since. This is part of their Ancient Ales series, developed with help from molecular archaeologist Dr. Pat McGovern and two Italian brewers, based on traces from 2800-year-old Etruscan pottery. This pours cloudy dark amber with a 1/4″ brief head and aromas of spicy marzipan and malt. The complex flavor reflects a unique grain bill incorporating hazelnut flour, honey, gentian root, and Ethiopian myrrh resin. These produce marked butterscotch and something hinting at spices like an Indian garam masala. There are hops in the recipe, of course, but very little is perceptible. There’s a long, malty, spicy finish. This reminds me of an oaky, buttery Chardonnay. 8.5% ABV
This Imperial IPA pours with a mild head and aroma, then arrives on the palette with mouth-filling malt and earthy resinous hops which power into the finish. The intense flavor includes caramelly toffee with an edge, with citrus developing on the finish. This one is definitely for hop heads, as if you couldn’t tell from the name! In fact it’s another contributor to the debate about whether you can distinguish degrees of bitterness over 100 IBU. Regardless, it’s a solid, very drinkable, hardcore IPA. 9.2% ABV, 150 IBU
This pours light amber to orange with little head and a resiny caramel malt nose. It’s a straightforward drinking beer with citrus fruit, malt, and more caramel. There’s a little shot of pine on the end, rounding out the Nugget hop profile. I had it both on draft and in bottle, with the bottle more crisp but the draft a bit more creamy. At first it seems like an entry drug for hops, but it’s really a sneaky heavy hitter at 93 IBU and 7.5% ABV.