Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Green Flash Brewing Company - Palate Wrecker

It's a peaceful and tranquil night on the shores of Coronado Beach, CA and the sunset is painting the sky full of fiery reds, oranges and yellows. All of sudden, a green flash radiates from the center of the sunset covering sections of the horizon reminding you that our planet is full of awe inspiring natural phenomena. In my mind, a night like this lead Mike and Lisa Hinkley to name their brewery, Green Flash Brewing Company. If not, its still a cool story and this San Diego based brewery with brewmaster Chuck Silva has been producing great beer since 2004. Recently, Green Flash added the Palate Wrecker (Hamilton's 2nd Anniversary Ale) to its national distribution allowing it to find its way to the shelves of Craft Beer Cellar
As I poured Palate Wrecker from the bottle into my pint glass, its viscosity was clearly noticeable. It was quite thick and syrupy, which reminded my of a light extra virgin olive oil. A small bubbly head rested atop a dark-copper body. The clarity of this beer was somewhat surprising because I was expecting more haze from the increased malt bill of this Imperial IPA, however my fingers were clearly visible through the pint glass. After multiple sips, small, delicate lacings begin to appear, but only on the opposite side from where I was taking my sips.
After I poured this beer from the bottle, I let the beer sit and rest for a couple of minutes. During this time, I quickly realized that the aroma of this beer was very potent and powerful. The aroma was able to diffuse the four feet from the table to the couch. WOW! Upon closer inspection, piney resin dominated the nose with minor qualities of orange, pineapple and grapefruit.
The taste profile is very similar to the nose. The pine character of this beer completely coats your palate leaving very little room for detection of malts, but the taste is so pleasing, you forget about the other ingredients. The hop character lingers for an extraordinary amount of time creating a continuous hop cycle linking each sip. It was truly great! I found it hard to detect the orange and pineapple that were present in the nose, but the grapefruit was evident and tasteful.
The mouthfeel was very sticky and oily leading to a very full bodied beer. The excessive hopping created a somewhat dry finish. The beer was so smooth that the 9.5% ABV was virtual non-existent, which could lead to a night of debauchery, but I think sitting in a beach chair with a great book would suit me just fine, and who knows, maybe I would be fortunate enough to see my first green flash.



Sunday, March 18, 2012

Homebrew #2 - Oatmeal Stout

After a very vigorous pour, a one-finger head foams and resembles the carbonation of quickly poured Coke. I really wanted this stout to contain red highlights enhancing the appearance, but sadly, no red highlights are present in the head. The head retention of my stout is weak because foamy head vanished within 1-2 minutes after being poured. It was pitch black with no light penetrating the body. My first attempt at making a stout, looks like a stout. Hooray!
The aroma contains three distinctive smells. First, the oats are present, but are not prominent in the aroma. They add a nice malt character, but I wish there was more malt sweetness, so if I brew this stout again, I am thinking about adding more oatmeal into increase the sweetness through fermentable sugars. Second, bitter chocolate wafts and is quite pleasant. This is the most dominating smell within the aromatic profile. Third, Fuggle Hops are present, but they are faint. The earthy spiciness the Fuggle hops provided works quite well with the other smells. I really like this part of the aroma, so I am contemplating dry-hopping this stout with Fuggles or another hop varietal to increase the hop presence; only one way to find out! Overall, I am happy with the aroma of this stout, so with more brewing hours, I am hopeful to obtain a more prominent hop profile adding a subtle complexity to my oatmeal stout. 
The taste profile I was hoping for was something that would measure up to Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout. The initial burst of flavor contained a nice dark chocolate character. After this burst of chocolate had subsided, bitter coffee and roasted malts entered into the taste. The hop content within the taste was nearly non-existent, but the Fuggle hops crept furtively to the complete taste profile. The difference between the tastes of my oatmeal stout and Sam Smith was a mineralistic quality in my stout. This apparent mineral quality is most likely to the elemental composition of our water in Watertown, MA (just guessing...).
The mouthfeel of my stout was quite light. I normally want a thicker, fuller stout, but I feel that having a lighter mouthfeel allowed the chocolate and malt character to easily come through in the taste. The carbonation level of my stout was very low making the mouthfeel very aqueous in texture. I hope to alter this component of my stout when I brew this style again through the addition of oats, using dextrin malts or a lower attenuating yeast strain.
Overall, I am quite pleased with this stout. It is very quaffable leading my wife to say on multiple occasions, "Oatmeal Stout? Because its delicious." I have to mention the helpfulness of RandumInk during our night of brewing and the gift of a homebrewer's necessity, flip-top bottles. With Spring right around the corner, I am excited to transition seasons and brew an aromatic pale ale or a german weissbier. Hopefully they will turn out even better than this stout!


Sunday, March 4, 2012

Shmaltz Brewing Company - Hop Manna

Hop Manna is a deep-rust color with surprising clarity. Since this beer used three hop varieties during an extensive dry-hopping process, I was expecting the finished product to have some level of haze, however, this IPA had clarity that parallels a clean, crisp pilsner. There is excellent head retention that creates a one-finger head, leaving very intricate lacing when it dissipates.
The aroma of this IPA is very assertive, but contains a wonderful brightness full of citrus notes of grapefruit. This explosion of grapefruit is most likely due the use of Cascade and Citra hops during dry-hopping because they have been described to contain a tropical fruit flavor. Along with this tropical fruit flavor, Hop Manna contains a piney hop character and a grain quality that reminds me of terrible breakfasts of fiber and bran cereals. As the beer warmed and was continuously agitated by swirling, the aroma developed a floral quality that was quite nice.
The taste profile was somewhat one-dimensional with the explosion of hops. This one-dimensionality lingered on the palate for what seemed to be an excessive amount of time after each sip. I personally enjoyed the taste lingering because it allowed for a continuous merging of each individual sip. As with the aroma, the taste profile also developed an added complexity after the beer had warmed. It produced a floral character that went well with the citric hoppiness and a hint of peppery spice.
I really enjoyed the full medium body of this IPA. There was a light level of carbonation that may have caused the mouthfeel to feel a little sticky or chewy. Even with this perceived stickiness, I found Hop Manna to be quite smooth and very flavorful.
I am slowly developing a true affinity for the He'Brew Beer side of Shmaltz Brewing Company (Other side = Coney Island). Hop Manna is the newest of the fifteenth anniversary collection that includes: Funky Jewbelation, Genesis 15:15, Jewbelation Fifteen in 22 ounce bottles and Genesis and Messiah in 12 ounce bottles.  Their beers are very flavorful and highly drinkable with an uniqueness and individuality that speaks to me. For all you hopheads out there, this IPA has an acrid character that will definitely please your palate. Give it a try and let me know what you think.