I picked up these five a while ago from Ithaca's Finger Lake Beverage Center and I thought it was about time to put them on the reviewing stage. I have not visited the brewery which is located just to the south east of the Adirondacks about half way between the state capital of Albany and Lake George Village, NY home of the Adirondack Pub and Brewery. The story of the brewery is pretty interesting with its original brewing facility at Ukiah, California as well as the New York presence at Saratoga Springs. Lew Bryson in his book New York Breweries explains that the New Yorker was as separate operation called Nor'Wester, how a financial backer of both breweries, the UB brewing group of India, had to take control of its investments during an economic downturn which led to the unifying of both businesses under the Mendocino name with its birds of prey theme...except for the heron...unless you are a fish.
Anyway, here is my take on these five clearly labelled as being from the Mendocino NY brewery:
- White Hawk IPA: A nice rich faintly tan head sits over medium-dark straw. The aroma is malty with a bit of floral hop. The first sip is impressive with big hot green hops extremely well balanced with a round pale and crystal malt body. Lew actually notes this ale in his very handy NYS brewery updates:
White Hawk IPA is brutal. Whackingly hopped with plenty of European buds, this one will make you wake up.It is pretty bright with that core of heat I more associate with west coast than east coast IPAs but its balance keeps it from getting out of hand. The hops shift from green and weedy - that "I just drove my landmover through a ditch" thing - into white grapefruit peel and then into orange marmalade. There is also a nice "stock ale" note of mustiness (a good thing) right in the middle. There is plenty of pale malt graininess in there too. It is a bit big to distinguish the sorts of pale ale fruit notes but at 7% and with this level of hopping, that is to be expected. Quite a number of BAer's are not on board but it is hard to tell if they are talking about the IPA from this brewery or that or whether there is a difference. I like it a lot.
- Eye of the Hawk Select Ale: Beige foam over quite carbonated 8% orange ale. The aroma is sweet raisin and orange marmalade. In the mouth it is orange peel, green hop, heat and rich sweet malt with dried apricot fruit. Very pleasantly sitting between an ESB and an IPA. A little unusual in that it is a bit heavier like a light coloured Wells Bombardier and almost candy cane in the ending with the sweet and the green hops. The BAers generally like it.
- Summer Ale: This ale pours a pale straw under white rim. Floral corriander aroma gives a hint of the corriander, twiggy hop with a touch of orange peel in the sippery. It is something like a light pale ale meeting a wit without many of the pitfalls that show up along the route of that plan. One key to that is that has a reasonably rich body for the goal. Unlike, say, the Saranac Summer Ale, I don't think this is a largely wheat-based ale - though the bottle says it is made with malted barley and unmalted wheat. It certainly is not grassy green and is crystal clear with a little sediment so it has not been filtered. The bottle also says it is a white and The BAers call it a wit and, then, 21% of them say they do not like it. If I were judging it as a Belgian wit I might not either. But as a US summer ale, a label without a fixed style, a bit of lawnmower ale with a bit of class - I like it.
- Red Tail Ale: The label on the neck says "American Classic". Is that an APA or something else? The Advocatrons say it is a American Red Ale. I think sometimes that this new style thing is getting a wee bit out of hand. Not all the time. But sometimes. Anyway, I like this beer. It is a perfectly respectable ESB - reddish amber, a bit raisiny sweet, a bit of extra body. 11% of BAers say no again. I wonder why I like this brewery and they are having difficulties? I know on thing I do like is that the water is fairly soft allowing the hops and malts to play a bit, not shrouded by the bitter dryness of hard water. Plus what is not to like about the orangey thing all the beers seem to have going for them. It is like the house yeast strain has a little Belgian in it, a bit spicy like a dubble. These things I like. It could stand up to BBQ. I conversely stand up for BBQ.
- Winter Ale: Winter ale? This ain't no winter ale! A winter ale is an old ale or a stock ale like Geary's or a Burton. They hold entire festivals to other styles and call them winter ales. OK. It is like a St. Peter's Winter Ale - but they are weirdos at St. Peters. Good weirdos but weirdos. Who knew there was another brewery that would make a licorice root based porter and call it winter ale? This beauty has mocha rim over deep dark brown ale. There is pumperknickle, loverly balancing twiggy and maybe limey hops cutting the deep rich ale. Fruit? Yea, I suppose. Plummy and apple butterish. But underneath that (and not too well hidden) there is a great shale-like deposit of tightly packed particulate of chocolate malt. Really rather nice. One BAer says this is unique to the NY brewery and I can believe it. Could you drink this beer more than three hours drive from the Adirondacks? Sure you could...but would you?