Four really western pale ales and one of my favorites, Southern Tier IPA, from western New York...that counts, right? I don't know what I am expecting to find from this selection. The Rouge Seahorse as well as both Mojo and Hazed & Infused are new to me. But it is time to do another random cross section like I have in the past just to find out what there is to find out.
- Red Seal Ale: I have had this pale ale - from North Coast Brewing of Fort Bragg, California - once before and really enjoy it. It is a orange-butterscotchy-rust sort of coloured ale with a nice tan head that resolves to a lace-leaving foam and rim. There is plenty of malt here - this is no hop bomb. Yet it is also richer, bigger than a lot of pale ales with the malt being well cut by a discrete measure of green and white pepper hop. If this were on tap it would be definitely a go to pale ale, perhaps the one you order first to sip as you contemplate the taps. Yet 2% of 340 BAers do not say good things. There is complaint of wet cardboard. You see that description from time to time when malt is not overly fruity or particularly grainy. I think it may be due to a little too much light crystal malt which gives a certain sort of roundness to an ale.
- Seahorse Pale Ale: this beauty from Rogue (apparently a limited edition that I can't find a news release about) pours a chill-hazed amber with a nice peachy tinge under a fine white foam and rim. There is a sweet malt graininess to the nose; in the mouth the ale is light and fresh. Plenty of fruit in the malt here as well as a more-ish-ness from the fresh soft water. The fruit is apricot and raspberry, light and early summerish. Underneath is a seam of light bread crust, almost biscuity malt. All framed by a well balanced but deftly placed a supporting cast of hops. The hops are delicately herbal. An extraordinarily fine restrained take on the humble pale ale. BAers all approve.
- Hazed and Infused: This ale from the Boulder Beer Company pours clear reddish light chestnut under a tan head. The structure is very interesting...by which I mean the way the taste plays out is a little unconventional. There is a good base of raisiny malt with a tiny note of cocoa. Above that there is a sorts of watery gap and then there is the arc of the hops. And, as the name would suggest, the hops are the thing. Not a bomb at all but a clever bit of work. A balance of citrus, spice and menthol that sits whispering amongst itself, a trinity of sorts. Both the selection of these hops and their placement in the overall structure of the beer ends up being somewhat cerebral, not unlike a Bordeaux in a way. The water is a little hard for my taste but this is a Colorado beer and they seem to tend to go that way. 96% of the advocatonians approve with the rest citing lack of balance...but I suspect the unusual balance was a key point for the brewmaster planning this beer. At 4.85% is it a light IPA or a highly hopped pale? There's an argument for the dullard.
- Mojo IPA: Again from Boulder Beer, this one pours light amber under a white rim. I popped this one after a day of moving and what a treat. A big hoppy mouthful of chewy green weed and orange citrus. Not hot or overwhelming but big. Under that, to add to the mouthful, the malt has a rich fruity core with pear and cherry notes. As the finish begins there is a hit of twig and grain husk which morphs back into long, lingering weedy green hoppiness. Only 1% of BAers are crappy about Mojo. A great American IPA.
- Southern Tier IPA: I reviewed this one before in 2004 and again in 2005. I also had it on tap at The Nines in Ithaca on a stinking hot evening in June. I like it. I like it a lot. More hop forward that the Mojo but clearly cousins even if it is much darker, as illustrated.