What do we have here. A variety of pale ales, one of which I reviewed back in July 2005 with this group of six US pale ales. There are two Pennsylvanians, two Californians and a couple of upstate New Yorkers in this group which ranges from mellow grainy pale to a hot hoppy double IPA. For my money, these sort of selections represent the true breakthrough in US craft brewing with its focus on the accentuation of the hop amid the graininess of the malt. It is based on the English pale ale but has moved well away from it, creating a new dialect of beer which must be understood if one is to place the microbrew revolution of the last 20 years in its proper context. Plus they are just really good beers.
- Stone Mill Organic Pale Ale: From Green Valley Brewing otherwise known as Anheuser-Busch, the largest brewer in the galaxy...and beyond. The single brand website should be something of a giveaway. On the pour, after the orange and raisin nose, you have strongly orange-amber ale under white rim and lacing foam with large lazy carbonation. Beyond the branding, underneath the comforting artwork and the organic product logos is a reasonably acceptable beer. The mouth feel has the texture that speaks a bit of malt extract in its roundness but it does so in a big body with some pretty husky grain and hearty hopping as well. If anything it is a little over the top - which I think it good. There is plenty of fruit in the malt - earthy fall apple and pear - while in the hops there is some licorice within a large twigginess. In the end, there is a notch too much cloy but I forgive that given the effort being made to place so much taste in an A-B product. If this division continues, it may make some more interesting products. If it does not, it will likely not continue. 84% of BAers approve which is not bad if you thing about.
- India Pale Ale: from Wagner Valley Brewing Company, Finger Lakes, NY. As tipped off in the comments, yes, Gary visited this brewery last June and provided a great report that included a review of this brew as well as some photos. One of the most massively headed ales in the history of human existence, orange tinged caramel under an off-white tall mousse of rocky head. This ale is hugely fragrent of flowers - roses and fressia - with a base of rich sweetness. In the mouth, hot green hots overwhelm sweet malt of raisin and apple with white pepper. Joining it all together is a creaminess that comes from the soft water, malt and yeast. This 6% beer gets high marks from the advocatonians with 98% approval.
- Harvest Ale: from Southern Tier of western New York. Ale the colour of aged honey-varnished pine...one can only write "golden" so many times...under white rim and foam. Less thick than Southern Tier's IPA, a fan favorite, giving more room for malt graininess to peek through. The hops are still the thing, mainly green but with white grapefruit as well, all white pepper hot as well. The Hops relax mid-mouth forebearing stridency for vegetative rich creaminess enhanced by the soft water. The particulars of the fruit in the malt is fairly overwhelmed but appleness is a fair call. A great beer to cut BBQ. All the BAers like this one - and with a review average over 4/5, they like it a lot.
- Snake Dog IPA: from Flying Dog. Copperish-reddish-amber ale under a creamy tan head. Very soft with a fresh water core at the outset with, in something of a reversal compared to the Harvest Ale above, the hops coming on mid-mouth. The malt is first cherry and orange juice then raisin. THe hops are sub-assertively astringent with greenness. The finish is very dry. This is an excellent example of a beer that has layering from start to finish rather than vertically. Here is what the brewer says about Snake Dog. A significant number of BAers, 13%, do not like this one. The low end seem disappointed that this 5.8% is not a hop bomb in the nature of another style, the double IPA. Very odd but we all come to each beer alone and leave each behind again in solitude. Errr...I have no idea what that was supposed to mean either but it makes as much sense as having a problem with this beer.
- Hops Infusion IPA: from Weyerbacher of Pennsylvania. Creamy off-white deep foam and lace over caramel orange amber ale. I really like this one. A massive mouth of hops without most of the tooth-stripping astringent power or the spicy heat. Lots of green but not like the arugual fest that is Ithaca's Flower Power IPA. Then what is it? Something like a peppermint candy wrapped in leaf lettuce, maybe? A bit celeryish in there, too. Then, cream honey buttery richness to the malt that opens mid-cake-hole as well. Something of a blackcurrant note in the finish. Deceptive at 6.2%, I would definitely buy this one again. Love it. The brewery says this was redesigned in 2005 and most of the unhappy 7% of BAer reviews are from before that.
- Double IPA: from Stoudts of Pennsylvania. This is an old favorite and one I would stock regularly if I could get my hands on it. Orange caramel beer under orange cream lacy rim and foam. In the mouth, it is like a dollop of Seville marmalade, double cream and white pepper with some green herbs added. Soft water smooth. Big at 10% and 90 IBUs but it all works so well together, without any of the hops head or boozy bombiness that would otherwise stick out - all that rich double cream effect. Only a few BAers do not get it. I can't even look to see why. You look if you must.