by Hop Nation USA's Steve
On podcast Episode 116, our friend Bryan from Tap That Brewing brought us beer from North Carolina. We review a D9 tropical IPA, a Catawba witbier, and a Wicked Weed west coast IPA. Those weren’t the only beers he brought us, though. There were actually two more westies; the NoDa Hop, Drop ‘n Roll IPA and the Appalachian Mountain Brewery Long Leaf IPA. It was nice to learn west coast IPAs aren’t dead, even in a beer hotspot like N.C.
I’ve been craving more and more clean west coast style. The local market seems to be flooding with soft, NEIPAs. When they’re done well, they’re fine. Too often I’m finding these beers to underdeliver on flavor and even worse cans can be filled with yeast sludge. It’s not appealing and not cool no matter how much hazehype marketing tries to push it. Thankfully, both of these westies were clean and clear.
I did find the NoDa offering the better tasting of the two though and is actually my favorite of the five beers we got from North Carolina. It’s incredibly bright and fresh with a lot of flavor. The majority of the hop flavors really hammer you at the end of a sip, but there’s a good balance between citrus and piney. The pine tree flavors are present without being overpowering, although there’s more of resinous aftertaste because of them. You can thank the Chinook hops for this I’m sure. While I’m sure this beer would turn off anyone who’s not into IPAs, it’s great for anyone who wants to return to the good ol’ days when beer was filtered and flavors mattered just as much as aroma. The one downside is I can see the hops causing palate fatigue from constantly going back from more, much like getting a stomach ache from eating too much candy on Halloween when you were a kid. You know you should stop, but you can’t. It’s that reason I completely understand why this beer won a World Beer Cup Gold Award. Definitely seek it out when you can.
The other west coast IPA from AMB, I can’t give as much praise to. Simply because I don’t think this beer has the universal appeal the NoDa does. If they’re goal with the Long Leaf was to can pine trees, they did it beautifully. This beer is for a very specific palate and that person probably uses Simcoe hops in place of parsley. It makes perfect sense, though. AMB originates from Boone, North Carolina which isn’t on the coastal side the state. They’re much closer to the mountainous, forest dense areas also known as the Appalachians...uh, doy. So yes this beer captures the area, and they don’t lie about it on the can even. AMB is very upfront in saying/warning drinkers there is “...an intense, resinous hop flavor that will stay with you, pint after pint.” And then after you brush your teeth, go to bed, wake up the next morning, on your way to work...it sticks with you, get it? I can only recommend this beer to the most serious of piney IPA lovers, mostly because I don’t want it wasted by people who would think it’s yucky. I will say both this beer and the NoDa were more flavorful than the Pernicious IPA from Wicked Weed we reviewed on the podcast. However, I see more universal appeal for the Pernicious over the Long Leaf. As a final note, I will point out Appalachian Mountain Brewery does make it clear portions of their beer sales do go to conservation and sustainability through the We Can So You Can Foundation. So if nothing else, do it for the trees.
It’s a shame we can’t easily try more from these breweries to get a better profile of them overall. North Carolina just isn’t a strong distributor for the Pittsburgh area. I’m not counting Sierra Nevada and New Belgium, either. But as hyperlocalization increases, it becomes less likely for our shelf space to be occupied by N.C. beer. Strangely enough, I’ve been getting my Burial and Hi-Wire fix from Ohio stores. Hope isn’t completely gone, but I think for now we’ll have to rely on the kindness of vacationing and work traveling friends.
At this point I believe I’ve had the three most decadent of the Decadent Ales offerings I can get my hands on. Those being the French Toast, the Double Toasted Marshmallow and the Creamsicle. I can firmly say without hyperbole, Decadent absolutely lives up to their namesake. A lot of breweries have nonsense, in-jokes or just named for local attractions as names. Decadent isn't just a name, it's truth in advertising and perhaps a warning to some. Check out podcast Episode 54 and Episode 67 for reviews on the Marshmallow and Creamsicle, respectively.
by Hop Nation USA's Steve
On Episode 51(listen here), we reviewed spruce beers from Alaskan, Yards and Dogfish Head. The latter two were good beers, although the spruce flavor was arguably muted by caramel and malty notes. However, the Alaskan Winter Ale was notably unpleasant to drink. There was little to no spruce flavor. Instead, it was full of coppery and metallic notes which overpowered any other flavors present. It was with trepidation and hope I approached the Alaskan Spruce IPA. Trepidation, because I had just been burned by the Winter Ale, but hope because I’ve found the majority of offerings from Alaskan to be rather good.