Ballast Point Sculpin IPA

sculpinipaAmerican IPA, Ballast Point Brewing Company, CA, USA, 7.00% ABV

Pours: beautiful golden colour with a sticky massive head.

Aroma: woah. Tropical fruit overload here; mango, pineapple, passion fruit then some grapefruit, tangerine, slight pine and then a little tobacco. Unbelievably aromatic. Terrific stuff. Hard to believe a beer could smell this good.

Taste: wow. *another mouthful* Where to start with this one? Loads of tropical fruit upfront that almost overwhelm the palette, with some honey sweetness also thrown in. The earthy, woody tobacco complexities of the hops start to battle through and raise their heads above the tropical parapets. The (pale) malts have no chance in this brew but can be detected lurking in the background desperately trying to keep everything in order. And it works. Very much so. In fact the malts shine in the finish with a little biscuit / grain that combine well with the fruity notes that, after they’ve blitzed my taste buds, are starting to wane.

This is an absolute monster of an IPA. One of the very best I’ve had.

9.5/10

Full Sail IPA

fullsailipaAmerican IPA, Full Sail Brewing Company, OR, USA, 6.00% ABV

A beer I’ve had on numerous occasions and from the makers of the wonderful Amber Ale.

Pours: clear light golden with a massive head.

Aroma: floral, grainy, little citrus and a little nutty. Not an overly strong aroma but good.

Taste: smooth, and refreshing. The taste very much mimics the aroma. The hop bitterness is there but not as powerful a pull as the usual American IPA. Slightly earthy, slightly floral and a little bitterness. The malt lurks in the background throwing bready and cracker flavours to the mix. It’s a very restrained IPA that has complexities and many layers.  A grainy finish with a little butter (diacetyl?).

This is very much an old school American IPA, maybe closer to an English IPA but still a fabulous beer.

Score: 8.5/10

Bell’s Amber Ale

Bell's Amber AleAmber Ale, Bell’s Brewery, Inc., MI, USA, 5.80% ABV

What a crap label. I mean, look at it; abysmal. How can such a revered brewery put that label on one of their beers? Come on guys, you can do better than that.

Pours: amber honey, slight haze, very impressive head

Aroma: floral, slight citric, some bready malt and grain. All very subtle, but good.

Taste: very, very smooth. Caramel malt, moderate bitterness, toasted grain with floral hops that run throughout. Finish is toffee, toasted grain and citric notes.

This is superb. It gives Full Sail Amber a run for the money as the best American Amber I’ve had. The beer itself is smooth and very drinkable with all characteristics and notes being subtle and subdued which makes for a fantastic session beer.

Score: 9/10

Otter Creek Copper Ale

Otter Creek Copper AlelAmber Ale, Otter Creek Brewing / Wolaver’s, Vt, USA, 5.00% ABV

This was one of the first I had when I first arrived in NYC. I’ve had a it a few time since so it can’t be bad, can it?

Pours: medium brown, hint of red. Very thin lacing.

Aroma: malty, grainy, hints of toffee / caramel. Faint hops. A little fruit.

Taste: pretty much follows the aroma. Some earthy flavours also present, with some biscuit notes throughout. A little spice and toffee towards the end.

This is a solid, easy drinking amber ale.

Score: 8/10

Bell’s Brewry Two Hearted Ale

KBC Two Hearted Ale CMYK.aiAmerican IPA, Bell’s Brewery, Inc., MI, USA, 7.00% ABV

Finally! Finally! I have my hands on the legendary Two Hearted Ale – an ale that always appears on America’s ‘best of’ beer lists. A big shout out to @Mike_Polizzi for being generous enough to get this brew as a gift for me.

Appearance: medium, hazy amber with a head that disappears to thin lacing.

Aroma: yep – this is an IPA. Lots of floral. Lots of citrus. Some orange peel and a little grapefruit. Smells wonderful.

Taste: smooth. Very smooth. This is not what I was expecting. The pale malts lend to a doughy, biscuity, almost creamy flavour. But the medium hop bite is so smooth and so crisp that you almost forget you’re drinking an IPA. The finish is long, fruity -  the orange peel is present – and a little dry. But smooth. Oh so smooth.

This is a remarkable IPA. It ticks every box but, what makes it stand out, is that the hop bite gets so wrapped up in the smoothness that I can barely notice it. It’s as if the bitterness is caressing my mouth before falling into the depths of my belly. Just remarkable.

Score: 9.5/10

Schlafly Dry-Hopped American Pale Ale

apaAmerican Pale Ale, The Schlafly Tap Room, MO, USA, 5.9% ABV

Another from Schlafly – the brewery that gave me the wonderful Pale Ale.

Aroma: wow. Yep – an American beer! Apple aromas, some mint, some pine. A little tropical. Hop resin.

Pours: light Golden haze, decent head that lasts throughout.

Taste: tart apple and pear lends some sweetness immediately with a little earthy / woody notes lingering in the background.  Some pine. The finish has an abundance of hop dryness that leads to the ‘puckering’ of the mouth. Borderline IPA this. Very little grain right at the end.

Decent, quite drinkable, but nowhere near as good as the English Pale Ale.

Score: 7.5/10

Samuel Smith’s Organic Best Ale

samuel-smith-organic-best-aleEnglish Pale Ale, Samuel Smith Old Brewery, UK, 5.00% ABV

One from the motherland, and, err, one I’ve never had before:

Pours: hazy amber with a 2 finger head that doesn’t disappear.

Aroma: lemon and biscuit grain. Other, softer fruits also present. Wonderful.

Taste: smooth, very smooth. Lots of malt upfront but it’s not at all powerful or overbearing – just a wonderful biscuit grain that is present throughout. The hops come in with slight bitterness, leaving little floral and herb notes. There is a fruity sweetness that is present throughout but gains strength after the hops subside. The end is grainy and a little dry. A little pepper in the finish?

I can’t believe I’ve never had this before. It’s wonderfully subtle but tasty and smooth with a little bite and very, very drinkable.

Score: 9/10