Rambling Reviews 10.25.2016: Deschutes’s Hopzeit, Mammoth Brewings Double Nut Brown Porter and Gordon-Biersch’s Chum

Time again to ramble on about a three brews I’ve tried lately.

We’ll start with Hopzeit from Deschutes, which they describe as an Autumn IPA as it’s basically a cross between a Marzen and an IPA.  I first tried this at the original Deschutes brewpub in Bend, OR and was a bit underwhelmed. It came across more as an interesting and not entirely successful brewing experiment. The hops seemed a little harsh, overwhelming the restrained, underlying Marzen, with the flavors clashing more than harmonizing. But I decided to give this one a second chance when I saw a six-pack of it at my local grocery store and that turned out to be a wise decision. Maybe the extra time in the bottle allowed the hops to mellow down to the right level, as the light sweet caramel maltyness and the citrussy orange hops with a touch of resin were far better balanced and harmonizing than the brewpub version. Kudos to Deschutes for crafting an IPA which truly tastes like fall, at least when it’s in the bottle.

Next up, Mammoth Brewing Company Double Nut Brown Porter. The annual family trip to Yosemite National Park is a time when we can all appreciate the surreal beauty John Muir popularized over a century ago and it’s also the time to snag my annual fix of Mammoth brews. Porter is one of my favorite styles that’s becoming an endangered species in the beer world. This one quickly jumped towards the top of my porter list with its complex coffee flavors which yield to more pecan nuttiness as the brew warms.  It’s very roasty, almost but not quite to the point of near ashyness, with virtually no sweetness to let all its great complexity shine through.

Finally, we get a beer with one of the most unappetizing names ever.  I’m talking about CHUM Dry Hopped Red Ale from Gordon Biersch, a tribute of sorts to the San Jose Sharks with which Gordon-Biersch has maintained a long partnership. Thankfully, it tastes a lot better than its name. There’s plenty of the toffee thing going on, with juicy, fruity esters suggesting apricot, and a soft earthy finish. It’s really well done, one of those beers that’s either very drinkable if that’s all you want, or one to ponder deeply into all of it’s flavor complexity if that’s what you in the mood for. A lot more than you’d normally expect from a sports tie-in beer.

But be careful, chum has led people into perilous situations.

Rambling Reviews 10.12.2015 : Mammoth Brewing Wild Sierra Farmhouse Saison, Ninkasi Noir Milk Stout, and Cucapa Runaway IPA

Time once again to review some of the more intriguing brews which crossed my path.

First up, Wild Sierra Farmhouse Saison from Mammoth Brewing Company.  Our family’s fall annual camping trip to Yosemite is not complete with picking up a few Mammoth brews at the Yosemite Valley store, since in and around Yosemite National Park is the only place you can find Mammoth’s beers. In this one, the fruity esters with plenty of apricot character blend well with the moderately toasty malt. Mammoth Brewing adds local pine needles to the brew, literally injecting the piney breezes of Yosemite into the mix, creating a clean freshness in the brew to bring it all together. Be forewarned, packs a bit of a punch for the style at 7.5% abv, yet I found it wondrously stimulating and refreshing sipping this on my front porch.

For our next beer, we turn to the dark side. It’s Ninkasi’s Noir Milk Stout with Coffee, part of Ninkasi’s Special Release series which the brewery sent over for a sample. Upon first sip, I detected the usual rich, creamy, and roasty characteristics of this style. But as the beer warmed and the flavors opened up, dark under currents began to emerge. Buried deep beneath the strong dark chocolate and coffee flavors, came the faint sounds of hops, scratching and clawing to break free. This is no easy sipper, it’s a compelling conflict in a glass as the characters struggle for flavor dominance in the darkness. An arresting experience.

Finally, beer karma compels me to write some nice things about Cucapa Cerveza since they apparently sent me some of their beers to sample. I say “apparently” because one day coming home from work, I find this big box on my porch and inside are 20 bottles of their different beers. No one wrote me from the brewery ahead of time asking me to try a sample, nor was there any letter in the box. For the most part, I enjoyed all the different beers from this Mexican brewery, which all had their own soft earthy quality to them. Of the bunch, I found their Runaway IPA highly exotic in its unabashed malt-forwardness. You can tell it’s an IPA with its noticeable floral, earthy bitterness poking through the slightly sweet malt background.  Maybe that’s just the way they do IPA’s south of the border, but I really appreciated how they resisted the temptation to smack you in the face with a bunch of hops like only 27 zillion other IPA’s do. Refreshing in both its restraint and soft edges, while it’s not mind blowing, this IPA’s may well force you rethink the possibilities of the style.

A Couple More from Mammoth Brewing

Last month during a trip to Yosemite National Park, I discovered a few brews from Mammoth Brewing, and brought a few home. Mammoth Lakes does not seem to distribute into the San Francisco Bay area, so I’m glad had a few to enjoy over the past month. You can read about a few of their beers on a post from last month, and wanted to add a couple more to list of their beers worth seeking out.

Hair of the Bear Doppel Bock
Tastes like liquid banana bread! Plenty of banana-like fruity esters, lots of roasted malt and maybe a slight taste of bitter chocolate in their. Feather like quality on the tongue and finishes very smoothly. The 9% abv isn’t noticeable with all those great flavors blended together.

395 Double IPA
Named after the highway through the Eastern Sierras, Mammoth Brewing uses local grown hops, dessert sage, and mountain juniper to create a unique, very savory, slightly earthy and somewhat herbal double IPA. There’s a good dose of slightly toasty malt to balance all the hop and herbal goodness. I just found this to be a very creative and memorable brew.