Pours a murky, dark orange. I get ripe cherries, damp earth, and caramel in the aroma. What’s interesting about this beer is that the alcohol hits the chest immediately, but they’ve crafted in such a way that you won’t taste the alcohol. Similar to a barleywine, I get a wine-like tartness in the flavor. At 85 IBUs, it’s got a pungeant, grapefruit bitterness, yet it’s remarkably well balanced out with caramel and bread malt flavors. I think of the IPA as a summer beer, but this beer would find easy company with winter warmers. It’s certainly not one to drink lightly at a barbeque; its high ABV (11.5%) is better suited for sipping in the cozy indoors on a cold, winter day.
SNPA competes with Widmer’s Hefeweizen and New Belgium’s Fat Tire for the title of Most Popular Beer in Portland. Yet, popularity is not always an indicator of quality. The aforementioned hefeweizien doesn’t taste like a hefeweizen at all (ironic, given it’s the flagship beer of the company). Anyway, this SNPA was the first beer I tried when I turned 21. I hated it then, when I didn’t have a palate for beer. Let’s see how I like it 10 years later…
Pours a golden color. Hardly any aroma, even after I let the beer warm up a little and swirled the beer in the glass. I get a barely-perceptible earthy sweetness. The flavor has a magnified version of this note, like a sweet rye bread. Hops balance out the sweetness nicely. Bitterness lingers on the tongue, and that eventually cuts down on the sweetness experienced in the early sips. It’s not the pungent grapefruit bitterness that’s typical of hoppy west coast beers, more of a crisp bitterness found in pilsners. If this beer were slightly less hoppy, I’d call it an amber. There’s a fair amount of carbonation that prickles the tongue, but it’s not overdone. (Lately I’ve taken to liking hefeweizens less because they’re overcarbonated, leading to feeling bloated.) Overall, SNPA doesn’t have any mind-blowing or unique flavors, but it’s exceptionally easy drinking.
Pours a clear, straw color with almost no head. Aroma is sweet, a hint of citrus, and a little caramel. The taste is surprisingly hoppy for the style, including a notable aftertaste. Medium carbonation and a syrupy mouthfeel. There’s some wheaty malt backbone, but the bitterness dominates overall. I feel like I’m drinking a pale ale, and it’s more of a sipper than a chugger. This isn’t what I was led to believe by the label, which claims it’s a session beer. It’s a perfectly decent beer, but you can find much better from Ninkasi, like their Believer.
This isn’t to do with beer, but I see a lot of parallels between “foodie” culture and microbrew culture.
These days, as the American gourmand becomes increasingly obsessed with the origins and purity of every organic nibble that might appear on, say, a cheese and fruit platter, it takes extra effort to fend off the vogue for shaggy, independent upstarts.
(I have a cold or allergies, so my tasting and smelling abilities aren’t at their peak right now.)
Barely any aroma, maybe slightly metallic and brown sugar. No head. Perfect amber color. Alcohol hits the chest quickly. You know what this tastes like? The previously reviewed Winter Solstice Seasonal Ale (Anderson Valley Brewing Company), but with more bitterness, and there’s a prickly carbonated feel, so that the beer does not go down smoothly. I see other reviewers claiming the beer’s too malty and sweet, but I don’t get that at all. The hops overwhelm and blast out the malts. It’s not a bad beer, just not one to savor.
I should try Cinder Cone Red from Deschutes for comparison.
I have a special treat tonight. This beer is ranked #7 in the world among hefeweizens on beeradvocate.com. I’d been looking for it for well over a year. Even stores with normally great beer selection like Whole Foods haven’t carried it. I found it at a Plaid Pantry of all places! (For those who don’t live in my area, Plaid Pantry is a convenience store chain local to Salem, Portland, and Seattle. It’s similar to 7-Eleven, except instead of Indians behind the counter, you’ll find eccentric white people.)
Anyway, as expected, the beer is tremendously good. In my mind, I’m comparing it to Franziskaner’s hefeweizen. Like that beer, this one is utterly true to the style: cloudy, dark yellow appearance; a sweet banana aroma (and I get some “rubbery” and musky aromas too); well-carbonated; and a banana bread taste with just a slight, crisp hop bite that leaves quickly. Technically, this is a summer beer, but, like a boss, I’m drinking it when it’s 33 degrees outside in my city.
Update 24 May 2011: changing this to 4 stars instead of 5 stars. While this beer is the epitome of the style, this blog’s also my personal feelings on these beers. And lately, as I mentioned in a more recent post, I am avoiding beers with heavy carbonation.
This has nothing to do with beer. Or does it? There’s a fascinating article in the New York Times about how to best describe a wine. Certainly I’ve seen overly specific adjectives in reviews on sites like beeradvocate.com. For example, I pulled up a beer at random just now and the first review lists “buttered biscuits” as one of the flavors. What does that even mean? You’d think “bready” would suffice.