Beer Journal

A quasi-daily examination of beer and things related to beer.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Favorite Pale Ales

There's a running gag at my house: whenever someone asks how I want my coffee, the answer is always, "I like my chocolate, coffee and beer like I like my wife - dark and bitter". (For the record, she added herself to the list.) But it's still mostly true, I love my beers when they bite me back; the hoppier the better. Recently, I was challenged to name my favorite India Pale Ales. Well, I could probably only come up with ten to 15 that I've actually tasted, so I expanded the list to include all pale ales, whether intended for the Asian subcontinent or not.

Pale ales are best enjoyed with pizza and/or pasta dishes, but for my money the only occasions that don't call for one are the beer-specific holidays. Here are my top ten, in reverse order, of course:

10. Blind Faith
Magic Hat (South Burlington, VT)
Unfortunately, this beer is no longer in production. During its heyday, however, it was one of those treat beers. You know, the one's that you buy on pay day because a six pack runs about nine dollars?

9. Dead Guy Ale
Rogue (Ashland, OR)
Drinking this beer won't kill you, but it will render you unfit to perform even the most everyday of tasks.

8. Fire Rock Pale Ale
Kona Brewing Company (Kailua-Kona, HI)
An on-premises-only beer that I have only enjoyed once, along side a brick oven pepperoni pizza, this is the lightest brew of the bunch. Maybe I like it so much because I love where it's from. But that's OK, right?

7. Broken Halo IPA
Widmer Brothers Brewery (Portland, OR)
See the post prior to this one for a full explanation.

6. Red Hook ESB
Red Hook (Seattle, WA)
I happen to be drinking this right now. It could be a smidgen hoppier, and maybe a little less acidic, but other than that, it's fantastic.

5. Snake Dog IPA
Flying Dog Brewery (Denver, CO)
I was originally drawn to this company's beers because of their Ralph Steadman's illustrated labels. Fortunately for me (and I guess the company, too), the art is a terrific representation of the beers contained within.

4. Celebration Ale
Sierra Nevada (Chico, CA)
As the name and label suggest, this beer is perfect for the winter holidays, especially when taken straight from the (ridiculously expensive) keg.

3. Saranac India Pale Ale
Matt Brewing Company (Utica, NY)
Graciously affordable and smoothly delicious. I love the entire run of Saranac beers, and this one is the best of the lot.

2. Syracuse Pale Ale
Middle Ages Brewing Company (Syracuse, NY)
This is a near-perfect ale, in my mind. For those of you in the CNY area, try foregoing the usual happy hour in favor of a visit to the Middle Ages brewery. The free samples come with zero stipulations. (Other than bringing a designated driver.)

1. Hop Devil Ale
Victory (Downington, PA)
Sweet Jesus! This is the sharpest IPA I can recall, a beer that perfectly embodies all three terms implied by its (let's face it) cartoonish name.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Now on Tap: Broken Halo IPA

Style: India Pale Ale
Brewer: Widmer Brothers Brewery
Location: Portland, Oregon, USA
Alcohol: 6.0

Every once in a great while, a beer I haven't tried show up on the shelves of the local HEB. Even rarer, will this out of nowhere drink actually taste good. Broken Halo IPA, from Portland, Oregon based Widmer Brothers Brewery breaks (sorry) both of those molds. In fact, it might be one of the best beers I have ever tasted.

Ok, ok, so perhaps it's a little early (five glasses) into it to claim that, but I can already certify that Broken Halo is a drink that almost perfectly embodies what I look for in a beer: dark amber color, sharp hoppiness, no souring. In fact, the only thing that this beer lacks is a frothy head. In fact, it's pretty dead.

But that's more of an aesthetic quality, and what it lacks in presentation, Broken Halo more than makes up for in taste. Is it a perfect IPA? No, but it's a very, very good drink that is a perfect (if not spectacular) representation of its target type.

Beer Advocate Review
Beervana Review
Belmont Station Review

Rating: 8.6