Sunday, March 3, 2013

Doubling Up at TAPS Petaluma

Double the fun yesterday at TAPS in Petaluma: their Double IPA Festival with everyone invited to be a judge (see form below). Total of 15 entries, we could pick as few or as many as we wanted (being able to walk out the door later a big consideration). 

Choices were to be ranked 1-10, 1 being the favorite.
I made my choices partially on the policy of eliminating beers I have already had, plus the need to keep the alcohol down (goodbye, Simtra!) so I chose four, all with less than 9.9% ABV.

My choices (left to right in the photo):

Beltane's The Frog That Ate The World, 8.5% ABV. Beltane is a new, small producer from Novato. Taking a look at my notes, I see that I described it as having a good hoppy aroma, slight hazy color, light to medium body, good hops flavor evident but not overly aggressive (Nelson Sauvin hops used) contributing to a dry, bitter but balanced finish. Yep, I think the folks at Beltane are on to something here.

Next was the Knee Deep Hoptologist, 9% ABV.  Knee Deep is another small, CA brewery, up in Lincoln, near Sacto.
This one got me excited right away. Reddish-orange color, clear with off-white head, big rush of hops in the aroma and flavor, both citrus and pine evident, just enough malt sweetness to finish balanced and dry. Just the way I like them. I learned that among the hops blend is citra, which I now recognize as a hop that contributes to many of my favorites brews. I suspected that this would turn out to be my favorite.

Then came Stone's Enjoy By 4.01.2013, 9.4%. I had already heard about this latest version from Stone selling fast (Beercraft in Rohnert Park apparently went thru four cases in minutes) so I was eager to try it. Yowza! Can you say, "real fresh" boys and girls? The goal of these releases, according to Mitch Steele, Stone Brewmaster and author, is to get the freshest beer possible out to an eager public, something like two weeks from brewing to the bottle or keg. It all works; this was a true treat. Fresh hop aroma and taste, though understated, lively carbonation sent the creamy body back across the palate with a dry, long lasting finish. Hops are not as aggressive as a Double might suggest, but very satisfying to this hophead. I understand now how it became so popular. I recommend you try it while it is still available... as the label says, come April 1, it's history!

Lastly comes Victory Ranch, 9% ABV. Unfortunately, this one had an off, bleu-cheese flavor which I brought to Eric's (TAPS owner) attention.  He quickly checked the keg and lines to see what might be the cause. A fresh pour was better, but by then I had lost my enthusiasm. I was not the only one who noticed, more about that later.

As I mentioned, there were 15 choices available and, yes, someone actually ordered them all.

These adventurous souls are Scott Mize of Petaluma, and Kelly Reinhart, Rohnert Park, both self-described hopheads! There are only 4 oz. pours but remember, these are high gravity brews, so they are possibly risking life, limb and driver's licenses. But, they being intelligent, experienced fans know that it's taste and variety, not volume here.
Scott was the one who agreed with me about the off flavor in the Victory so Eric also 
conferred with him and brought a fresh pour to sample. We agreed that there was an improvement but the beer wasn't satisfying. I'll try it again another time under different circumstances and see what my impression is.

Eric LaFranchi confers with Scott, r, about the Victory Ranch, while Kelly enjoys her latest sample.

And my favorite choice of Double IPAs? Well, Kelly and I agreed on Knee Deep's Hoptologist and Scott chose the Knee Deep Simtra. And a good time was had by all!!

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