Breweries love releasing different selections of beers depending on the season as if I change what I drink based on the season. Some would suggest that IPAs are summer beers although thankfully IPAs have been showing up in winter selections lately. For a few years I have been looking forward to each new selection of winter beers from New Belgium for a few reasons. One, I tend to buy so many IPAs I never have anything around to drink that is lighter in alcohol. Two, they brew some great beers and I usually enjoy most of the selections. Though I am a bit disappointed that the Belgium IPA is not included anymore this year, the new double IPA more than makes up for it. This is primarily a review of the double IPA although I will also briefly review some of the other inclusions.
Though a bit on the darker side this doesn’t have the insane malt flavors that plague many of the imperials. It has a nice mix of peach and floral flavors. At 8.5% it is the right amount of alcohol to satisfy the hop craving without knocking you out. This beer comes with some of their IPA, Belgium Red, winter lager, and fat tire. Each of the beers has a unique taste, unlike some Sam Adams boxes where you might have a hard time telling one beer from another. It is understandable that you have to buy some of the lighter beers to get the IPAs because the IPAs are so expensive to produce. The winter ale and fat tire are both tasty for what they are. If you can find the Folly Pack in stores for around $12 for a 12pack, do yourself a favor and pick one up.
Hess has been around for a while. They started out as a nanobrewery and for a long time were one of the smallest breweries around the Mira Mesa area. Slowly but surely they expanded their reach and this year they opened a brewery in North Park. Sadly, the Mira Mesa tasting room still uses plastic cups for the tasters and they charge a premium for the chance to get your tasters in a glass. Considering that some of the smaller breweries out there use glass for their tasters it seems a bit quaint that they would stick with this route. Part of why I didn’t go back since my last visit was the plastic cups used for everything.
Beer wise, Hess has an interesting selection. They are not the place to go if you like heavy hop flavors in your beers. Today I got to try a few tasters because the selection was so large that I couldn’t possibly try everything, though I am not sure I will go back to finish out the rest. The Pumpkin Stout was interesting and I had it both on tap and on nitro. Though it has a nice creamy flavor it was not particularly impressive. There wasn’t a lot of pumpkin flavor in the beer to make it stand out from the rest of the pumpkin beers, and also not much spice flavor either. Still, as a stout it was really good even if it did not have the flavor to match its high 8% abv.
The IPA was interesting in that it wasn’t insanely malty like some and wasn’t insanely hopy either. So it was a nice balanced brew and had some solid hop flavors. Still, it did not do enough to compete with some of the better IPAs I have had recently, especially the Perseus IPA from Intergalactic. The Belgian American Pale was the standout from what I had this day. It has the sweet flavors of a Belgian beer with the added bitterness of a pale. I wasn’t about to order a pint in plastic cups though. I finished off with a taster of the Rye Imperial Stout. It had a solid stout flavor with the chocolate flavors but did not really impress me compared to other similar beers I have had recently.
Compared to some of the upstart breweries around here, I would suggest you give Hess a try if you like the Belgian flavors. Hop heads should look elsewhere for now. I probably won’t be back until they start using glasses.
You may not have heard about this smaller brewery out in Poway. I didn’t visit them for a long time because they had some strange hours initially. Now that I have been there I realize why the hours are not like your ordinary tasting room. They don’t serve pints. You can only order tasters and then pick up bottles of beer to take home. I have no problem with this though because the beers I was able to taste this time were quite good. It isn’t very obvious from these pictures but there is really no bar to speak of and no areas to sit down. You might even wonder if you are in the right place at first because there are offices you pass on the way inside.
I biked over so I didn’t try very many tasters. I was quite impressed with the barrel aged red ale. It reminded me of a bourbon barrel aged scotch ale that Ballast Point made years ago and I have been craving more of ever since. The double IPA was nice and balanced without too much malt flavor that can sometimes destroy a good double. The electrostatic was a solid Belgian Trippel. If you don’t like Belgian beers stay far away. For me it was not too sweet and had a nice smooth taste that really masked the higher alcohol content. The porter was not on tap but they gave me a taste from the bottles. It had a wonderful thick flavor and fit nicely in between your ordinary porter and an imperial. The chocolate flavors were really nice.
As you can see they bottle most of their beers. You might be able to find them at your local liquor store or it might be worth the trip to the brewery to buy some direct. Hop heads should check out the Imperial IPA. If you know someone who loves chocolate in porter, this one is the perfect present to share.