Penrose was quite the drive from an already out of the way sub-area of Chicago. Getting to Penrose from downtown Chicago would probably take at least an hour on a good day on the toll roads. Still, I saw a number of sours on their menu and heard some great things about their brews so we took the drive out there. While I was there I tried the white IPA, Belgian IPA, Mandarina sour, Deminus Roux sour, and Lemongrass saison.
The white IPA had a solid lemon and pine flavor from the hops with a medium amount of bitterness on the aftertaste. I was surprised that the Belgian yeast was not very prominent. Compared to the light golden white IPA the Belgian IPA was a darker more orange color with more resinous hop flavors and strong bitter aftertaste. Though I was surprised by how bitter this was it was nicely balanced in that the hops went well with the malts and yeast.
The Mandarina sour was very dry and highly carbonated with both a light golden color and a very light body fitting to its 4% alcohol. It was very medium sour and had a light citrus kick. Comparatively the Deminus Roux was a darker amber color and the flavor came through with very strong grapefruit and a heavy bitter aftertaste. This didn’t seem particularly sour either but was dominated by the grapefruit flavor that was very reminiscent of eating fresh grapefruit. All of the bitterness seemed like there was quite a bit of hops in there though it may have been from grapefruit rind. This was a favorite of one of the people I tasted with but the grapefruit was too much for me.
Before leaving I ordered a taster of the Lemongrass saison hoping that it would satisfy me in a way that I hadn’t yet been by the previous four tasters. I was quite glad when I took a sip because it had all of the delicious funk I expect from a proper saison with plenty of bright spice flavors and a light lemon kick on the back. This was also quite carbonated and some in my group who were not familiar with saisons were a bit surprised by the flavors. I savored this taster all to myself as the best from my visit. If I happen to visit them again I will certainly look for more saisons.
Brassneck hasn’t even been open a year (they first opened in October of 2013) and yet they felt like an established brewery from the selection and atmosphere. The look and feel of a place really does make a big difference. Brassneck was number 4 on my tour and I was ready for something to excite me. Thankfully I found something here. While at Brassneck I tried the pale ale, white IPA, passive aggressive dry-hopped pale ale, and inertia 2 barrel aged stout.
The pale ale was pretty standard with a heavy pine flavor and a respectable malt background. I’ve never really grown to like this style so it didn’t do much for me. The White IPA had a nice bright citrus flavor that bordered on being fruity. This beer used a special new hop called sorachi ace that gave it some lemon and herbal flavors.
The Passive Aggressive Dry Hopped Pale was my favorite of the bunch. Coming in at 7% it might as well have been an IPA. The beer had some solid pine/citrus flavors that reminded me of the west-coast style of IPA. I was so impressed I had to order some more of this one before I left. Finally, the barrel aged stout was listed at 11%. It had some great flavors but was also pretty boozy.
Brassneck seems like it already has a big following and will continue to grow into a mainstay in the Vancouver beer scene as things move forward. For such a young brewery I had some impressive beers that suggested they know what flavors work and where people want things to go.
Hopworks Urban Brewery (HUB) is another one of those big breweries that I tried outside of Portland and had to stop by. They wanted me to try a large number of tasters in order to get a flight so I elected to do a few small tastes since I was on my way to the waterfall. I ended up trying most of their beers I was interested in. In all I tried the Hopworks IPA, Survival Stout, Cascadian Dark Ale, UK Style IPA, White IPA, Kentucky Christmas, and Army of Darkness.
The Hopworks IPA had a nice bright pine flavor but it was also joined by some unpleasant soapy flavor possibly from using too much mosaic. The soapy taste kept me from enjoying this one very much. The Survival Stout was quite drinkable with a nice mix of coffee and roasted malts. It was not as full bodied as I prefer in my stouts and didn’t really stand out in any way.
The Cascadian Dark Ale was an interesting style I hadn’t heard of before but it seems in the Pacific Northwest area breweries like to hop up dark ales and since they use Cascade hops frequently it makes sense to give it a whole new name. It was good and balanced but to me felt like the hops could have been made a bit more prominent. The UK style IPA was far too mellow for my tastes and didn’t have much unique flavor to it.
The White IPA was quite dry and bitter but didn’t seem to have much of a particular hop flavor to recommend it. I didn’t much care for this one. The Kentucky Christmas was a delightful treat, a bourbon barrel aged Winter beer. The underlying beer let the bourbon flavors shine. I didn’t have much of this because it was on the stronger side and I was on the way to a hike. Finally, the Army of Darkness was a unique chocolate raspberry Russian Imperial Stout. If you have ever had raspberry filled chocolates before, this does a fantastic job of presenting that in a beer. The two flavors went really well together but like the previous one I wasn’t ready to order a full pour of something so strong at the time.
In all, I was mostly pretty let down by the mainstay beers offered by HUB but they did have some fantastic specialty beers. If you enjoy the more mellow Northwest IPAs then you might like the IPA. I did not eat any food while I was visiting HUB.
Continuing in the series of special releases for 2014, Green Flash put out the White IPA on June 3, 2014. I stopped by the brewery today to try it and will share my thoughts. While I was there, i was glad to see that the Black Lager had returned and they had a special release of a Bourbon Aged Trippel.
The White IPA has a prominent flavor of the Belgian yeast. Behind that there are some light hop flavors of citrus and pine but i wouldn’t fault any casual drinker for not noticing them. The Bourbon Aged Trippel was a solid entry with plenty of sweet bourbon flavors. Behind that you can taste the Belgian yeast a little bit but the flavor is primarily on the bourbon. I ended up with a pint of the new recipe of the West Coast IPA which now tended towards citrus and lemon flavors.
This was probably the brewery I was most looking forward to visiting in Portland, so I naturally went there first. I ended up with two flights for a total of twelve beers while there. For some reason the majority of breweries in Portland want to only sell flights in certain pre-defined groups. This sometimes meant I had to try a few more beers than I was expecting. This was certainly the case with Deschutes.
For my first set of tasters I got the Two Step IRA, Fresh Squeezed IPA, Hop in the Dark Black IPA, Session Obsession Session IPA, Smooth Hoperator Experimental Hop Pale, and Inversion White IPA. The Imperial Red Ale was pretty much a nice strong red with a light hop flavor. The Fresh Squeezed IPA was one I expected to love and possibly even order a pint of. It had a nice bright citrus hop bite and wasn’t overly bitter but it didn’t seem to have the same intense flavor that I am used to in San Diego.
The Hop in the Dark Black IPA was not particularly hoppy or bitter and mostly had flavors of smoky roasted malts. It didn’t impress me on either the dark flavors or the hop flavors. I don’t expect it would seriously satisfy hop heads or those into stouts. The Session IPA was a solid presentation of the now-popular style. It had some solid hop flavors without the bitterness of other sessions. Still, the hop profile wasn’t grabbing me.
The Experimental Pale Ale was quite nice for a lighter color pale. The hop flavors were largely towards the pine. It was a beer I would have enjoyed to buy in a six-pack. The Inversion White IPA was surprisingly malty tasting for the style and not particularly hoppy. Overall, it seemed to be a nice balanced brew but didn’t have the hop flavors that I have come to expect.
At the end of Round 1 of Deschutes, I was starting to wonder if I was going to find anything that blew me away. In Round 2 I explore the second set of six beers I tasted while visiting Deschutes.