Every now and then, something is worth repeating. And that’s exactly what Boulevard Brewing Company are doing with their Reboot White IPA, a beer that was originally brewed in a collaboration with Bend, Oregon’s Deschutes Brewery in 2011. The initial idea married Boulevard, who love to produce Belgian-style beers, to Deschutes, who have more of a focus on American hops. The beer, then simply called ‘White IPA,’ was brewed by each facility using the same recipe, and released into each distribution network.
Boulevard apparently loved their version of the beer so much that they brewed it again, and it has been released as a 2013 Smokestack Series brew. Slightly tweaked from the original, Reboot White IPA is aged on lemongrass and sage, and tops out at 7.4% ABV (alcohol by volume) and 50 IBUs (International Bitterness Units). Boulevard plans to make this a new fall seasonal offering.
Boulevard started as a traditional Bavarian brewhouse on Southwest Boulevard in Kansas City. The first beer made, in 1989, was Boulevard Pale Ale, and John McDonald (Boulevard’s founder) delivered the first keg of it to a local restaurant. In 2006, the brewery made major expansions, increasing capacity to 600,000 barrels, which is a huge jump from the mere 6,000 barrels in Mr. McDonald’s original business plan!
Boulevard’s Smokestack Series is the home for big beers in big bottles; experimentation is encouraged. Distribution started about fourteen months ago here in North Carolina, and lots of attention is being placed on the promotion of the Smokestack beers.
Uncorking and pouring into a glass produced a large, almost huge frothy white head that looked like whipped topping atop the beer. Color of the beer itself was perfectly golden, with a nice hazy body that didn’t have any particles or sediment. Lacing was good, leaving behind a couple of pods of thick foam.
On the nose, the sage is loud but not overwhelming, coupling with some unexpected yeast funk. The overall herbal nature of the hops play right into this, giving off orange peel and lemon; the grain bill is exactly that — grainy, and straw-like. Reboot smells like a live beverage in the glass as all the herbal notes teamed with the earthen yeast really give this beer a punchy, organic aroma. And there are some classic Belgian notes here, with some background pink bubblegum and clove. Interesting.
Is this an IPA? Most assuredly not — sage and lemongrass greet the tongue, along with a touch of funky yeast that begins to take on a menthol flavor as it warms. The further I got into the beer, the more the initial flavors reminded me of a throat lozenge; it does open up some, providing flavors of orange peel, and fleshy tart lemon, but overall Reboot remains quite focused on the sage, lemongrass, and menthol funkiness. The finish brings on moderate bitterness and a twangy zest that dries out the palate. Described on the side of the bottle are flavors like bubblegum and clove; those simply aren’t here. This beer is medium-bodied, with a medium, foamy mouthfeel.
This brew really reminded me of Dogfish Head / Victory / Stone Saison du Buff, just a bit drier and more one-note. And there’s nothing wrong with that, because that is a very nice beer…BUT this is marketed as an IPA, and it’s not. If you’re expecting that, tread lightly; otherwise, prepare for a thirst quenching yet somewhat tepid Smokestack offering.
Boulevard Reboot White IPA, 84 points. Price: $9.49 US for one 750 ml. corked & caged bottle.
The story of Victory Brewing Company (Downington, Pennsylvania) goes all the way back to 1973 — granted, the two principal founders were only in fifth grade, meeting for the first time on a school bus that would take them to a new school. Friends like that are hard to find; the two remained bonded as they went to college, on opposite sides of the coast.
Their names are Ron Barchet and Bill Covaleski, and when Bill finished college, he explored making beer using his father’s home brewing equipment. It just so happened that Ron was into beer, too, and gave Bill a home brewing kit for Christmas in 1985. A friendly rivalry ensued, but the passion for beer caused both men to quit their jobs in the corporate world and seek out brewing.
Bill did his brewing studies at Doemens Institute in Munich, Germany, while Ron also honed his beer making skills in Germany. But before Victory churned out its first drop of beer, Ron returned from Germany and became the brewmaster of Old Dominion Brewing Company, increasing yearly production there from 1,500 barrels to 15,000.
On February 15, 1996, Victory Brewing Company opened up in a former Pepperidge Farm factory. In the first year, they made 1,725 barrels; in 2011, expansion had increased that number to 82,000.
Victory HopDevil is a year-round IPA that is brewed with whole flower American hops. The beer makes use of Victory’s hopback machine, which acts like a giant French press that is filled with hops. HopDevil comes in at 6.7% ABV (alcohol by volume) and 50 IBUs (International Bitterness Units).
The pour delivered a very nice looking beer, capped with an average size, off-white head that was both creamy and soapy in texture. The head lingered around and was easily regenerated when swirled in the glass; color of the beer was a nice shade of golden-orange, and it had a just a touch of haziness to the body. There were no particles or sediment, and lacing was excellent, coating the glass in solid sheets of foam.
On the nose, there’s a ton of hops, specifically grapefruit and pine. Those two aromas are astringent, but the backing players of orange peel and general citrus add in some color. I thought the aroma had a perfume-like quality, with very minimal malts, perhaps a bit of light caramel and sweet bread. And this is an IPA that takes on a bit of a soapy note, too.
The flavors start out suspiciously mild with just some herbal hits up front, but it opens up wide to reveal stiff wallops of grapefruit and dark pine. The lighter, more fruity flavors swirl around but are minor, leaving behind some fleshy, juicy orange and lemon. The finish gets more and more bitter the deeper you get into the glass, drying out the palate with grapefruit and pine, along with a lingering note of toasted bread. HopDevil is medium-bodied, with a medium, foamy mouthfeel.
This is a decent beer with excellent flavors of grapefruit and pine, but it lacks the depth needed to be an outstanding brew. By the end of the glass, my palate was somewhat tired of drinking because the finish started to get medicinal. I’d recommend you check this out if you’re really into grapefruit and pine hops; otherwise, this is good but average.
Victory HopDevil IPA, 85 points. Price: $1.99 US for one 12 oz. bottle.
We’re in agreement with Stone’s co-founder, Greg Koch: almost nothing should be so sacred that you won’t consider tweaks that result in improvements.
To be clear, this website has reviewed Stone Brewing Co. Ruination IPA before — back in July 2012, I awarded the beer, one of the first Imperial IPAs to ever be bottled and distributed in the United States, 93 points, or outstanding on my rating scale.
Until now, Ruination’s recipe has remained the same since it was first released in 2002. But after experimental batches were brewed at the Escondido, California brewery using two additional hop varieties and raising the ABV a half-percent, Stone decided they liked the new recipe better. So, the new recipe will be the current representation of Ruination, likely for the foreseeable future.
Two things changed about Ruination: the hop bill went from just Columbus and Centennial to Centennial, Chinook, and Magnum; and the ABV (alcohol by volume) jumped from 7.7% to 8.2%. Ruination still retains its 100+ IBU (International Bitterness Units) rating and Stone still calls this groundbreaking IPA a “liquid poem to the glory of the hop.” Let’s see what, if anything, has changed (for better or worse).
Pouring produced an average size, bright white, soapy head that sticks around. The beer is golden-orange in color; the body is slightly hazy but doesn’t have any particles or sediment floating around. Lacing is good, providing thin but solid sheets for about the first two inches of the drink, when it starts to become less consistent. Looks pretty much the same as before, perhaps just a bit hazier.
The nose is where I noticed the most change: gone is the pine note I often found prevalent in Ruination; amped up is the sweet tropical fruit aspect. There’s no shortage of hops here, which is to be expected — big, astringent notes of grapefruit and pineapple greet the nose, and while it’s sweet, you’re still pounded with a raw edge that lets you know this brew is going to be a big bitter bad boy. More subtle hop players included orange peel, lemon, lime, and just a tease of menthol. The light malt body plays into the sweetness, lending some caramel, and there is a small whiff of alcohol to round things out. I’d call the aroma deceptively sweet overall; I bumped the rating up one point here, because I really dig the tropical fruit scents.
On the taste, Ruination is initially quite sweet with sugar coated grapefruit and pineapple juice concentrate. But don’t be fooled: a wave of thick bitterness quickly washes over the tongue, prickling the taste buds with astringent high alpha acids — sweet grapefruit turns achingly bitter yet still juicy, and orange and lemon peel begin to show. Middle of the taste is a bit soft with an edge toward herbal, tea-like hops; the finish is a battle between caramel sweetness and heavily bitter grapefruit. The alcohol is completely hidden; I find Ruination to be medium-bodied, with a thin, foamy, and drying mouthfeel.
Has this beer changed much? In short, no, not really. I think the biggest difference is the aroma, which caters more to the sweet tooth than the IBU aficionado. I’m still at 93 points for this beer; even though I jumped the aroma score up, I bumped the drinkability/overall experience category down a point, and here’s why: I miss the piney kick in the taste. It’s just not there. We’ve traded pine for tropical fruits, which in my book kind of equates itself out. And that’s why I am choosing to rate the two versions the same.
The end result for Ruination is this: if you love hops, and feel challenged by a beer that rides the edge of bitterness to where it nearly turns overwhelming and medicinal, you’ll be in heaven. Whether it’s dominant pine or tropical fruit flavors. Cheers to Stone for having the gumption to change something when they feel strongly about it. (Other breweries, take note.)
Stone Ruination IPA (New 2013 Recipe), 93 points. Price: $6.99 US for one 22 oz. bomber size bottle.
New Belgium Brewing (Fort Collins, Colorado) queued up a new series of beers for 2013 called ‘Hop Kitchen.’ Similar to their Lips of Faith offerings, Hop Kitchen focuses mainly on hop-forward beers that might be considered too extreme for New Belgium’s regular lineup. Four Hop Kitchen beers are released each year, and October 2013’s brew took advantage of fresh hop season. Previous to this brew, we haven’t dived into the Hop Kitchen — yet.
Dried hops, which are a wonderful thing for us beer lovers, are dried because they become more stable. But what happens when you brew with hops that are, say, only 48 hours old, as in — just picked from the vine? The beer picks up even more hop flavor; however, the tradeoff is fresh hops are notoriously difficult to work with, and the beer requires up to five times more raw ingredients to make versus using dried hops.
But the results are well worth it, and many breweries put out a fresh hop beer. Hop Kitchen Fresh Hop IPA uses salmon safe Oregon hops, which are hops grown with special care given to the water used and the downstream of agricultural areas. In order to be declared “salmon safe,” the hops used in this beer (Crystal & Sterling) had to maintain the following guidelines:
-Use only approved pesticides and only trained individuals could apply the pesticides;
-Be planted more than 100 feet away from any waterway;
-Have stormwater mitigation so runoff from fields goes into the ground and not a waterway
Hop Kitchen Fresh Hop is 7% ABV (alcohol by volume) and registers 65 IBUs (International Bitterness Units).
The pour produced a small, soapy head that lasted. Color of this brew is a nice vibrant golden; it’s translucent despite being slightly hazy. I’m crediting the haze to all the fresh hops dumped into this beer — although hazy, there’s no particles or sediment in the liquid. Lacing is pretty good, leaving behind thin sheets that turn into weepy pods.
The aroma is definitely typical of a fresh hop beer, just a bit restrained. There’s a great blanket layer of pine and resin, along with herbal hints, lemongrass, and some spice. Let this warm a bit and it exhibits notes of hemp. There’s a malt backing but it just provides some general sweetness; I thought I got a bit of caramel and sweet bread, but maybe I was just imagining that. Think ultra-hoppy yet reigned in a little. C’mon, New Belgium… let it all hang out (for once).
On the palate, this is a very nice beer that builds layers of hop flavors as you drink. Up front, there’s a wallop of fresh pine needles and lemon peel, tempered with just a bit of sweet orange. The sweet aspect is helped out by some caramel malt — at first blush, you might think this is more malty than hoppy, but think again. After three or four sips, a soft bitterness begins to develop and the pine needles turns straight to resin. The finish is dry with tons of pine and menthol. It retains a light to moderate amount of bitterness, yet it’s still clean with an herbal bend. And the longer you drink this, the more hemp you taste. Fresh Hop is medium-bodied, with a thin, foamy mouthfeel.
New Belgium nailed the execution of fresh hops, and I was quite impressed with this brew. I figured it might be another safe offering from the brewery as they aren’t typically known for big, bold flavors — instead, New Belgium seems to thrive on the milder side — but this puts some fresh, dank, and resinous flavors right on the line. And it unwinds like a nice short story. Approved.
New Belgium Hop Kitchen Fresh Hop India Pale Ale, 88 points. Price: $4.99 US for one 22 oz. bomber size bottle.
Terrapin Beer Company (Athens, Georgia) have put out a new volume of their “Side Project” series, which are a group of beers that are limited release, tend to be on the experimental side, and come in bomber bottles. Some of these beers eventually make their way into Terrapin’s seasonal releases in 12 oz. bottles.
Volume 20 — Dr. Krunkles White Farmhouse IPA — combines the malt and spices of a Belgian Wit with the yeast of a Farmhouse Ale, and the hops of an American IPA. The character on the bottle, Dr. Krunkles, adds another twist of complexity by introducing white peppercorn into the brew and aging the concoction on white ash.
Coming in at 7.3% ABV (alcohol by volume), Side Project 20 is dry-hopped with Sorachi Ace hops, and features coriander, bitter orange peel, and sweet orange peel on the ingredient list. This beer was released in September 2013.
Pouring produced a large, frothy, and pillowy bright white head that lasted atop perfectly golden beer. The liquid had a slight haze to it, but was still translucent and absent of particles and sediment. Lacing was fair, leaving behind just a few bits of fluffy foam; the head did regenerate nicely, even with only a couple of fingers of beer left in the glass.
Side Project 20 has a very interesting aroma to it; it’s complex, beginning with musty and earthen funk that collides with a solid layer of orange peel. There’s a bit of spiciness here but I don’t think I would attribute that to the white peppercorn — I think it’s more courtesy of the yeast. The malts are fairly straightforward with notes of wheat and grain. Hops check in with a big grassy hit, thanks to the Sorachi Ace dry-hopping. There’s also some coriander, and when all this combines it sort of reminds me of how regular Chapstick brand lip balm smells. It’s quite appealing and inviting.
On the taste, we’ve got peppery orange peel all day long, mingled with an earthy funk. The funk level surprised me on this beer — while not tart our sour, it’s quite prominent in crispness. Middle of the taste brings out grassy hops and a bit of the white ash; there’s definitely a woodsy component in the flavor, but it’s light and provides a nice counterpart to the funk. The finish is really nice with lots of orange peel, all at once candied and bitter; residual crisp funk and coriander. Clicking your tongue to the roof of your mouth reveals wheat. The finish does bring on the full weight of the 7.3% alcohol. Dr. Krunkles is medium-bodied, with a thin, highly carbonated, foamy and gritty mouthfeel.
Without a doubt, this is the most interesting and best tasting Terrapin Side Project effort in quite a while. The only downers here are this does become a chore to drink after a few ounces because the alcohol is evident, and the carbonation is a bit high, leading one to feel full after half a glass. Still, the flavors and aroma here are complex and unexpected. They nailed this one if you’re comparing description to what is presented in the bottle.
Terrapin Side Project Volume 20 — Dr. Krunkles White Farmhouse IPA, 91 points. Price: $8.99 US for one 22 oz. bomber size bottle.