Fellow Beer Enthusiast Sean Kelly aka Economical Edibles got his hands on a few new beers and I suggested he write about them, here is what he thought (Part 1):
I was lucky enough to be gifted 4 cans of beer not currently available in Europe by a friend who was visiting from the Minneapolis. Two local beers and two beers from California. The beers were as follows:
Bender, an “oatmeal brown ale” from Surly Brewing Co in Brooklyn Centre, a small town north of Minneapolis.
Midnight Ryder, an “American Black Ale” (Cascadian Dark Ale/Black IPA/Whatever else they are being called this week) from Indeed Brewing Co, which is actually in the neighbourhood where my friend lives, and two beers from San Francisco’s much acclaimed 21st Amendment Brewery.
Bitter American, a “Session Ale” and Back in Black, a “Black IPA” (which is a style name I hate, because it makes no sense).
I drank the 4 cans over two nights, because it was mid week and I have to be a serious academic and all that responsible rubbish. So for day 1 I chose to have the the Bitter American and the Bender, leaving the other two, more similar beers, for day 2.
According to some people you should “start with light beers before moving on to dark beers” and in some cases this makes perfect sense, but I don’t think it always holds true. In some cases, it’s best to start with a darker, more malty beer before moving on to the lighter stuff, especially in the case of well hopped American style Pale Ales and IPA’s. After you’ve had a glass of something like Odell IPA or Galway Bay’s Of Foam and Fury, you’re pretty much not going to taste anything else, the hops will completely overpower anything that comes afterwards that isn’t similarly as hoppy.
So with that in mind, I turned conventional wisdom on it’s head and started my proceedings for day 1 with a brown and ended with a pale.
Bender pours a lovely deep dark brown. It’s almost black in the middle but there is lots of light getting through around the edges to show a beautiful ruby colour when held up to the light. It pours with a thick 2 finger off white head that stuck around and left a lot of lacing n the glass while being drank.
It smells gorgeously malty, kind of like a loaf of dark sweet bread fresh out of the oven. Also a bit of a roasty/burnt caramel note and a teeny bit of citrusy hops. All in all, it smells great.
The body is a lot lighter than I thought it would be. It’s described as an “oatmeal brown ale” on the can, so I was expecting a big chewy beast of a beer but this is extremely easy drinking, there is still that smoothness you’d expect from the oatmeal but it’s surprisingly refreshing and has a lovely medium level of prickly carbonation. It just feels really good in your mouth, coats everything but doesn’t feel sticky. It’s brilliantly silky on the tongue, I really can’t describe this mouthfeel properly, but it’s lovely.
The taste is equally surprising. The first thing I noticed was the hops, they are resiney and piney rather than the citrus I got on the nose and cut through the body beautifully. Then it gets really interesting, that bready maltiness I smelled on the nose is followed by bitter chocolate and coffee notes from the roasted barley, some dark vanilla caramel and a sort of nutty sweetness like hazelnuts or wattle seeds. This really would be a fantastic desert beer, I think it could make a great cake too. My first ever Surly Brewing Co. beer and if they are all this good, I can’t wait to try more!
I drank the Bender at about 10c and I feel this is a perfect temperature to enjoy a beer like this as any colder and you’re not going to get those little subtleties from the malts. Darker beers tend to taste a lot better at “cellar” temperature. A good way to achieve this is to lave the can/bottle on a shelf/cupboard and when you want to drink it, just put it in the freezer for 15 or 20 minutes, or take it out of the fridge about half an hour before drinking. Trust me, it’s worth the effort.
Next on the agenda was 21st Amendment’s “Bitter American” is a 4.4%abv “session ale”, in much the same vein as Brewdog’s “Dead Pony Club” or Founders “All Day IPA”. It’s a beer that is light in body and abv put packs in a lot of hops and flavour. It’s designed so that you can have a few of them without feeling too worse for wear the next day, while still being super refreshing and very tasty, and I really do think it sits will in the company of the other two beers I’ve mentioned, which are two personal favourites of mine.
It pours a hazy golden orange colour with a 2 finger head which soon dissipates into a thin layer atop the glass. Looks like a perfect summer day beer.
The smell is just as appealing as the appearance. You can just tell this is going to be crisp and refreshing, but bursting with hops. The grape fruit and sweet clementine is followed by grassy pine notes, with a little biscuity background from the malts.
The taste is much the same as the smell. It starts with a burst of citrus hoppiness with just enough sweetness from the malts to be balanced and finishes dry and piney, plenty of cascade and warrior hops mean that this light weight beer really packs a punch and would keep any hophead very happy. I found that the only downside too this beer was that I only had one 355ml can and could have happily drank several more. Right up there with other great session pales like Dead Pony club and All Day IPA as a perfect beer for a long, hot summer day. I hope this becomes available in Europe in the near future.