On Tap: Hopworks Deluxe Organic Ale

hub_doaAccording to some people, Portland is the #1 craft beer city in the US. It makes this recent transplant retroactively proud (having come from city #6). There are 52 active breweries in the city. 52.

Hopworks Urban Brewery is one of them. Like many Portland-based businesses, Hopworks is dedicated to making itself as sustainable as possible, minimizing footprints of all kinds. Between water conservation, energy efficiency and composting, they have got the bases covered. Also, their ingredients are organic and locally sourced. I don’t know if that’s Portland organic or Oregon organic but nonetheless. The eco-friendliness extends to the brewpubs as well. It’s impressive. I take even more pride in living in a city in which the businesses really focus on keeping their eco-footprints neutral.

BUUUT enough with the tree-huggery (for now) and on to the beer.

Hopworks Deluxe Organic Ale is that mysterious style–the American strong ale. Sharing the stage with Stone’s Arrogant Bastard Ale and many other brews that age in bourbon-soaked oak bottles, the ABV is a husky, musky 6.9%. My personal sweetheart Yard’s Thomas Jefferson Ale (85 my ass, Beer Advocate reviewers) is the British version of this style and the overall profile is not dissimilar–neutral yet robust with a mild caramel linger, a scootch of hop and a boozy undertow. Me likey.

It’s a fairly sessionable ale but it will sneak up on you and make your head all warm and fuzzy so watch it.

Beer Profiler: Strong, handsome if a bit old school. A silver fox.

Best  Use: Great for a cool nigh,t perhaps fireside better yet if it’s a campfire with some sophisticated friends. You don’t need many and it warms up nicely so it’s ok to sip.

On Netflix: 
Dollhouse. Why do they always take the good ones too young? Two seasons? What did Joss Whedon do anyway, sleep with the wrong person’s sister?

Omission Gluten-Free IPA

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Beer Camp: The Witbier

Like many Americans, in my early days of beer-drinking, I had only tasted lagers (Yuengling, Red Stripe) with an occasional IPA (Sierra Nevada) thrown in. Drinking beer was a soulless and tasteless endeavor and left me feeling full and not that satisfied. Because I was not yet indoctrinated into the magic of hops, I found IPAs to be bitter and unpleasant and lagers to be bland and gassy. Then I met the witbier and thus began my love affair with Bier de Belgique.

credit to: perezizzle.tumblr.com

Exemplified by the ubiquitous Hoegaarden, this style of ale is very pale and cloudy. It is straw in color and often has a thick head with gads of heavenly lace. Because it is light and usually very refreshing, witbier (White Ale) was once found only in the spring and summer months. But brewery marketing teams caught on to its popularity with novice beer drinkers and ladies. Now it is common to find this style of ale during all seasons. Some American craft brewers have taken to brewing what they call ‘winter whites,” which I find basically indiscernible from regular whites, except they usually have snowy scenes on the beer labels. In order to amp it up a little bit and make this style attractive to the veterans, brewing companies have also taken to creating juiced up “Double Whites,” which pack more alcoholic punch than your average witbier.

Often beer snobs eschew what they call ‘yellow beer.’ What they are usually referring to is American macrobrew swill like Coors Light or Miller Light. These beers tend to be fairly low in both alcohol and flavor. They are lager styles, which are bottom-fermented at much cooler temperatures, and are often brewed at quick speeds with sugar to speed up the process. Not so of Witbier, which while it is definitely yellow in color, is a type of top-fermenting ale which, brewed at higher temperatures, often has layers of complexity and flavor. The typical witbier has a distinct citrus nose with a ‘wheaty’ body and spices like nutmeg, coriander and orange peel (sometimes they can be pimped out with florals and exotic spices).

5 Wits worth Trying

credited to citypages.com

Black Cat Approved

1. St. Bernadus Witbier, Brouwerij St. Bernardus NV, Belgium 
If you are going through life trying things of all categories one at a time and you made it all the way to “W” for Witbier, well congratulations because you have been a lot more productive than I have! So it’s time to pick a Witbier and you have just this one chance. For the best and classiest example of the style go with St. Bernadus Witbier from Brouwerij St. Bernadus. One of the original Trappist breweries of Belgium, St. Bernadus produces some heavy hitters. Their Bernadus 12, which is a quadruple ale, might actually be my favorite beer of all time. And then there is the magical unicorn of Belgian beer, Westveletern, which you can only purchase at the monastery so only those of us lucky enough to have traveled to the holy land have had this opportunity. As a perfect execution of the style– extremely thirst-quenching with a heady bouquet of citrus, coriander and a bready yeast and very clean taste–St. Bernadus Witbier shows exactly how boring Blue Moon is.


Other Notable Witbiers

2. Allagash White, Allagash Brewing Company, Portland, ME

3. Red & White, Dogfish Head Brewery, DE

4. Little White Lie, Russian River Brewing Company, CA

5. Blanche de Chambly, Unibroue, Canada