Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Redhook Long Hammer IPA Review

Brewery: Redhook Ale Brewery | Beer: Long Hammer IPA
Style: American India Pale Ale | ABV: 6.5% | IBUs: 44
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into pint glass

Redhook Long Hammer IPAKnown originally as Ballard Bitter, then Redhook IPA, and now Long Hammer IPA, Redhook's year-round India Pale Ale has gone through it's share of re-branding since it's original brewing back in the dark days of 1984. The current name is meant to pay homage to those from the past that used long hammers to construct "everything great that was ever built—transcontinental train tracks, impossible pipelines, soaring skyscrapers." That's all well and good, but what's inside the bottle?

It's pitched as a standard Pacific-NW American IPA with the usual ingredients. During the boil Long Hammer is hopped with Alchemy, Cascade, and Willamette varieties, then after the boil it's dry-hopped with more Cascades. The backbone is built from Pale, Caramel, and Munich malts.

President Dave Mickelson says the resulting brew is the IPA that "consumers will reach for again and again, drawn to its distinctive hoppy aroma and bold drinkability." Yawn. Sounds like Anheuser-Busch might just be helping with more than just distribution!

All jabs aside, let's see how this over quarter-century old brew fares.

Appearance: Slightly hazy golden-amber body. Two fingers of bubbly, off-white head that quickly fade into a ring around the glass. Below-average lacing.

Aroma: It's all just a little thin. Some citrusy hops over caramel malt and lots of booze. This is nothing like what an IPA should smell like, even if you adjust for the general thinness.

Taste: Unfortunately, the hops aren't much more potent in the mouth. They're somewhat bitter off the line, but without any of the usual floral or citrusy notes to back them up. It's much the same in the malt department. Thin, grainy pale malt just kind of chugs along in the background like the rest of the beer. Everything but some of the bitterness vanishes almost instantly. The alcohol is still somewhat prominent, but a little more hidden than in the nose. In a bizarre twist, there's a lot of soap flavor here. So much so, that the first glass that I tried I dismissed as some sort of washing-up accident where I forgot to rinse the glass before drying. But, alas, all six bottles were just as soapy.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light body with a good bit of frothiness and a carbonation level firmly on the high side. Finish is somewhat dry.

Drinkability: It's very bland, and rather soapy. So, while it may go down quickly, what's the point?

Verdict: Shallow, bland, and watery, Long Hammer disappoints at every turn. This would be weak even for a Pale Ale, let alone a full-blown IPA. Shame on Redhook for misusing the IPA label so badly.

Grade: D

Rahr Ugly Pug Black Lager Review

Brewery: Rahr & Sons Brewing Co. | Beer: Ugly Pug Black Lager
Style: Schwarzbier | ABV: 4.5% | IBUs: 26
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into
Pilsener glass

Rahr Ugly PugNow here's a beer after my own heart: a Texas-brewed, pug-themed Schwarzbier. Let me explain. Another group of Texan brewers over in Shiner brewed up one a Schwarzbier I credit with my awakening to better beer, Shiner 97. Also, my house is currently infested with three pugs (along with an English bulldog). I'm in love with the concept, but what about the beer itself?

As I mentioned above, this dog is a Schwarzbier, which is a essentially a darker and drier version of Munich Dunkel— a beer whose (dark) bark is bigger than it's (light) bite. Ugly Pug is hopped with Perle hops, while the backbone is built from 2 Row, Munich, Chocolate, and Carafa Special II malt varieties.

Okay, my pugs are gathered around anxiously awaiting my verdict, so let's get to it.

Appearance: Deep brown, nearly black at times, with dull ruby highlights. On top, a decent off-white head that leaves little lacing.

Aroma: Earthy roasted malt with hints of coffee and chocolate. A little thin.

Taste: Much the same. The flavor profile is earthy, smokey, nutty, and mildly bitter malt accompanied by coffee and chocolate notes. Nothing much in the way of hops. While complex, it's still somewhat thin most of the time. The aftertaste is relatively intense and tastes of roasted grains.

Mouthfeel: Too light for my preferences. The carbonation is pretty sharp, but not too biting.

Drinkability: With a light body, somewhat thin (yet tasty) flavor, and low alcohol content, this goes back quickly.

Verdict: A nice enough beer, but not my favorite Texan Black Lager (that award goes to Shiner 97). Everything here is tasty enough, but there's just not enough of it if you catch my drift. If this was just a little more intense and full, it could be a winner.

Grade: B-