Sierra Nevada Flipside: Better than a Phil Spector B-Side

Next up, Sierra Nevada Flipside Red IPA:

flipside

Brewers tend to focus their seasonal energy on the main seasons: Summer, Fall, Winter, and Spring. However, Flipside appears to be a beer meant for the fleeting seasonal moment between Summer and Fall. The weather is cooling, but nobody has yet earned the right to be kicked in the nuts for uttering the term “leaf peeping”. It’s kind of like a Summer Flipside/B-Side beer, akin to the old recording practice of putting the song not intended to be the focal point of the vinyl single on the flipside. Yes, vinyl…as in records.

phonograph dj

Of course, B-side quality varies. Phil Spector wanted DJs only to play the A-side track. So, if Phil Spector was your producer, you were just as guaranteed to have a shit song on your B-side as you were to be chased around the studio at gunpoint by your producer dressed in a karate outfit. On the other hand, sometimes Flipsides ended up just as important, or more so, than the A-side. Case in point, the Smiths. The B-side to “William, It Was Really Nothing” (you know…the brooding, depressing one about unrequited love) was “How Soon Is Now?” (the brooding, depressing one about unrequited love), which ended up one of their most well-known songs.

Yes, Morrissey. Tasty, tasty murder.

Yes, Morrissey. Tasty, tasty murder.

Now for Sierra Nevada’s Flipside. It pours a clear copper with a big, off-white head that hangs around a bit like it just wants to be loved. It’s dark enough that it looks less like an end of Summer affair and more like a Fall ditty, à la Red Hoptober. The smell says otherwise. It smells lively, with some grapefruit and none of the 10-ton truck malt that I was expecting (don’t get me wrong, that would have been heavenly). And in the taste, the Citra, Simcoe, and Centennial work hand in glove, with light tropical and citrus, particularly grapefruit. There is a little earthiness and perhaps some spice that I thought was a little rye in the malt bill. But I was wrong. No rye. I’m so sorry. Lastly, it finishes somewhat dry (but not overly so) in a final nod to Summer.

It’s not mind-blowing by any measure, but I think it’s pretty good. Though, Morrissey would say: I was looking for some hops, then I found some hops. And heaven knows I’m miserable now…actually, maybe not. Maybe this beer would even make Morrissey happy.

The Haybag: It’s decent. Who the hell is this whiny Morrissey guy? Is this another one of your 80s things that I allegedly don’t understand because I’m all of 5 years younger?

Beer Review: Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine-Style Ale

Next up, Sierra Nevada Bigfoot:

Bigfoot is one of Sierra Nevada’s yearly limited releases. It’s a barleywine-style ale, and it’s named after the bi-pedal, blurry, ape-like creature known around the world by many names: Sasquatch, Louisiana Wookie, Yahoo, Yowie, Yeti…

…and Harry.

Despite Bigfoot’s elusiveness (or nonexistence), Cryptozoologists continue to seek proof. Unfortunately, any sightings are summarily debunked by real-scientific-discipline-ologists and almost always fall into one of the following categories: Hoax, batshit crazy witness, a bear with mange, or a shirtless Armenian.

OK. I admit this isn’t real. I totally photoshoped the beer in.

It pours a dark copper/tawny color with garnet highlights. It has a huge head that sticks around and leaves plenty of lace. And there is nothing elusive about the smell: Huge caramel and huge citrusy and piney hops. The first taste is like a slap in your hairy Sasquatch face from John Lithgow, but you know it’s for your own good because you’re better off in the wild…but it still stings, not physically or emotionally, but more from an ego standpoint…because, well, it’s John Lithgow. And would it have really killed him to be in the follow-up Harry and the Hendersons TV show? What, was the movie really that much more dignified than the TV show?

No.

The hops are piney, citrusy, and resiny. The malt character is mainly sweet and sticky caramel, but you might catch a hint of dark fruit as well. This beer is big and chewy, and the Chinook hops bring some serious bitter (as they like to do). Ultimately though, the malt backbone is big and holds up. But this thing is not for the faint of heart. And I would guess that a beast of this nature probably ages nicely.

The Haybag (sampling from her pregnancy shotglass): Whoa. This is huge. Beer is starting to taste good again. My body must be telling me something.

Beer and BBQ Pairing Throwdown

Thursday’s BBQ was good. Not my best ever, but good. And drinking a slew of tasty brews along with it was a task, albeit one I was willing to undertake for the greater good. We all have our crosses to bear.

For BBQ, you’ll usually be safe with something light and crisp. But if beerbecue wanted shit to be safe, we would tightrope Niagara Falls with a safety harness.

Weak.

So I am going to try Duchesse de Bourgogne, Tröegs Trogenator, Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale, and Sierra Nevada’s Hoptimum, each with and without a vinegar-based sauce.

First up is the wild card: The Duchess:

Players love to hate on the Duchess. In fact, some sour beer freaks sneer at her as a training-wheel sour. Haters gonna hate. It has a nice, sweet, malty character and a cherry and almost balsamic-like sourness. I thought it would be good with BBQ because vinegar obviously works with pulled pork, and the experts claim that “sweet beats heat” and “sour cuts fat”.

One concern was that a sour beer combined with a vinegar-based sauce would be a little much. But apparently, kinky sour-on-sour action can actually tone the sour down a bit and help the other flavors shine.

And I think it did pretty well, especially considering I couldn’t find it recommended anywhere. And when combined with the vinegar-based sauce, The Duchess actually started to taste a little like Cheerwine (a tasty, highly-carbonated, Southern, cherry-tasting soda)…which with Carolina BBQ is legit.

Next, we had Tröegs Double Bock.

This is a great beer: Toasty bread, caramel, complex mix of dark fruits, and sweet, but not cloying. This tasted pretty good without the sauce. Although, it is pretty heavy (monks actually used double bocks in lieu of food during fasting). In fact, it might have even been a little too big for the pig. And I was a little ambivalent about it with the vinegar sauce. But, I bet this would rock the party with a mustard-based sauce (it would be like a Teutonic reunion without all the attempted world domination…hopefully). And I bet it would go well with some sweet and spicy BBQ ribs, or with barbecued beef brisket.

Then came along, Dale’s Pale Ale:

We’ve reviewed Dale’s big alter-ego, Deviant Dale (which, incidentally, also got us some search engine traffic from people curious about eproctophilia). However, don’t let Pale Dale’s comparative normalcy fool you…he’s no slouch. With citrusy and piney hops and a significant bitter finish, Dale is known for blurring the line between Pale Ale and IPA.

Dale didn’t disappoint. The sugars in my dry rub create a nice, caramelized crust; and Dale’s supporting, caramel malt hooked-in nicely with that. Also, hops are big into play-dates with savory, as well as salty and spicy, all of which can be prevalent in BBQ. Further, hop bitterness can douse any spicy flames. My one concern was that the hops would overwhelm the BBQ or wouldn’t play nicely with the vinegar, but neither happened. Good on you, Dale.

Last, Sierra Nevada Hoptimum:

Who put those pesky vegetables there?

Hoptimum is a 100 IBU Imperial IPA, with huge and complex hop flavor. It’s a beast. Perhaps too beastly for these purposes. I did enjoy it, but probably just because it’s such a ridiculously good beer. And for some reason, the alcohol seemed a little more prevalent than usual, especially with the vinegar-sauced BBQ. Maybe it would be better with some spicier ribs. Although, I have seen some sources claim that the higher ABV of double and imperial IPAs can actually ratchet-up the heat of spices and defeat the hop’s otherwise cooling effect. In any case, it’s a damn good beer, and I still enjoyed it.

Fortunately, all the beers were tasty (I already knew this), but some worked better than others with the BBQ. Ultimately though, I think the profound conclusion is: Beer tastes good with BBQ.

Smoker Mod, Smokin’ a Butt, and Beer and BBQ Pairing Throwdown

Today was too nice a day to bother myself with working. So, with a new smoker modification in mind, a butt (Boston) in the fridge, and me never having posted about beer with bbq, I’m gonna make some pulled pork and try some different beers with it.

As always at beerbecue HQ, we need our blues. Today’s selection is Junior Kimbrough. His blues legitimacy is high: He didn’t get national attention ’till he was about 60, he sired 36 children, he died with a common-law wife, his mid-tempo and droning-thumb-on-the-bass-strings style exemplifies north Mississippi hill country blues, and he looked like this:

Son, he’s got more blues in one forehead frownline than you got in your whole damn body.

I decided to fashion a charcoal ring for my Weber Smokey Joe modified smoker. The Weber Smokey Mountain has one, and it seemed that piling fuel on the charcoal grate wasn’t working very efficiently. So I made this:

Metal lathe, four washers, two nuts and bolts, and some aviation snips.

You can also use a heavier gauge expanded metal. In any case, make sure to use gloves, as metal lath and expanded metal can cut the crap out of your hands. Then you load up your fuel and just use the Minion method to get things rolling.

Today, I’m smoking a 5 1/2 pound Boston Butt with my usual rub. I was planning on using the usual vinegar-based sauce. However, last night I came downstairs, and my wife, the BBQ sauce diva, banished me from the kitchen as she tweaked her old vinegar-based BBQ sauce. I have been authorized to release the new recipe on the sauce recipes page. My native-South Carolina wife may be a vegetarian/pescatarian now, but her BBQ-Sauce-Fu remains strong.

Then after about 6-8 hours, there will be a BBQ and beer pairing throwdown. I am pitting the following beers (sampled with and without sauce on the BBQ):

The Duchess de Bourgogne: This may seem odd. In fact, after extensive Internet searching, I have not found anyone who even remotely recommends this. What do they know? Sweet and sour is good with BBQ.

Tröegs Troegenator Double Bock: Bocks and double bocks are usually a good BBQ pairing. Sweet and malty.

Oskar Blues Pale Ale: Pale Ales are generally good with BBQ. And this one will push the hop and BBQ envelope at bit, as it is a fairly hoppy pale ale.

Sierra Nevada Hoptimum: If some hops are good, more must be better. Let’s see how hoppy we can go.

Stay tuned…

Sierra Nevada – Hoptimum: In Search of the Elusive Hopps Boson

Next up, Sierra Nevada’s Hoptimum:

Hoptimum is a diabolical Imperial IPA with a gansy-load of whole-cone hops, including Sierra Nevada’s own secret proprietary hops. For bittering they use German Magnum. Later in the boil and for dry-hopping they use Simcoe and their secret hops. Then they “torpedo” Citra and Chinook. Sierra Nevada’s website is a little coy on the specifics of their torpedoing process, but it seems they run the hot wort through whole-cone hops on the way to cooling and fermentation. A little Internet research, however, reveals that Sierra Nevada actually built a giant, underground hop accelerator, which propels hops and wort at each other at high speeds.

Actual leaked photo.

So now we’ll know why the tear in the spacetime continuum happens in Chico, CA, and not the Franco-Swiss border.

We're all going to die! And it's Sierra Nevada's fault.

It pours a clear orange-gold. The white, rocky head quickly dissipates and leaves some scattered Maldives lacing. You couldn’t swing a cat without hitting hop aroma up in here…resin, grapefruit, mango, peaches. As for the taste: Resin, citrus, tropical fruit, woodiness, and a little earthiness. And as it warms, the resin and the tropical fruit really stand out. It has a nice bitter finish that lasts for like 10 minutes and is dry despite all the sweet stickiness lingering around on the glass afterwards. Their bittering hops, German Magnum, have a high alpha acid content (high bitterness) but relatively low cohumulone content (imparts more of a clean bitterness than high cohmulone hops)…but we’ll save the technobabble for the Hop-epedia Project.

I’ll definitely get this again. And even better: Although it’s a special release, I didn’t have to fight for it.

The Haybag: This beer is excellent. It’s a must try for any hop head.

Hop-epedia Project: Centennial Hops

Next up on the Hop-epedia Project: Centennial Hops. Centennial is an aroma-type hop that is also used for bittering. Yet another hoppy brainchild of the USDA (see lineage below in Hop USA specs), its versitility in different beer styles, resistance to disease and fungus, and moderate storagability make it pretty popular. Along with Cascade and Columbus, it is one of the “Three Cs”.

Centennial hops are known as the “Super Cascade” for their higher bittering capacity, but similar aroma/flavor profile: floral, citrus, and slightly spicy character. But the flavor and aroma comparisons between Centennial and Cascade are all over the place. Some claim Centennial is not quite as floral as Cascade. Others claim that they are not quite as citrusy. And I’ll be damned if I don’t taste a bit of pine when I crack open a Two-Hearted or a Centennial IPA (two Centennial hop beers). Ugh. Who knows? What’s the fucking point?

Oh shit! It just got all existential up in here.

Although, I will say that once the Two-Hearted and Centennial IPA stop being all up in your grill and warm-up a bit, any pine fades and the floral and citrus come out.

Indeed, Centennial and Cascade are often substituted for one another or used in tandem, but how are they distinguishable? Centennials are higher in alpha acid, so they impart more bitterness. Both can be grapefruity, but I usually find Cascade to be more so (there may be disagreement here). I find Cascade to be slightly more piney. And I think Centennials are a little more floral. I have even seen some rare bitching on homebrew forums about Centennial being too floral (I have never heard that said about Cascade). I even heard of someone saying that Two-Hearted reminds her of a hair salon. I can infer from this that I have been going to the wrong hair salons, and that Centennial has a substantial floral character.

If you are looking for substitutions, try Amarillo or, obviously, Cascade. I have also seen that, by the numbers, a mix of 70% Cascade and 30% Columbus will have a similar profile. This would make some sense as the Columbus would boost the bittering alpha acids and could impart a slight pungent kick needed to super-fy the Cascade.

As always with the Hop-epedia Project, comments and additions are encouraged.

Some Centennial Beers
Bell’s Two-Hearted
Founders Centennial IPA
Sierra Nevada Northern Hemisphere Harvest (Centennial for bittering and Cascade and Centennial for finishing)
Sierra Nevada Celebration (Centennial bittering and Cascade and Centennial for finishing and dry-hopping)
Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine (includes Cascade and Chinook as well)

Specs from USA Hops variety manual
Centennial is an aroma variety that was released in 1990. It was derived from three-quarters Brewer’s Gold with minor contributions from Fuggle, East Kent Golding and others. It is among the most popular varieties for U.S. craft brewers and is sometimes referred to as a super Cascade.

Alpha Acids 9.5 – 11.5%
Beta Acids 3.5 – 4.5%
Cohumulone (% of alpha acids) 29 – 30%
Total Oils (Mls. per 100 grams dried hops) 1.5 – 2.5
Myrcene (as % of total oils) 45 – 55%
Caryophyllene (as % of total oils) 5.0 – 8.0%
Humulene (as % of total oils) 10 – 18%
Farnesene (as % of total oils) < 1.0%
Storage (% alpha acids remaining after 6 months storage at 20° C) 60 – 65%
Possible Substitutions Cascade, Amarillo

Beer Review: Sierra Nevada Estate Homegrown Ale (Wet Hop Ale)

I don’t want to become the crotchety guy who just bitches about beer he doesn’t like. So, here’s one I liked.  It’s Sierra Nevada’s Estate Homegrown Ale.

This is a wet hop ale that Sierra Nevada brewed with hops and barley grown on their own property, which is strange because I think Chico, CA, may be better known for other homegrown crops.

"Textiles" crop.

It pours a lovely copperish-orange, with a nice, white, big-bubbled head.  It kind of smells like a sauvignon blanc…er, what I meant to say is: what kind of self-respecting male would drink a sauvignon blanc?  Let’s try again.  The hop aroma is pretty strong grapefruit, with some herbal zippiness.

As for the taste, drinking this beer feels just shy of taking part in a (fully-clothed) grapefruit-themed fraternity hazing ritual.

Like this...but with grapefruits...to your face.

There is some pine and herbal quality to the hops as well, but mainly grapefruit.  And despite the fact that this is a hop monster, there is some decent malt character in there to balance it.  This is a well-crafted beer.  Get this if you like being brutalized by hoppy, but not-over-the-top, beers.

The Haybag: It’s a pretty good beer.  In hoppy beers, though, I prefer the orange-citrus or floral hop character to the grapefruit bomb.  And I would have preferred a little more sweetness as a backbone.  You’re still crotchety.