10 March 2011

Stateside classics

Rounding up the American beer evening that Reuben hosted a while back with three breweries whose stuff really stood out.

I've already covered a few from Great Divide, though I was surprised on checking back that I've never had their Titan IPA before -- I guess Hercules, the double IPA, occupies a similar space in my head. It's been my loss too as this is great stuff: that classic sherbet character of US IPA finishing with an intense oily bitterness that really wakes up the palate. Dialling the hops back but keeping the sherbet there's Samurai, brewed with rice. It's a suitably pale yellow but is no dull watery cheap-tasting guzzler. Lots of zesty lemon flavours leap out of the glass and the body is remarkably full, given the look of the thing. Lots of fizz, on the downside, but still a quality beer.

Somewhere between these two comes Denver Pale Ale. Aroma of biscuits and fresh fruit, with honey added into the mix on tasting. It's a smooth and mellow ale, worth taking time over. As is the Great Divide porter Saint Bridget's (we'll pass discreetly over the trucker's mudflap of a label). It's absolutely packed with rich and warming chocolate flavours, to the point of seeming almost powdery.

Next up a brewery I had never heard of before: Lazy Magnolia of Mississippi: the Magnolia State, dontcherknow. Indian Summer promised more than it gave. Yes it's a wheat beer, but there's more than the average amount of coriander and orange peel in here giving it some lovely light botanicals on the nose. The taste is oddly sour, however: a throwback to when Hoegaarden was spontaneously fermented, perhaps? Anyway, when the label says "Spiced Ale" I expect a bit more welly.

Such shortcomings were more than made up for by the other offer from Lazy Magnolia: Southern Pecan. It's banoffi as beer: heavy, sweet yet deliciously moreish with lots of biscuits and brown sugar, plus the pecans, of course. Easily the best American brown ale I've ever met.

Finally, to a brewery particularly close to our host's heart and one whose beers he particularly wanted to introduce us to: Bell's of Kalamazoo. The sunny orange and turquoise branding of Oberon is entirely appropriate. Another wheat beer, this one shows lots of light and breezy fruit, with candied orange in the driving seat. It's fun and dangerously easy drinking at 5.8% ABV -- that's going to sneak up on you pretty quickly, I reckon.

The brewery's IPA is called Two Hearted making it, as far as I know, the only commercial beer in existence named in tribute to Doctor Who. A whopping 7% ABV would suggest that this is an all-American badboy, but my impressions were more those of the better class of British IPA. It's that balance of bitter marmalade on a big toasted grain body, perhaps finishing a tiny bit soapy or metallic that has me recalling White Shield and Bengal Lancer. It's a comfortable and balanced beer: hopped up and powerfully strong, of course, but gentle and reassuring with it.

Enough beers for one afternoon's drinking? Time to grab the last bus back to the big smoke? Oh just a pint from the kegerator for the road, then...

Thanks to Adam and Richard for bringing along beers and for the company, and a massive thank you to Reuben and Hilary for a great day out and one hell of a virtual tour of American breweries both great and small.


  1. that southern pecan sounds awesome. Another great post that is making me very jealous of your trip!

  2. Glad you enjoyed yourself. I even got a free scarf when Adam put it around my neck at the bus stop. After so many beers I could not resist and when I got back to the house I thought it was my wife's.

    She recognised the scarf from the bus stop. It was there when you all arrived. Needless to say it's going in the charity clothes recycling bin when I bring the bottles to the recycling bank.

  3. Anonymous10:21 am

    man, that was some amount of american beer yis got through! Good job!

  4. Sorry to miss the point entirely and prove myself to be a shallow label-whore but those Great Divide labels are some of my favourites!