Ninkasi Brewing Co – Maiden the Shade

As summer winds down, I am really trying to push through all of my summer beers I have remaining in my collection at this moment. I guess there would be nothing wrong with popping the top on a summer ale in January.  Sometimes it’s nice to have the option of drinking something a lot lighter.  However, I don’t want to be left with any misfit beers this year.  Anyway, I received this beer in a recent beer trade with Megan vs Beer.  As I’ve already reviewed one of the beers from the trade that immediately caught my eye, I jumped to this one second because of the style.  Friday I got home from school, looked through my big bottle options that were cold, and I went with the most refreshing looking one.  As this is my 4th different bottle from Ninkasi I’ve reviewed, you’d think this was a really easy brewery for me to get a hand on.  Guess I just have some awesome people helping me.

Ninkasi describes Maiden the Shade as a salute to the playful side of summer.  I am personally not a big fan of the summer.  As a teacher, I love that I get time off from work and can travel a bit more; however, I find it to be a miserably hot experience most of the time.  I love the winter.  None-the-less, I’m glad to see this particular playful side coming out of Ninkasi.  Typically when I brew, I try to make sure I have a variety of hops in my beer to give it character.  Ninkasi decided to really add some depth and character to this beer with 7 different variety of hops.  They have included  Summit, Centennial, Simcoe, Columbus, Crystal, Palisade, and Amarillo.  It seems like it would be a crazy double IPA or hop bomb with that many different competing hops.  Instead, they used a light hand to create a well balanced hop forward summer IPA. Since I’ve really never had anything other than hoppy beers from Ninkasi, I’m not terribly surprised by the hop forward take on this summer beer.

This one poured out a very light golden coppery color.  There was certainly a very nice fluffy white head that built on top of the beer that lasted and lingered for quite the extended period of time.  There was some really great lacing that developed on the sides of the beer with a ton of sticky residue.  There was some very clear clarity working here, and you can see a very ample amount of carbonation in the glass as well.

The most significant aroma you get is a ton of really fresh hop scents.  The hops have a slight pine smell with a lot of the floral scents as well.  The tropical fruit aromas are quite big here.  You get light pineapple, citrus, and other more topical aromas.  The maltiness takes a back seat for big hops; however, you do have some slight sweetness.  Overall it smells quite fresh and crisp.

While the sweetness of the malts doesn’t really come across on the aroma, you certainly get it at the onset of the flavor profile.  The sweetness is quickly overrun by some great pineapple, citrus, and topical fruit flavors.  This helps to bring a nice summer freshness to the beer, and it also helps to transition into the plentiful hop flavors.  The hops have an overall big fresh taste to them.  They start a little piney and are actually a little jarring.  The pine might be a little strong for a “summer brew”.  Regardless, I’m quite a big fan of the flavor.  The hops move from that jarring pine to a much more subtle floral flavor.  The hops mellow toward the end of the beer as the citrus kicks back up for a floral citrusy hop finish.

The mouthfeel starts somewhat syrupy; however, the carbonation builds as the hops gain momentum.  The carbonation and the hops reach the pinnacle at the same time.  It finishes with a lot of hops to help it feel fresh from nearly start to finish.  While there is a section right in the middle of the tasting that seems a little too piney for the style, I’m quite a big hop head, so I’m certainly pleased.

I have a feeling I say this almost all the time, but I’m sure this one will be hard to find if you’re on the east coast.  If you happen to know where some is, rescue it from potentially being left behind some big malty pumpkin beers.  I have a feeling this one could make a great beer for a warm labor day!

Teacher Grade: A

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A Double Double IPA Review – The Great Hop Off

As I said earlier this week, I recently purchased 6 different Imperial IPAs from a store online; therefore, I have quite a few different hoppy beers to work through over the coming weeks. I had an opportunity to bust out two bottles when I had a few friends over the other night.  We had already enjoyed a few homebrews when we decided to drink through these, despite that, it seemed like a great time to enjoy some hoppy beers.  Plus, they were over for a food competition we have every once in a while, and the food tasting was over, so if we wrecked our palates with some hops it wouldn’t matter at that point anyway.  Either way, I’m glad I could crack open two different big bottles of beer.

The funny thing about these two bottles is that neither of them were in the package of six I ordered the other week.  I can actually say before drinking these two, I had 10 different bottles of Imperial IPA in my possession.  I certainly have a particular style of beer I happen to enjoy quite a bit.  I do need to branch out a little bit more.  Of course, the six that came in the one big package couldn’t be avoided .  They were a package deal.

Anyway, I decided to pull out two very different Imperial IPAs.  The first one we tried was from Moylan’s Brewing Co.  Let’s Pour has been continuously bombarding me with different beers they get in.  One that came up that I knew I could get at the store was Moylan’s Hopsickle.  They say it’s triple hoppy, but I think that is due to the three different types of hops they use and not that it is a triple IPA.  Let’s Pour also wrote it up as having, “jasmine, orange and lemon rind, dill, sage, apples, spruce, pine and anything else hop-related, all in a juicy, bright framework with massive aromatics”, which is why I really wanted to buy it at my local store. The other beer I really wanted to drink was Avery’s Maharaja Imperial IPA.  The big reason why I wanted to drink this one is because it was the clone recipe I used for my Imperial IPA homebrew: Pretentious Hopster.  Hopster is still struggling, but I gave up waiting to drink this one.  Avery states, “The Maharaja flaunts his authority over a deranged amount of hops: tangy, vibrant and pungent along with an insane amount of malted barley – fashioning a dark amber hue and exquisite malt essence”.  That says just about everything I needed to hear to be excited about this one!

Moylan’s Brewing Co – Hopsickle – This beer poured out a nice reddish orangey color with some light head and great clarity.  The smell was extremely herbal with a lot of big floral hops.  There is a ton of citrus and grapefruit on the nose as well.  The nose, however, also gives away that there seems to be no malts here at all.  It has a really crisp and clean aroma.  The first sip reveals that malts may not even take the backseat in this beer, I’m pretty sure they aren’t even riding in the same car.  There is a huge floral hop introduction to the beer.  There is a little light pine in there as well; however, the hop bomb goes from the start to the finish of the beer.  There is a lot of grapefruit and pineapple in there as well with a little light malts showing up late to the party.  The mouthfeel here is a lot of carbonation with only a little bit of syrup near the end.  It has a slightly dry feel which increases the hop intensity as well.

Avery Brewing Co – Maharaja The great king pours out a dark reddish color with hints of brown and light orange.  This beer is similar to Hopsickle in some of the appearance, but Maharaja has far more sticky residue and haziness to it. Point Avery!  This beer also has a very herbal aroma to it, but it has a lot of grassy nature to it as well.  Another really big difference is the huge malt aroma that comes off the nose.  It’s clear this beer would be a little more balanced than the last one.  Maharaja has a very big malty introduction to it.  This beer is far more piney than the last one, but it does become more floral and herbal near the middle section.  There is still a lot of grapefruit and citrus to the beer; however, it combines a ton of rich malts throughout with the huge hops flavors.  The mouthfeel of this one also has a lot more syrup throughout with some moderate to light carbonation.

The Winner:  I would have to choose Maharaja as the big winner in the Imperial IPA hop off.  Hopsickle is a good beer, and as a lover of hops, I appreciate the big herbal hop flavors they achieve.  I honestly thought I would rate it quite highly; however, following it up with Maharaja showed me how unbalanced Hopsickle really is.  Maharaja relies not only on big hops, but also huge malts as well.  It is this well-balanced nature that makes Maharaja the clear victor here.

I’m not sure if you can find one or both of these in your area.  If you can, I would certainly tell you they would be great beers to pick up; however, if faced with a choice, you need to go with the Maharaja.  It’s sweet, it’s hoppy, and it’s all around good!

Teacher Grades: 

Hopsickle: C-

Maharaja: A+

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