So, on top of enjoying a good beer, I really enjoy hot and spicy foods. Fresh peppers, daring Mexican, Indian, Thai, Buffalo wings, and most of all, hot sauce! Some people would put me in the insane category. I eat things that can make grown men cry. I’m no tough-guy, nor am I trying to be when it comes to the tongue-torching things I adore. I’ve seen people devour foods so hot and spicy that I wouldn’t dare do more than a bite. Besides the fact that a good beer can help wash away your misery, what exactly does this have to do with beer?
To kick off Charlotte Craft Beer Week I wanted to share with you an experience with one of my favorite North Carolina Craft Beers, Foothills Hoppyum IPA!
Anyone who knows me knows I enjoy a good IPA. The funny thing is, there are many, many flavors and characteristics in each and every IPA. Some of them are relatively light in color and others can be deep amber. I’ve seen them crystal clear all to way to a beautiful unfiltered hazy and cloudy appearance and anywhere from a biscuit bready malt flavor, what non-hop heads call “balanced”, down to virtually no malt flavors at all…all hops. Now, all IPAs are hoppy. Loaded with Hops. IPAs can have hops that are piney, earthy, floral, fruit, and downright bitter! My favorite hops are the ones that come through in aroma and flavor on the citrus side. Specifically, grapefruit. Step in Hoppyum. It is relatively easy to find in the North Carolina area. I hope you are lucky enough to find a pint in your home town. I like Hoppyum so much that I decided to give it a shot as the first Homebrew beer that I ever formulated from scratch. Let’s see how this turns out.
I’ve found a new dark place to hide. Among my world of Craft Beers, tasting the amber, golden, yellow, and crystal clear, there is a deep, dark and refreshingly hoppy alternative. The Black IPA. I’ll go ahead and admit it. I’m a hop head. My standby beer is a good IPA but I do go off path and take in a good Pale Ale or Wheat beer too. Occasionally, especially when it starts getting cooler, I will take in a few Stouts or Porters. And let’s not forget Guinness. Dark beers have there place with me but they always seemed to lack a little something. Yes, I’m talking about the hops.
Over the past few months I have been reading about a relatively new entry in the Craft Beer marketplace, Black IPAs. Wait, what? Could it be the perfect melding of a dark, roasty beer with an over the top hop kick? As I came to find out last night, yes it can! The Beer Advocate description states that these beers “range from dark brown to pitch black and showcase malty and light to moderate roasty notes and are often quite hoppy”.
The first Black IPA that I tried was a Stone Brewing 15th Anniversary Imperial. Not being a huge fan of Imperials it was about what I expected. Dark, roasted, and hoppy. The alcohol content killed this one for me. Not bad, but definitely not great. Next up, Widmer Brothers Pitch Black IPA. Now we’re getting somewhere. A good balance between the dark chocolate flavor and a recognizable hop kick. A little disappointing that they called this one an IPA though. Not a big hoppy beer in my opinion. Lastly, I reserved the hard to find, and definitely worth the wait Olde Hickory Black Raven. This beer is like drinking a stout but getting kicked in the face with a good hop blast. Is this what Guinness would taste like if we hooked it up to the Randall?
So the Black IPA has made it to my rotation. Maybe I’ll even try this one in the Homebrewing schedule. There are plenty of Craft Brewers adding the Black IPA to their menus. Local brewery, NoDA Brewing Company has a limited release of Midnight Madness. Terrapin, Sweetwater, Sierra Nevada are all offering the style. The list is growing and I am buying. Looking forward to trying many more Black IPAs as we make our way though winter.
Las Vegas, NV may be the adult entertainment capital of the world but it is certainly not the capital of Craft Beer. I just spent five solid days in Sin City on a business trip and surprisingly was unable to find a Craft Beer haven among the decadent and lavish resort world of amenities. From the Venetian and Palazzo to Caesars and Fremont Street big beer is king.
I had exchanged pleasantries with several bartenders and cocktail waitresses through the week. “May I get you a drink.” “Sure, do you have any IPA’s?” “What’s an IPA?” “You know, a Pale Ale. A Craft Beer.” “Oh yeah! We have Shock Top and Blue Moon!”
One evening I asked a Bartender for a Craft Beer. He asked me what kind. I tamed it down and asked if he had a Pale Ales. He responded, “No, all we have is Sierra Nevada.” Ugh!!!
Although I was eventually able to stumble upon a Sin City Brewing kiosk is a casino mall (pretty cool to get a plastic cup of Oktoberfest in a food court) and a Lagunitas IPA at a sports bar, Vegas is obviously dominated by high-profit watered down consumer beer products. Craft Beer as we know is a substantial cost difference as opposed to Bud Miller and Coors when purchasing in a retail environment. If I was giving away free beer to gamblers, I would also pick the least offensive cost product as well. But when the casinos are serving top dollar name brand liquor such as Johnny Walker, Cabo Wabo, and Glenfiddich why can’t they splurge and provide a little Craft Brew for the people who enjoy it on the poker tables?