Monday, February 6, 2012

Ode to Hops

I find myself caught between competing interests when I write this blog and am often hard-pressed to keep the conversation strictly to wine. I drink great beers on a more regular basis than I do wine (you can open beer one without worrying about drinking the rest of the six pack within two days) and find it hard not to write about the latest brew in the fridge. And risking losing my (very) small audience, I’m going to dedicate this blog post to everything-but-wine, get it all out of my system, and return to blogging as normal by the next post.

I think that I mentioned somewhere in the past few posts that I’ve been on an IPA kick of late. Ben and I did not consider ourselves IPA lovers as late as this summer, choosing Ambers, Porters, and Stouts (and even Hefeweizens, uck!) over anything hoppy. Though they weren’t as far down the list as pale ales, we considered IPAs fourth-drink beers – about the point where your taste buds can’t feel or taste a thing. 

We visited the Eugene Ninkasi brewery one day with Ben’s friend Carl and tried a sampler of their beers. They were all, save for one, IPAs. Needless to say, I drank a taster of their delicious Oatmeal Stout and steered clear of the rest. The IPAs were ridiculously hoppy and bitter. And then, one day, it just happened that a Deschutes Brewery Inversion IPA tasted delicious. And then a Stone IPA tasted pretty great. And as all taste changes occur, it caused a snowball effect.

I finally came around to Ninkasi, a brewery that makes, in my newly-assessed opinion, the best IPAs. Based out of Eugene, it’s no wonder I’d initially hate the beer and then come to love it. Eugene was for me, initially repulsive – maybe it is the excessively liberal climate, the lack of any kind of downtown area that isn’t a hippie open air market, and the fact that they call Valley River, their small and completely reasonable mall, “Valley Rip-Off” just because you can’t barter for goods there like you can everywhere else in Eugene. And then, slowly but surely, like a good IPA, my fourth-drink-city became beloved. I found little restaurants tucked away that offered amazing happy hour deals on draft beer. I realized that Eugene’s VooDoo Donut is open 24 hours a day and is next to McMenamin’s, where the tater tots are Cajun-ized and often on Happy Hour. I started to like the smell of the market especially when basil was in season, start to enjoy the weird clay wares for sale, begin to love the wet weather because it meant the freshly planted garden was getting much needed rain… 

But I digress. Back to Ninkasi – Ninkasi is crazy success story of a brewery going viral. It opened in June of 2006 with a Total Domination IPA, their best-selling brew to this day. Their tasting room opened in 2009. Ninkasi, named after the goddess of brewing, has become one of the fastest growing craft breweries in the U.S. It consistently receives high marks for its beers. The Total Domination IPA, probably the least hoppy of their IPAs, is still a beer to try once you’ve already decided you like IPAs as it’s still considered an “aggressive IPA.” Once you do love them, don’t hesitate to try it. Total Dom is a gorgeous light orange and wheat color that smells like fresh hops and packs an alcohol content punch at 6.7%. Their second, and my personal favorite IPA, is the Ninkasi Tricerahops, an epic Double IPA (more malt, more hops, and a higher gravity). At about $5.99 a 22oz. (the Total Dom is about $3-4 a 22oz. or $9.99 a six pack), this beer is a luxury in our house. It’s 8.8% alcohol and, speaking from experience, it will damage you if you drink the entire 22oz. If you’re looking to literally double your IPA tastes, then this is the beer to try.

If you’re not seduced by my Ode to Hops, but still want to try an IPA that’s both more reasonably priced and tastes a little less bitter – check out the spring seasonal release of the Alaskan Black IPA. My good friend Maria recently brought this over to my house as an exchange beer for a bottle of homebrew and it was delicious. This IPA, and other black IPAs, combine the malt of a porter or stout with the bright flavor of an IPA. This beer tastes like an IPA on first sip, but quickly turns into a dark and malty finish. Imagine taking a swig of a Deschutes Inversion IPA and following it with their Black Butte Porter (two of my favorite beers). Alaskan calls this beer “sessionable” and I’m inclined to agree. Not an Alaskan Brewing Co. lover, this beer definitely surprised me.

1 comment:

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