One thing that frustrates me about the month of February is that I have fewer days in the month to meet the arbitrary deadlines that I set for myself. Nevertheless, the flight panel is back for the month of February with three new participants! With this particular panel, I decided to branch out a little and select a couple of beers that don’t conform perfectly with their identified style (with the exception of Barney Flats). We all had fun, great beer conversation and, as usual, some colorful tasting notes.
Remember, none of the participants know what beer is being given to them (myself excluded)- this is a blind taste test and I only inform them of what style of beer they are drinking. Not every person on every panel is an expert at reviewing beer and nobody’s palate is ever wrong- taste is purely subjective.
|Occupation: Graduate Student
||Occupation: Federal Employee
|Level of Beer Appreciation (1-5): 3
||Level of Beer Appreciation (1-5): 5
||Level of Beer Appreciation (1-5): 5
|Favorite Beer/Beer Style: Dislikes IPAs
||Favorite Beer/Beer Style: IPA
||Favorite Beer/Beer Style: Anything aged in bourbon barrels, IPA, gueze.
Great Divide: Nadia Kali
Beer Name: Nadia Kali
Brewery: Great Divide Brewing Co
Brewery Location: Denver, CO
Beer Style: Saison
Usually when I pick a beer for one of these panels, I have generally avoided beers that have too many added flavors or unusual twists to them. This is because I only tell them the style of beer they are drinking, and they tell me the flavors they pick up (I don’t want the power of suggestion to influence them too much). However, this time around I decided to experiment with the taste buds of my panelists by introducing them to Nadia Kali: a hibiscus saison brewed with ginger and lemon. I wanted to see if they could pick up and identify the added flavors without being told they were in there. Here’s what the group said:
Nadia Kali poured a hazy amber color with a light white head- most of the group said it doesn’t look like a typical saison. The entire group said that the beer smelled pretty fruity, while Matt and Teresa thought the beer smelled sour to some degree. In addition, Matt detected some spicy notes on the nose, Steve picked up on notes of sourdough bread, and I thought it seemed lightly flowery and citrusy.
In terms of the dominant flavors present, there were some similarities between the tasters’ notes. Every participant mentioned some sort of fruit in their notes- Steve thought he tasted raspberry (or some other berry), Matt tasted some citrus (maybe blood orange), while Teresa and I thought it tasted lemony in varying degrees. The entire group also detected notes of spice- Matt and Steve thought that there was likely some sort of spice blend involved, while Teresa and I detected notes of black pepper. The entire group admitted they could detect the ginger, however they could only do so after the beer was revealed (the power of suggestion is a major factor that I take very seriously).
The group varied in terms of how much they enjoyed this beer. I enjoyed this beer for what it was- my opinion was that this tasted like the lovechild of a saison and a shandy. Matt liked the beer as well, however he felt that the beer finished a little bit bland (the initial sip was excellent, however). Teresa liked the beer, though it admittedly was not her favorite saison. Steve was not a fan of this beer. To him, the beer’s spicy character started off pleasant, but the beer got more bitter and metallic tasting as time went on- he likes saisons, but not this particular saison.
Anderson Valley: Barney Flats
Beer Name: Barney Flats
Brewery: Anderson Valley Brewing Company
Brewery Location: Boonville, CA
Beer Style: Oatmeal Stout
The brewery that brews the next beer for today’s flight panel features on their bottles my favorite animal in the world: a Beer (a bear/deer hybrid). We truly live in wonderful times that I can witness the creation of this animal….anyways! Barney Flats is their oatmeal stout that is available year-round, and I’m a particular fan of the style. Here’s what the group thought:
Barney Flats pours a dark-brown to black color with a creamy tan head that lingers as you drink it. The group more or less agreed that the aroma of this beer was fairly tame, but individually we picked up notes of coffee, chocolate (I got milk chocolate), oatmeal, and white bread. Interestingly enough, everybody except for myself picked up on a sort of spice note from the flavor of the beer- Teresa identified it as peppery, while Matt and Steve thought it was more of an indiscriminate spice flavor. The entire group detected varying notes of coffee in the flavor accompanied by a slightly bitter aftertaste (possibly from roast). Matt picked up on hints of oatmeal and caramel in the back of his throat, while Steve and I picked up on a definite chocolate flavor. In terms of the overall impression of this beer, the group marched to the beat of the same drum, more or less. We thought it was a good, run-of-the-mill stout, however it was not terribly exciting to any of us. For myself, the beer seemed a little bit two-dimensional, and I agreed with Steve who said he would likely buy any number of 10-20 stouts before he would settle on this one. Overall, the beer is not bad by any stretch of the imagination, but we weren’t going crazy for this one either.
Spencer: India Pale Ale
Beer Name: India Pale Ale
Brewery: Spencer Brewery
Brewery Location: Spencer, MA
Beer Style: IPA
Admittedly I picked up this last beer out of sheer curiosity- for years I had only really known about/had Spencer’s flagship Trappist ale, but I’ve been seeing their IPA pop up more recently. I wasn’t sure from the onset if this was going to be a straight forward IPA, or an IPA that incorporates Spencer’s Belgian-style of yeast (which would make this a Belgian-style IPA). Similar to Nadia Kali, I decided to not warn the participants about this beer potentially being a Belgian-style IPA (partly because I wasn’t sure going into it, myself). Here’s our notes:
Spencer IPA pours a hazy orangey-golden color with a thin white head. The group picked up on varying degrees of fruit and spice. Steve detected hops (of course) along with notes of indiscriminate fruit and vanilla. Matt thought it smelled citrusy and spicy, while I detected notes of orange, grapefruit, and a sort of earthy/woodsy character. Overall, the aroma was enticing to most of the group.
However, the appreciation for this beer ended with the aroma for most of the group. Steve and I picked up on notes of fruit (I tasted oranges primarily), while Matt and Teresa were overwhelmed by the plethora of flavors that this beer had to offer. They struggled to elaborate when pressed for details because after the first couple of sips of this beer, you were hit over the head with an aggressive bitterness that lingered long after you drank it (hop bitterness will often ruin your palate, which is why I rarely like to drink more than 1-2 hoppy beers in a single sitting).
The intense bitterness of this beer seemed to be a deal breaker for the entire group- it lingered a lot and was not very pleasant. Even once I revealed that this beer was (likely) a Belgian-style IPA, the opinion of the beer did not change much. Teresa said she could detect (and appreciate) the fruity esters once the beer was revealed, but overall the bitterness proved to be too overwhelming and unpleasant. Matt thought that there was too much going on with the initial flavor, and then you are nailed by the aggressive bitterness. Lastly, Steve liked this beer…until the bitterness set in. Enough said. Overall, nobody was terribly fond of this beer.