Newburyport Brewing Company: Plum Island

It’s time for another installment of the unofficial series: “Rich just got off of work and needs a beer”.  Considering the forecast for tomorrow is set to soar into the 90’s (wasn’t it in the 50’s last week?), I’ve decided to explore what beers that I would potentially want to be drinking during the hot New England summer.  Last night, the bar I work at had a Newburyport Brewing Company pint night.  One of the featured beers was their Plum Island Belgian Wit (and I’m a sucker for Belgian Wits, so this just seemed right).  Check out my tasting notes:

Beer Name: Plum Island

Brewery: Newburyport Brewing Company

Brewery Location: Newburyport, MA

Beer Style: Belgian Witbier

ABV: 5.4%

Appearance

Plum Island pours a straw-golden color with a thick creamy head.  Hazy, but not quite opaque.

Plum Island

Aroma

I picked up some lemon/orange citrus character (more peel/rind than actual juice), with some background notes of banana.  Overall a very inviting nose!

Taste & Aftertaste

The dominant flavors of this beer seem to match the nose of it.  Right up front, I get a big burst of citrus and banana, rounded off by a very slight peppery twang.  I want to say that the some of the citrus that I detect comes from coriander (at least that’s what the flavor is reminding me of) which is traditional in a Belgian wit.  I’ve had more than a couple of examples of this style of beer that were overly spicy or bitter (sort of like when you over-zest a lemon and you get that bitter pith)- this beer is not like that in the least.  If anything, it’s really smooth and easy to drink- kind of like a Hoegaarden but less peppery.  It’s got a thick and creamy mouthfeel, but also finishes fairly dry making you want to take another sip.

Overall Impressions

This is an excellent example of a Belgian Wit.  If I had more of an ego, I would call this high praise because Belgian Wits are one of my favorite go-to styles.  Take my word for what it is.  This beer is smooth, citrusy, and refreshing.  It’s something I would not mind going back to over and over again this summer, especially on a hot summer day.  If this is my kickoff to the summer, then I’m off to an excellent start.

Advertisements

Peru Craft Beer

Hey there, folks!  I’m back from a brief hiatus to bring you more perspectives on beer!  For the past two weeks, my wife and I traveled across Peru- spending lots of time in the Andes Mountains, hiking to Machu Picchu, and sampling the local cuisine.  But, of course, whenever/wherever I travel, I always want to check out the local beer scene to see what is being produced and what the locals like to drink.  So I want to share with you all that I experienced in Peru, provide some brief insights into the beers that I drank, and give you all my overall impression of the craft beer scene in Peru.

The first city that I visited was Arequipa- Peru’s second largest city located in the mountains in the southern part of the country.  The city was very picturesque, sitting in the shadow of a few snowcapped volcanos, and is the jumping-off point to a few landmarks including Colca Canyon.  That said, the city felt much less like a tourist trap compared to Cusco- the jumping-off point for Machu Picchu.  This fact is reflected in Arequipa’s craft beer scene- the breweries in the city are few in number and the craft beer bars are small yet charming.  The first bar that I visited was Chelawasi Public House- a craft beer bar owned by a brewery of the same name that also serves other local beers alongside their own.  Like I said, the space was small, but the walls were decorated with the bumper stickers of numerous American craft breweries (west coast breweries in particular).  Their beers (particularly their hoppy beers) seemed to possess that same American West Coast influence as having a noticeable amount of caramel character to them while having a particularly dry finish.  The bartenders were very friendly and were willing to nerd out on beer with anybody interested in doing so.

Chelawasi

One thing that really impressed me, and is something that I think I’ve taken for granted because of where I live, is the Peruvian beer scene’s inclusion and embracing of local ingredients.  I’ll discuss specific beers throughout this piece, but some notable ingredients that I found in the local beers included chocolate, coffee, papaya, mango, several varieties of chili peppers, and several varieties of corn.

It was at our second craft beer stop where this embrace for locally sourced ingredients in beer became apparent to me.  In a loft above a court yard overlooking a chocolatier (aimed at tourists) we found the Arequipa Beer Club.  I think the best way I can describe the atmosphere is if you combined a café, a bar, and chocolatier- somehow the concept fits!  I started by enjoying a collaboration Papaya Kölsch from Cumbres and Melkim.  In terms of overall fruit character, papayas tend to be pretty restrained- so a Kölsch was actually the perfect beer style to insert that flavor profile.  Neither the beer nor the fruit stole the spotlight from the other, which made for a very pleasant and easy drinking beer.  Next, finding myself at a place that specialized in chocolate, I thought it would be only appropriate that I try an “Experimental Brown Ale” that included mango and cacao.  The beer prominently featured notes of coffee and chocolate while leaving out any harsh roast character of a porter or stout, and had some interesting notes of orange citrus in the background.  It was quite pleasant and paired well with a sea salt chocolate chip cookie.  Cacao Brown

The beer bars that we visited in our next two cities were much more reminiscent of the ones I would find at home: bigger, busier, and more modern, often times with local musicians playing off to the side.  The next city we visited was Cusco: the jumping off point for Machu Picchu and by far the biggest tourist trap in the country.  After elbowing our way through hordes of solicitors offering us walking tours, knockoff alpaca clothes, and massages, we found our way to Cerveceria Nuevo Mundo.  Similar to Chelawasi Public House, the bar is affiliated with a brewery in Lima, but they also served other quality Peruvian brands alongside their own.  I feel that this fact emphasizes a point that Morgan from Buttonwoods Brewery told me: that a high tide raises all boats.  Nuevo Mundo, Chelawasi, and Barbarian (see below in Lima) could all just as easily have kept their tap lists exclusive to their own brands, but instead they choose to support their friends in the industry by showcasing their beers alongside their own.  That, in my opinion, epitomizes the craft beer movement, and I think we are starting to drift away from that in the United States.

The beer list at Nuevo Mundo was pretty impressive, primarily featuring local Peruvian brands.  I will say that it was actually really refreshing to look at a draft list, and see that less than 50% of their selections were IPAs.  Out of all of the beers that I had at Nuevo Mundo, the beer that I was most impressed with was their Panam’ Belgian Pale Ale.  Truthfully, there were no frills about this beer- nothing crazy or fancy done to it.  This Belgian Pale was probably one of the best that I’ve ever had of the style (and I’m a big fan of the style).  My tasting notes of this beer included hints of cracked black pepper, banana, and graham cracker.  Clocking in at 6.1%, the beer was very refreshing and very easy to drink.  Another beer (that ended up being one of my last before the hike to Machu Picchu) that stood out to me was Pantera Stout by Machay Cerveza Artesenal (from Arequipa).  According to the bartender, it was apparently ranked the best stout in South America (I didn’t ask him his source).  Again, there was nothing crazy done to this beer, and truthfully it drank more like an imperial schwarzbier (nothing wrong with that).

Nuevo Mundo Bar     Panam

Fast forward now to about 5 days later: I hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, and I’m both physically and mentally exhausted from waking up at 3am for a sprint hike to see the sunrise over the ruins before the tourists crowded it.  We had the poor luck of it being foggy that morning…still the ruins were amazing, as was the hike.  But now, I needed a drink.

Machu Picchu Fog

Going into this trip, I had been endlessly curious about trying Chicha: essentially corn beer.  I don’t know if this practice is still employed (I doubt it at the commercial scale), but traditionally the Chicha maker would convert the starches in the corn to sugar by using the enzymes found in the human mouth to convert the starches: essentially they chewed and spit out the corn into the mash.  Before you go vomiting on your keyboard, just know that I’m sure they boiled the wort like a brewer traditionally did (this drinker is certainly hoping they did…).  Anyway, Chicha de Jora is certainly a different beer than I’ve ever had.  The drink had a milkshake-like consistency to it, and tasted very sweet and corny with a light sourness in the finish.  Furthermore, the drink is served at room temperature- not cold like the Rockies (or Andes as would be the case).  On a hot day after a 4 day hike, I think I would have preferred something colder and less sweet, but I can cross this one off my bucket list at least.

Chicha

The last city on our trip to Peru was the capital city of Lima.  We only had about 2 ½ days to spend in the city, so our bar hopping was more limited.  The first bar that we went to was Cerveceria Barbarian.  The spot had a similar feel to Nuevo Mundo in Cusco- a busy and modern bar that certainly appeals to the city-dwelling tourist (me).  Perhaps the most eye grabbing sight in the bar was the great wall of bottles in the back of the bar.  I saw a lot of foreign bottles on said wall, including KBS, Pliny the Elder, and Cantillon: Classic Gueuze.  Clearly this was a bar after my heart.  One of the most notable beers that I had at Barbarian was their Mañanero Café Pale Ale: a coffee infused pale ale.  The beer impressed me because it was appropriately bitter with neither the hops nor the coffee overwhelming the other.  Furthermore, the coffee flavor seemed to coexist well with the hop flavor, which can be a tricky thing to do in that style of beer.

Great Wall of Beer

I would be lying if I said that there were no negative experiences during my beer travels.  I had a handful of beers from some seemingly well known regional brands that, to put it bluntly, tasted like a bad batch of homebrew riddled with off flavors (most notably acetaldehyde and diacetyl).  That said, it’s important to keep in mind that the Peruvian craft beer culture is still maturing- I would guess that the craft beer scene is maybe 20 years behind that of the United States.  They are well on their way to having a culture filled with some quality craft beers, and many of their big producers already produce quality that rivals many American producers.  Over time, the lesser-quality beers will become less numerous due to brewers getting better at their craft, as well as the beer consumer becoming more educated.  In other words: either the brewers will improve or the market will weed out the bad ones.  As a point, I’m not going to mention the names of the beers or brewers who produced the lower quality beers because it won’t accomplish anything- those problems will fix themselves as the Peruvian craft beer culture matures.  Overall, I would say I had a positive beer exploration experience during my travels in Peru.  I saw a lot of positive things in their craft beer culture (which is why I wrote this piece).  Many of the breweries are being inspired by and taking their cues from some of the best American breweries- making for some very tasty beer.  Furthermore upon landing in Arequipa, I learned that the country was about two weeks away from having their first national craft beer festival (my luck be damned, I would have maybe convinced my wife to wait a week to travel had I known ahead of time).  If you are traveling to Peru, check out the local craft beer scene- there’s a lot of good happening there.  Wherever you travel, I encourage you all to taste what the locals are drinking- it really opens your eyes to a new culture.  ¡Salud!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Lawson’s Finest Liquids: Sip of Sunshine 4/21/2017

So on the front page of my blog, I make a disclaimer that I am not in the business of blogging exclusively about beer “whales”…that said if I ever had the opportunity to review such a beer, I would be sure to do so.  Well today my wife surprised me with just such an opportunity (I love that woman).  She surprised me with a beer called “Sip of Sunshine”- a Double IPA whose reputation is on par with that of Heady Topper from The Alchemist (and its reputation is well deserved).  I know that I have been doing a lot of IPA posts lately (particularly New England-style IPAs), but just indulge me for a moment:

Beer Name: Sip of Sunshine

Brewery: Lawson’s Finest Liquids

Brewery Location: Warren, VT

Beer Style: Double IPA

ABV: 8%

IBU: 65

Appearance

Sip of Sunshine pours a hazy golden-orangey color with a creamy white head.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Aroma

The aroma is very fruit/citrus forward.  I picked up on a little bit of orange, grapefruit, and pineapple.  Very appealing!

Taste & Aftertaste

Let’s get the obvious of this beer out of the way first- this beer is very hop forward with lots of fruit up front.  I picked up on a lot of orange and grapefruit peel character (not like taking a bite out of the fruit, but more like the zest of the fruit).  Upon the first sip, the beer doesn’t start off that bitter, however the bitterness lingers and builds more over time as you continue to drink it.  This beer is medium bodied, though I wouldn’t say it has a “soft” mouthfeel like many New England-style IPAs tend to have.  In terms of the malt character of this beer, it has a multi-grain bread-like character with an almost “wheat thin” flavor in the finish.

Overall Impressions

At the end of the day, it was hard not to want to review and critically analyze this beer.  Heady Topper was one of the beers that helped me take the plunge into the craft beer world, but I was lucky to also have this beer around the same time that I had my first Heady (so it’s special to me).  This is a great Double IPA for you hop heads out there and, in a way, is a very short look back into local beer history.  Sip of Sunshine is one of the beers that has helped shape the evolution of the New England-style IPA, and I think it’s a beer that every hop head should have the privilege to drink at least once in their lives.

Mighty Squirrel: Sport Kiwi White 4/7/2017

Today is National Beer Day!  Now I know what you’re thinking- today is one of those made up “holidays” like National “Speak Like a Pirate Day”…but there is some actual historical precedence to celebrate this day.  On April 7, 1933 FDR enacted the Cullen-Harrison Act, which legalized the sale of low alcohol beer (<4%) and led to the eventual demise of Prohibition later that year.  As someone whose livelihood is dependent on alcohol, I want to show my appreciation for the holiday by sharing my review of a local beer that was mostly unknown to me until recently.  Here’s my review of Mighty Squirrel’s: Sport Kiwi White:

Beer Name: Sport Kiwi White

Brewery: Mighty Squirrel

Brewery Location: Boston, MA

Beer Style: Witbier

ABV: 4.8%

IBU: 12

Appearance

Sport Kiwi White pours brilliantly clear light golden color and has virtually no head to it.  I could read a book through the glass- that’s how clear it is.  I was shocked- typical witbiers are never this clear.

Mighty Squirrel Kiwi White

Aroma

This beer has some extremely pungent fruit aromatics.  I detect the kiwi in this, but to me this beer smells almost identical to a green jolly rancher (Note: not in the sense that I detect acetaldehyde- an off-flavor that has a distinct green apple flavor).

Taste & Aftertaste

This beer is certainly fruit forward (as I expected based on the aroma), however it’s not as overwhelming to the senses as I anticipated.  I can definitely taste the kiwi alongside with some peach notes and hints of orange too.  However, the fruit character is a bit more subdued than I was expecting- which is a good thing for me because I believe beer should taste like beer first, and fruit/other flavorings second.  I get some light tartness in this beer which is accentuated by the citrus flavors, alongside some notes of sourdough bread from the malt.  There is some lingering astringency in the finish of this beer that I’m not a huge fan of, but it’s only a light astringency (so it’s easily ignored).  The body of this beer is very light (bordering on thin), but this beer markets itself as a low carb beer (so I’m letting it slide).

Overall Impressions

Overall, Sport Kiwi White is not your traditional looking or tasting witbier, but it does taste good.  It’s very light, refreshing, and would be great to have on a warm summer day (those days are around the corner).  Honestly (this is the beer nerd in me talking) if I’m looking for a traditional witbier, I am not grabbing this beer… BUT if I’m outside grilling on a hot day, I’m having at least three of these.

Wachusett Brewing Company: Wally 3/28/2017

After a long, tiring shift at work, I found myself with some extra time on my hands.  So I decided to kill two birds with one stone: relieve some work-related stress with a beer and write a new review.  I decided to try Wachusett Brewing Company’s Wally because it was their take on the New England-style IPA (which I always have a soft spot for).  I was especially interested because it’s always nice to see a brewery that has been around for a long time continuing to produce good beer that is in touch today’s trends and tastes (i.e. they’re not stuck in the past).  Here are my notes:

Beer Name: Wally

Brewery: Wachusett Brewing Company

Brewery Location: Westminster, MA

Beer Style: IPA

ABV: 7%

IBU: 70

Appearance

Wally pours a hazy, golden color with a thin white lace that follows the beer all the way down the glass.

Wally

Aroma

Floral (almost perfume-like) with slight hints of grapefruit/orange qualities.  I also detect some very slight dank (marijuana-like) notes in the background.

Taste & Aftertaste

The mouthfeel of this beer is softer compared to traditional IPAs (particularly West Coast-style IPAs- which are dry, crisp, and firmly bitter).  However, the mouthfeel is neither thick nor creamy like one would expect from the popular NEIPAs on the market.  The hop bitterness is firm (yet pleasant), floral, and does not linger for too long.  In addition to being floral, I also pick up on hints of grapefruit and other indiscriminate citrus fruit notes from the hops.  Overall, the hop profile is very nice!  I get some alcohol warmth from this beer, but it’s not overbearing.  This is a very nice IPA!

Overall Impressions

This was a very interesting beer for me to evaluate.  With the ever-growing popularity of the New England-style IPA, it’s always interesting to taste a new interpretation on the style (especially one from a brewery who has been cranking out beers for over 20 years).  I would categorize this beer to be somewhere between the NEIPA and West Coast IPA.  On the one hand, the mouthfeel is not quite thick or creamy enough to constitute a NEIPA, nor does it pack a walloping citrus punch (I don’t think fanboys wouldn’t call this beer “juicy”, but that’s just my opinion).  The beer also has a bit too much of a bitter backbone to meet the NEIPA criteria.  On the other hand, the beer is hazy, and the mouthfeel is softer when you compare it to West Coast-style IPAs (which are dry and crisp with a very prominent hop bite).  But you know what?  Who cares about style?  This is an excellent IPA.  It doesn’t need to conform to trendy guidelines (or any for that matter) to be pleasing to me.  It tastes good so I’m drinking it, and you should too!

Free Will Brewing Co: Blood & Guts Sour Ale (2015) 3/14/2017

Hey there folks!  Today, Rhode Island was hit by a “blizzard”.  In Providence, we got a fair amount of snow in the morning, and at least half of it was promptly washed away by rain in the afternoon.  Either way the weather has been very poor, which means that I have stuck inside all day.  So I decided to grab myself a sour cherry ale called “Blood & Guts Sour Ale” from Free Will Brewing Co to help distract myself from my cabin fever and the schizophrenic New England weather patterns.  Here’s the scoop:

Beer Name: Blood & Guts Sour Ale (2015)

Brewery: Free Will Brewing Co

Brewery Location: Perkasie, PA

Beer Style: American Wild Ale

ABV: 6.1%

IBU: N/A

Appearance

Blood and Guts pours a deep mahogany color with a effervescent white head that disappears almost immediately- kind of like a champagne.

Blood and Guts

Aroma

Slightly vinegary with faint notes of cherries, raisins, and figs.

Taste & Aftertaste

First of all- let’s just point out that this beer is not for someone who is not into sours.  This beer is pretty aggressively sour – it has a very prominent acetic character with some lactic tones in the background to add to its complexity.  Despite the fact that this beer has no head, it actually has a very prickly mouthfeel from the high carbonation.  I pick up some strong (dark) fruit characters in this beer- cherries are definitely in the forefront, but they don’t take over the beer.  Truthfully I was expecting something more closely resembling a Kriek (a Lambic-style beer that incorporates and features cherries heavily).  Instead, the cherry notes are balanced really nicely with notes of green apple and raisin, resulting in a complex and pleasant fruity/sour medley.  This beer starts off sweet, but finishes really dry.  It was quite delicious!

Overall Impressions

This is definitely one of the better sours that I’ve had in awhile.  This beer is neither overly fruity nor overly sweet while still packing a big sour punch.  I dove into this beer with the expectations of being delivered a cherry bomb, but instead I was given something with cherry overtones that are complimented by a supporting cast of other fruits- it was a nice surprise!  To any sour-heads out there, this beer will certainly meet your needs- it teeters on mouth-puckering, but doesn’t go over the edge.  It was definitely a good find on my part!

Nadia Kali, Barney Flats, and Spencer IPA 3/2/2017

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.

Panelist Profiles

Name: Steve Name: Matt Name: Teresa
Age: 32 Age: 34 Age: 55
Occupation: Graduate Student Occupation: Federal Employee Occupation: Cook
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.
Additional Qualifications/Info: Additional Qualifications/Info: Additional Qualifications/Info:

 

Great Divide: Nadia Kali

Beer Name: Nadia Kali

Brewery: Great Divide Brewing Co

Brewery Location: Denver, CO

Beer Style: Saison

ABV: 6.3%

IBU: N/A

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

ABV: 5.8%

IBU: 15

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

ABV: 7.2%

IBU: 75

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.