Editor’s Note: This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway)
It doesn’t happen often, but it’s been a slow week. No huge breaking news (though it’s worth looking at the restructured InBev/Modelo deal to see how they’ll get away with that). No insane once-per-year rarities to call every store in town to find. There are some cool new beers out including the new Schwarzbier from Devils Backbone, and we’ll be sampling those on Saturday at the shop. But as far as news goes it’s a little too quiet out there.
In light of this, here are some tasting notes on beers I’ve been able to try lately. If you have any questions about beer in the area, I’ll be happy to answer them in the comments.
Bell’s HopSlam 2013: I got to try a bottle a couple of weeks ago. I’ve always been a fan of HopSlam, but it feels like the ever-increasing demand and resulting shortness of supply has created a bit of a backlash, with more folks every year saying HopSlam isn’t worth the trouble or its high price. I actually quite liked this year’s HopSlam. The honey in it seemed more utilitarian than it had over the past couple years. Where HopSlam was becoming a tick too fruity and cloying, this year’s feels more like the Imperial IPA it is meant to be. Is it worth the time and money to track down? That’s up to you, but if you can get a hold of some, it’s a fine beer as always.
Sand Creek Brewing Company: I was given a couple of this Wisconsin outfit’s brews to sample and am now officially a fan. First up was their Wild Ride IPA, which is a delightful throwback to the days where bigger wasn’t necessarily better. If the craft beer movement has been around long enough, and I’m not sure it has, it could be said that this is an old-school American IPA. The 60 IBU are well-balanced by just the perfect amount of malt. This is an IPA that I could keep in the fridge all the time, and really wish was available here in VA.
The other Sand Creek I got to try was Oscar’s Chocolate Oatmeal Stout, which is the kind of beer I think every brewer in America should try. Oscar’s is rich in body, with a silky palate featuring dark chocolate flavors that somehow avoid being sugary in any way. The best part of Oscar’s: it’s 4.5% ABV. It’s a Session beer. Seriously, seriously well-made and someone needs to get Sand Creek to expand beyond their four-market distribution range.
Blue Mountain MacHayden’s Wee Heavy: Hey — here’s something good that you can actually find for sale around here. I had no idea Blue Mountain made a Scotch Ale, but when this became available last week, I jumped on it. MacHayden’s is reminiscent of classic Scotch Ales like McEwan’s Export, with that very particular kind of sweetness from its malts that is the hallmark of the style. Too many American brewers over-roast the malts in their Scotch Ales or go too hoppy for fear of turning off U.S. beer fans, but those who seek out Scotch Ale are looking for something very specific. Blue Mountain does a great job combining traditional flavors with a stronger, more modern strength and lush mouthfeel.
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