This is the second and final installment of my “Beer Break” posts and I saved the best brews for last. Sure I enjoyed New Holland’s Dragon’s Milk and wished I hadn’t demolished my 4-pack of Sam Adam’s Wee Heavy so quickly, but the trio of beers I will showcase today really got my attention. So instead of taking a break from the action, let’s dive right into the wort and splash around in the brewing malts and hops!
With the recent arrival of Mr. Spring and (thankfully) soon to be followed by the lovely Miss Summer, the craft beer world is about to change. No there aren’t any restrictive laws or extreme hop shortages like a few years back, it’s just that when the seasons change, so too do the craft beer options available. Now while any respectable bottle shop or beer distributor will carry the best “out-of-season” beers year ’round, some beers have their yearly heyday during certain months. Spring beers are typically clean and crisp and usually boast some sweet and fruit characteristics. One beer that I feel typifies what the “rebirth” of the Earth is all about is Weihenstephaner’s Hefeweizen.
I know, you are probably thinking “Didn’t you talk about that beer last week supposed beer enthusiast?” and my all I have to say is “Yes and no.” Beer Break Part 1 highlighted the Dunkelweizen from Weihenstephaner, this week is the “Original” Hefeweizen. While the two share some similarities, notably their lovely clove and banana flavors, the Hefeweizen is just a bit more complex than it’s dark brother. Again, the Hefeweizen is a German wheat beer and this particular offering mixes those clove and banana flavors with the sweet and spiciness that arises from the yeast in the beer.
The Hefe is deliciously cloudy (a tell-tale sign of a well-made Hefeweizen) and tastes eerily similar to a Belgium or Abbey Tripel in regards to the effervescence, carbonation, and flavor. Clearly Weihenstephaner has the weizen game on lock in Germany as almost every one of their wheat beers are ranked near the top for their respective styles. The Original Hefeweizen clocks in as the #5 German Hefeweizen in the world according to Ratebeer.com, and that is great considering I tried an internationally renowned beer for less than $4. However, if you can’t get your hands on this exceptional brew, there are a few world-class alternatives available in Morgantown. I personally suggest the Ayinger Ur-Weisse or Brau-Weisse, and each can be found at the new Kroger’s, Marris’s Country Store, Slight Indulgence, or Ashebrooke Liquor Outlet.
The last set of beers I gulped down were a pairing of tasty West Coast India Pale Ales and Pale Ales. As a pretty decent Rogue craft beer fan and faithful member of “Rogue Nation,” I always jump at the opportunity to try a new beer or one I have not seen before from the Oregon based brewery (except of course the Chipotle Ale, that stuff is just gross). So naturally when I spotted the “Rogue Brutal IPA” behind a splattering of Rogue Hazelnut Brown Ale’s and Chocolate Stouts, I knew I would be taking home the 22 oz. bomber. One negative aspect about Rogue is that most of their beers have the same core flavor (I think it rests with the Pacman yeast they use) but this beer is different as it showcases only one style of hop (Cascade) but gets its depth from a strong mix of English malts. If you are looking for a beer with a bite, I would say this should suffice (59 IBUs) though it is not as strong or bitter as dozens of other IPAs or Double IPAs. The Brutal IPA is just a Spring precursor to some of the hop-bombs that are set to explode this Summer…and hopefully the University City will be carrying this India Pale Ale soon!
The last beer on the Beer Break was a new gift to the craft beer world, the “San Diego County Session Ale.” The story behind the beer makes it unique, but the flavor of the hybrid-pale ale makes it legendary. Brewed as a collaboration between homebrew great Kelsey McNair and famed California breweries Ballast Point and Stone, this extraordinary Pale Ale packs a punch without the overwhelming bitterness. Its light body and creative flavor makes the brew especially refreshing and completely drinkable…the only problem is it is rather rare at the moment. The beer is a “seasonal special” and only the most up-to-date beer carriers will have this San Diego County collaboration ale. However, in the short time it has been available and given its rather small distribution range, the beer has cracked the Top 10 for the world’s best Pale Ales. While a trip to Pittsburgh will yield your best chance to try this Cali brew, there are a couple of excellent Pale Ales available in Morgantown. I suggest trying Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale or The Burning River from Great Lakes Brewing Company, both of which can be found at just about any location beer is sold in Morgantown (except gas stations of course).