Beer Camp Review: CANfusion and Alt Route

This is the third review in the Beer Camp series.  The other posts can be found here:

Intro & Unboxing

Torpedo Pilsner & Maillard’s Odyssey

Yvan the Great & Electric Ray

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CANfusion “Rye Bock” – Sierra Nevada / Oscar Blues

2-DSC_0983Traditional bocks are normally on the darker, maltier, and sweeter side…and are a favorite style of mine.  I can’t say I’ve ever had a rye bock before, but it would make sense that the addition of rye would bring a spicier, possible less sweet take on this classic beer style.  The pour shows me two conflicting visuals:

  1. Not much head…maybe a half inch at best.  Yellowish white in color and made up of mostly small bubbles.
  2. High overall carbonation…presenting itself in a large volume of large size bubbles rising up from all surfaces on the glass, and serving to maintain a solid foam layer on the surface.

These two things occurring seem a bit odd to me, as normally when you see this much suspended carbonation, you also get a head so big that you have to pour carefully to just empty the bottle (can).  The color is sort of an orange amber.  Honestly is much lighter than I expected- it’s pretty similar in color to the last one I reviewed, and that was an India Pale Lager.  Of course, the taste will be the true judge, but right now, this really doesn’t look like a bock to me.

1-DSC_0980Let’s bring it in for a smell.  Overall aroma is very mild- you really have to get close to smell anything at all.  When you do, you are rewarded with a nice combination of hops up front, but a nice caramel malty sweetness right behind.  I really don’t smell anything that I would identify as a “rye” aroma…if there is such a thing.  I am wondering if my nose isn’t working…it’s really difficult to smell anything at all in this, though what is there is good :)  I should mention that my favorite IPA’s are on the sweeter, maltier side.  This has the indications that it could be in the same direction as those.  I hope it is.

3-DSC_0985We taste.  Hmm.  I would not call this a bock.  There really isn’t enough dark roast, sweetness, maltiness, or any of that to lead me in that direction.  The flavor is dominated by hops, like the aroma, but unlike the aroma, the bock flavors are just not there in the taste.  To me, this is an IPA.  Then again, you do get the noticeable edge from the rye…it almost bring the flavor to the sour side, while being medium bitter and spicy at the same time.  So I guess we would say this is a RyePA.

I do wonder why they didn’t just call this a RyePA.  This doesn’t look or taste like a bock.  Maybe they named it after smelling it, but before tasting.  Something else interesting to note is that at 45 IBU, this tastes every bit as bitter as Electric Ray did to me, and that was at 70 IBU.  Perhaps it is the rye flavor that is making me think that, even though chemically this should be much less bitter.

If you’re a fan of IPAs, or if you’re a fan of rye beers (though I imagine there are a lot less of those), you’ll probably enjoy this.  For me, there’s not really enough unique going on to make this stand out in my mind.  Don’t get me wrong, I still think it’s good- and it was enjoyable to drink, but compared to the unique flavor combinations that I’ve tasted in Beer Camp so far…this falls toward the bottom.  The question is- how far down…


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Alt Route “Altbier” – Sierra Nevada / Victory

1-DSC_0989I don’t think I’ve ever had an altbier.  Let’s figure out what they are.  The long and short of it is that it is an old German style, often amber in color, made with hybrid ale and lager yeast, and is fermented warm, but aged cool, for an interesting mixture of ale flavor but lager texture and refreshment.  Sounds intriguing to me, let’s see how this one goes.

Alt Route pours easily into a craft beer glass (which is the closest thing I have to a straight sided Altbier glass) and raises about 3/4″ of yellowish white head.  Carbonation size looks quite small, lending the head a creamy look.  Lots of lacing on the glass.  I only see a few small bubbles rising in the glass indicating that this is likely light on carbonation.  Color is copper orange/brown and it is totally clear.  I am intrigued by the look.

3-DSC_0995The aroma is honestly kind of weird.  It lacks the sweeter, maltier notes I expected, and smells predominantly bitter and even a bit sour.  Honestly I don’t like the smell very much…I’m hoping the taste will be much better.  I’m guessing it’s the combination of citrus hop aroma mixed with grain base that is just giving me a weird impression here.

I immediately understand why this style seems to have a lot of fans.  Assuming Alt Route is a good representation of the style (and I have no basis to know if it is or not), it miraculously hits you with 10 different intense flavors blasting onto your tongue, but then just as quickly as the flavors hit you, they fade to an extrememly smooth finish that takes you back to the basics of grain and hops.  It really is a wow kind of experience.  You’ve got hop bite and finish akin to an IPA, flavor depth similar to a well balanced pale ale, some roasty flavors from darker styles, a bit of alcohol peeking out, and the palate of an amber lager.

2-DSC_0991It’s interesting, because there aren’t really any particular flavors that stick out as “unique” by themselves- the various hop flavors, citrus, pine, and general bitter, the dark roast, the caramel, the fruitiness that you get from German wheat beers, etc…  It’s the combination and the packaging that makes this unique and fun.  And by packaging I don’t mean the bottle, I mean cramming all of those flavors into a smooth, easy drinking beer, that somehow comes in at 6.6 ABV and 50 IBU, though you probably wouldn’t guess it if you didn’t know.

This was a really fun review for me.  I got to try a new style, and (based on other reviews) got to try a good one at that…it currently sits at number 13 of all Altbiers on ratebeer (though the rankings of newer beers can be subject to big swings due to smaller sample size).  This will slot in near the top of the pack for now, and you can bet I will be seeking out some other Altbiers for further “research…”


Rankings

As I said in the intro, one of my goals in reviewing this 12 pack was to rank the beers from best to worst, and then compare my rankings to others that have done so.  Half way through the sampler, here’s where we stand, best on top, worst on the bottom:

  1. Maillard’s Odyssey
  2. Alt Route
  3. Yvan the Great
  4. Electric Ray
  5. CANfusion
  6. Torpedo Pilsner

The question remains, can any of the remaining 6 dethrone Maillard’s Odyssey to grab the top spot?  Will one fall below Torpedo Pilsner for the worst of the bunch?  Stay tuned, the next review will be out in a few days…

 

Beer Camp Review: Yvan the Great and Electric Ray

This is post #3 in the Beer Camp Series, where we are reviewing a collaboration twelve pack between Sierra Nevada and 12 other breweries.  Links to the other posts:

Intro and Unboxing

Review #1: Torpedo Pilsner and Maillard’s Odyssey

1-DSC_0961-001Yvan the Great “Belgian Style Blonde” – Sierra Nevada / Russian River

The pour reveals a beautiful bright, but cloudy golden yellow color, topped with an inch of creamy, fine, pure white head.  The head remains for longer than 5 minutes, or rather as long as you care to look at it before you drink it.  The head is supported by wafts of small bubbles rising in great numbers from the bottom and sides of the glass, and the bubbles stack up in a geometric pattern near the surface.  By it’s appearance, this reminds me a lot of the Saisons and Belgian Trippel’s that I have had recently.  This looks terrific.

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A smell confirms two things.  1) Belgian yeast, as called out on the label.  The typical aromas of spicy banana bread and clove are there for sure.  2) This smells like it will fall closer to the Saison/Farmhouse Ale than the Trippel, due to the tart/sour aromas that come with the former.  I’m trying to think of the last few Saisons I had…were they very hoppy?  No, I don’t think they were.  The label suggests that this should be.  Let’s find out.

It’s delicious.  I think I was on the right track with the flavors I was getting in the aroma.  What you get in the taste is best described as a good “beginner’s Saison.”  And by that I mean you get almost all of the flavors normally associated with them, but with less potency.  If your not sure what I mean, drink a 22oz Hennepin (Ommegang), and tell me it isn’t delicious, but also really potent…it’s just something that you have to be in the right mood for.  This has a lighter body, and an almost white grape juice type base that it is built on (in a similar fashion to Midas Touch, though not to that degree).  The hops are there to back up the slight sour/farmhouse flavors, and serve a significant bitter finish that cuts through the grape like sweetness.  All in all, a very good balance of various flavors, and yet again, a new combination of flavors for me.

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For 6.3% ABV, this is surprisingly agreeable in flavor, light in palate, and easy to drink.  I daresay that fans of both sour and hoppy styles might find a comprimise in this creation, for it captures the good parts of both styles without going overboard in either direction.  I’m a big fan.  Even thought this is supposed to be a one time thing…I’d love to see this again.  This is a fantastic example of experimentation with two different styles resulting in a new combination that (to me) is even better than each one individually.  And that is exactly what I had hoped to find in Beer Camp.


1-DSC_0966-001Electric Ray “India Pale Lager” – Sierra Nevada / Ballast Point

2 things pop out at me after pouring: 1) the color, light orange/amber/brown, is honestly very similar to Yuengling Lager, but 2) the head is much more prominent.  The head was huge actually, more than an inch, fluffy, and very sticky (in fact it still coats the glass as I write).  It looks to be made up of small to medium size carbonation, and I would say the amount of carbonation is on the lighter side, as I don’t see very many bubbles rising in the glass.  The visual of this suggests something mild, smooth, and thirst quenching, though the description hints otherwise.  Let’s see if they deliver on their promise.

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Immediately, the aroma can be identified as “IPA.”  It’s the mixture of strong and floral hops that you don’t really get with other styles.  Theres more here though, and it’s making me shake my head, as I can’t put my finger on it.  Its… almost meaty in a way (I think back…am I sure this glass was clean??? Yes, I’m sure it was).  I don’t know what else to say, it has the sort of savory hint and pepper spice that is pointing my mind towards hamburgers, or something.  Oh well, not the first time I’ve smelled something off in a beverage…time to drink.

First off, let me get something out of the way.  When I saw the letters “I P A” and 8.5 next to A B V and 70 next tot I B U (I’ll stop doing that), I was pretty worried that I wasn’t going to like this.  I’m not generally a fan of really hoppy or bitter IPAs (or perhaps I just haven’t had any really good ones).  Reference my recent review of the self proclaimed “Freshest IPA there is.”  One sip was all it took to confirm for me that Electric Ray was much more balanced and refined.  The hops are bitter, but not overdone.  The alcohol is present, and strong, but doesn’t overpower the lager base, or the hops.  Is the combination of high ABV and hops intense?  Yes, much moreso than probably all other lagers, but I think it’s done well.

I’m still getting that savory feeling that I got in the aroma.  It’s not a bad thing.  The taste is substantial, and the peppery spices, when not combined with much sweetness, lead me toward savory flavors.  The carbonation is fine, as noted in the appeareance.  It’s nice, and brings a creamy and smooth texture to the beverage.  The hop presence, mostly floral and peppery, builds as the glass empties.  I think about revising what I said earler, as it does become quite strong and bitter as you might expenct from the 70 IBUs (espacially as it warms), but no, I won’t change it.  I still think it’s well done, it just approaches the far edge of the “tasty zone” for me as it gets warmer.

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So there you have it.  Another new style for me: India Pale Lager.  Not something I would normally reach for, and yet, very much enjoyable.  Like Yvan the Great above, I think this one coudl certainly be a hit with the masses, as it is a) hoppy, which everyone seems to be all about now, and b) is a blend of two popular styles, and c) is a GOOD blend of both styles that takes the good from both.  Whether we’ll ever see this again or not, we don’t know, but I would definitely think about getting this again, most likely to drink as a good pairing with substantial or spicy food.

We’re 4 in, and so far I’m pretty impressed with the creativity that the brewers have employed in creating new styles or combinations of styles.  A rough ranking is forming in my head…i’ll post something about it at the end of the next review.  Look for it in a few days.