Friday Froth: A Pale Wolf Approaches

James Gribbon

I do a lot of talking about Brooklyn beers in this space, between the eponymous Brooklyn Brewery, Sixpoint, He'brew/Coney Island etc. - and more on that later - but today we're going to start by kicking it up to the Boogie Down. The Bronx gets a lot of respect as the birthplace of hip hop and the home of Bullwackie's distinctly NYC dub, but if you know anything about the foodie scene outside of Arthur Avenue in the borough, you know more than me. I like to keep my eyes and ears open, though, and my mind well lubricated, so it wasn't too long before I was on the scent of a new brewer out of Port Morris. 

The Bronx Brewery's flagship beer is called Bronx Pale Ale, and was slapped down on the bar top before me in an industrial looking one-pint can. I personally like the stripped down appearance of the silver and black can, and immediately noticed the brewery had followed the trend of printing the beer's ABV, SRM and IBUs right on there, but they had taken it a few steps further and included the Pale Ale's Original and Final Gravities. 

I know that's a lot of jargon and acronyms to throw at you all at once, so I'll tell you the beer poured into my glass at the specified SRM of 10, and leave you this link (with a full explanation, in vaguely threatening, imperial spelling) to give you an idea of what that means in terms of color. The ale itself foamed up quite nicely. 

The first sip carried a burst of gooey, chewy malts. We're talking five different malts which have heroically given up their lives to become a part of this beer. Drinking a pint is like being inside a grain silo. I generally dislike the term "biscuity" to describe beer - it puts me in mind of white flour, and I think the word is overused - but maybe a corner of a biscuit, a part that's been particularly well cooked and just shot through with the Maillard Reaction, would be applicable here. There is real density to this PA, and it should go over well with fans of English style ale. Confusing, then, that the brewers should make such a point of the Centennial and Cascade hops they used, going so far as to write about the beer's "intense floral and citrus aroma." I didn't pick up too much of that, although the hops added a detectable bitterness (50 IBUs worth, according the container), and helped keep this malty brew from being all bass and no treble.  

Even so, and despite the 16oz. can, this one's a sipper and not a pounder. Bronx Pale is a substantial ale that I enjoyed on its own, but I think I would hold up very well to hearty winter food such as beef stew. The brewery has only been around since 2011, but they're already turning out five different ales, plus a barrel aged series. They currently list a Bronx Pale Ale aged in gin barrels as one of those entries. I'm very interested to experience the effect all those botanicals would have on the beer, and I'll let you know when I do. In the mean time, the brewery has a handy finder on their web site, now that we can get the brand in Connecticut. 

Downriver from the above brewery, Sixpoint has been turning out a new, single-hopped IPA per month as part of their Spice Of Life series. The hop of choice for August was Simcoe, and I thought I'd missed it until I saw it on tap at Plan B in Stamford. The beer poured a light amber color and had a big aroma of sweet Simcoes, but the smell didn't put me in a dank jungle of hops like, say, Gandhi-Bot. There is a pleasant, oily hop flavor, and the focus seems to be on the bitterness here - no surprise for a Sixpoint. I studied the sticky bands of lace clinging to the inside of the glass and was suddenly shocked to realize I was nonplussed. 

I genuinely like this beer - the quality of both the ingredients and the skill of craftsmanship is apparent - but with the way other Sixpoint beers have wowed me, a merely good and tasty American IPA left me a little flat. This is probably more a commentary on me being jaded than anything else. I can also only sleep on a bed of live minks. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The Yang to that Yin is a beer that actually made me curse out loud, just holding the bottle in my hand. It's no secret that Victory is one of my favorite brands on the market, and their new DirtWolf Double IPA had me from the second I saw the label. The design features a wolf out of hop vines; a wolf that looks like it's about to charge into the glow of some night hiker's head lamp and tear their face off. Maybe it's just the spirit of the season this October, but that alone got my heart pumping. 

Victory made DirtWolf to replace their existing Hop Wallop DIPA, which will take an indefinite hiatus (stock up now if HW is one of your favorites), mostly just because the brewers wanted to try a new recipe, and 'Wallop's is ten years old. DirtWolf uses all whole-flower American hops, nothing pelletized, and includes Citra, Chinook, Simcoe and the new Mosaic varieties. 

The beer poured a clear, golden color with a medium head and had a very sweet and tangy hop aroma. The Simcoes and Mosaics especially carry over from the aroma to the taste at first, with a quick blast of fruity hops, followed by a more dry, robust bitterness. 
The brewers at Victory have created a refined IPA with guts - a substantial and satisfying ale. DirtWolf starts off with the good earth of a heavily malted wort, and all those fermentable grains add up to a 8.7% ABV worthy of your respect, but it never feels like a meal in a glassThe blend of citrusy, bitter "C" hops and the complex, aromatic flavors of the newer strains complement the malts without being weighed down by them. I fully understand how this recipe could be considered a successor to the thoroughly enjoyable Hop Wallop, if not a replacement. 

That's it for today, but I'll be working my way through more seasonals as the leaves continue to fall, including Sixpoint's new Autumnation for 2013, next week. People may talk derisively about the cold weather in northern climes, but it sure comes in with a bang, doesn't it?