Friday Froth: Cali Connection

James Gribbon

A lot of the best product comes from California. Sticky buds are packed into trucks out west and travel thousands of miles to the voracious markets here on the east coast. I, for one, don't think there's anything wrong with that at all; hardly anyone can grow nuggets like this out here, and it's not hurting anyone. Fresh, stinky, green hops are for the people, baby.

I'm pretty sure I prefer the climate in the northeast to the damp northwest, but I envy the edible biodiversity they have out there. The American craft beer movement, and certainly the all-conquering American style of west coast IPA, largely got its start out west because of local access to the variously piney, citrusy, and just outright dank hops which grew wild in the mountainsides and dripping Alpine valleys of the Cascade and Olympic ranges. This week we're going to go deep on a few beers which have done some traveling to land in the Constitution State.

Lagunitas Brewing Company invited representatives from several brew bars out here in the land of the rising sun - including Connecticut's own Plan B - out to Petaluma, California to mind-meld and create a new beer for the market back east. This meeting lead to Lagunitas Fusion 17, a.k.a. Eastbound And Down. The beer blends the recipes of three Lagunitas beers: WTF Imperial Brown ale, DayTime Fractional IPA, and Sucks Double IPA. The experiment worked, producing a 5.5% American brown ale - then they just got nasty on it. Fusion 17 is dry hopped with Simcoe and Nelson Sauvin varieties, but that wasn't enough for the mad scientists at Lagunitas, so they added the recently created Citra and Mosaic hop breeds, too. 

The beer pours brown as stained oak and froths right up with a thick, sticky head which gives off a distinctly earthy hop aroma. There is a deeply toasty malt base with notes of pine on first sip. Drink more and you'll notice the selected hops add a very attractive, exotic perfume, but not too much bite. There is very little in the way of distinguishable bitterness cutting through the malt, making this a very accessible beer for sensitive palates. Fusion 17/Eastbound And Down looks good, tastes good, and won't shred your taste buds with IBUs. It's a deep, substantial brew.

When last we left Friday Froth, I mentioned the newly released 17th anniversary beer from San Diego's Stone Brewing Company, Götterdämmerung IPA. A diligent, if brief, search yielded a brace of 22oz. bomber bottles of this limited edition elixir*, and I am here today to urge, cajole, and outright command you to try it. 

*from the bottle shop at Fairway Market in Stamford, but it should be widely available elsewhere

Seventeen may seem like an odd year for an anniversary, but Götterdämmerung is truly a celebration beer, meant to commemorate the momentous growth Stone had in 2012. The brand opened the 650-plus seat Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens in former U.S. Navy buildings in San Diego - including a ten barrel brewhouse, opened a Stone Brewing bar at the San Diego airport, doubled the brand's brewing capacity, and became the tenth largest craft beer producer in the United States. A torrid pace, indeed.

In the brewers' words, they "decided to take palates on a tour of Deutschland by way of southern California." Götterdämmerung IPA is composed entirely of German pilsner malts and German-pedigree hops, but brewed in San Diego.  

The beer pours a pure amber color out of the bottle, with just a tiny hint of initial cloudiness, and quickly develops a thick, rocky head. A big, floral scent of hops with lots of grapefruit on the nose fairly billows of that cumulus head. There must have a been a tremendous amount of dry hopping going on with this one. 

There is a gutsy bitterness upon initial contact, followed by a sticky, resinous hop essence and readily apparent malts which fill the mouth. The pilsner grain bill has been fully broken down by hard working enzymes into a soft sweetness which finishes each pull of the beer, mellowing out the hops and carrying them across the palate like fat in a well marbled steak. 

True to Stone's reputation, this is not a beer for the shy. You don't drink this 9.5% IPA so much as step in the ring with it, but sometimes a slap is as good as a tickle, no?

West coast IPAs with their Pacific northwest hop varieties, have begun to catch on with the European set on the far side of Atlantic. The irony of hops is they are themselves a natural preservative, but their aromas and flavor break down fairly quickly - making hoppy beers poor candidates for cellaring or extended travel. 
Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø, of Denmark, father of the Evil Twin brand of artisinal beers, decided to let his recipe travel instead, and contracted Evil Twin Falco IPA to Two Roads Brewing in Stratford, so expect to see this and other Evil Twin beers popping up all over the place very soon. 

This IPA pours a bright straw color with a tinge of cloudiness and a bright white head. There is big citrus to the nose, and on first sip this one blasts your palate with an intense bitterness. The hops don't feel very oily on the tongue, and this isn't an overly malty beer, so Falco washes cleanly across the palate, leaving a tiny, lemony sweetness along with those IBUs. All this ends up with Falco being a very crisp IPA - you're always ready for the next sip. The flavors aren't as unctuous as a lot of other IPAs (looking at you, Stone), and Falco, despite its Danish roots, is just a very tasty, straightforwardly bitter American IPA. There's nothing surpassingly fancy or ambitious about this beer - just good ingredients well executed.

I'd be driven to self-flagellation if I allowed another week to pass by without reviewing Via Cordis, the new abbey-style ale from Two Roads. The name is Latin for "Road to the heart," and the beer itself is a collaboration between Two Roads and the biology department at Sacred Heart University. I picked up a 22oz. bottle, and the beer that issued forth was a clear, light amber color, and didn't have much evidence of yeast sediment until I got to the last of it. There is a strong, efflorescent aroma of Belgian yeast rising off the head, and the taste will be familiar to those who have had blonde ales from Belgium, which is a compliment, considering this particular beer was brewed in a former machine factory in Connecticut. 

Via Cordis is perhaps a little more grainy and slightly more dry than Duvel, for example, and it's a "single," so it's not very sweet, apart from the flavor connected to the aromatic yeast. Via Cordis will produce a good head, but it won't foam up excessively and leave your cobwebbed skeleton propped against the bar by the time it melts down to a drinkable level of liquid.  

This is a very satisfying, locally produced Belgian style single, and when you lift your glass it's likely to be empty by the time you set it down. You won't want to stop. I think this one would pair well with heavily spiced or herbaceous dishes. A portion of the proceeds from Via Cordis go to a scholarship at SHU, so you can feel like you're doing unto others & etc.  

One last bit of news for those of you willing to do a little travel of your own - Broad Brook Brewing has just opened in East Windsor. The shots I have seen on twitter show a very attractive new tasting room, and you can read more about it, if so inclined, right here

Here's to another great weekend. Cheers.