Friday Froth: Beer...Served Fresh

James Gribbon

Welcome back to another edition of CTBites’ own beer column, this time with a subtle aroma of pigskin. Tastes start to turn a little bit more to brown liquor as we transition from summer to fall but, back yard table or car bumper at a tailgate, it’s a sad hand that can’t reach for a beer.  We have stone, metal and a miracle down below as we match the days and keep it crisp. 

So fresh and so green, green: Stone Brewing in California brewed up a double IPA just for us this August and shipped it over for those who were paying attention. The brew is called Enjoy By 9-13-13 – (I gave a heads up in the last Froth here, and originally mentioned the series the first time we got a batch back in April) – and I finally got a chance to have some. Let me tell you: it was worth the wait. 

Enjoy By pours a clear gold with a thick head and tons of sweet citrus on the nose. Tip up the glass and there is so much floral, citrusy hop taste you could almost chew it. It is immediately and strikingly apparent why the brewers at Stone made such a point of the degree of freshness. There is no small amount of bitterness, but it’s held in check by a sturdy malt base. At 9.4%, the alcohol may be cutting through the other ingredients to some degree, but it’s not noticeable in the flavor. The flavor, though, is delicious. It somehow gets better as the level of beer goes down and the number of sticky rings it has left on your glass goes up. Rare is the beer that can pull off that feat. If you love hops, you need to go out and find this beer. As encouragement, I’ll use one of the oldest of movie tropes and give you The Ticking Clock: you have one week before, by contract, it’s all gone.

Elsewhere, both stylistically and geographically, we have Trooper Ale, from Robinson’s Brewery in Stockport, England – the only beer in the world both served at the Stranger’s Bar in the English House of Parliament, and created by Iron Maiden singer Bruce Dickinson. The label’s depiction of Eddie as he appeared on the single for 1983’s “The Trooper” is instantly recognizable, but the beer itself is the very antonym of violent.

Trooper is an English ale in both senses of the phrase, and pours a dark coppery color under a thin head. There is a sweet, vaguely spiced nose as the lightly roasted malts interact with tiny hop aromas. There is a solid body to the ale with a little bite from the hops, but it’s very balanced and gentle, considering its lineage. It’s a very traditional British style beer, so the malt’s always going to be the point. As much as I like the label design, this beer seems like it would be most at home in one of those glass dimple mug/pint pots they use across the pond. 

I don’t care if you drink Trooper while surrounded by dark wood and watching footie or wrapped in ripped denim with questionable stains: don’t sleep on this beer because it looks like a gimmick, and don’t drink it just because Maiden says so – drink it because it’s a legitimately solid English ale, and it’s worth a try.  \\m//

So we’ve done west and east, let’s talk about Half Full, right here in CT. The lady and gentlemen at the Stamford brewery are taking full advantage of the small production volume they have on hand by creating limited edition, seasonal beers to go along with their year round offerings. For this month only (for now) they’ve created Half Full Pale Ale. I had a chance to sit down with Connor Horrigan and sample some ahead of time. 

HFPA has a slight copper tinge to it with a thick white head, and I listened as Connor told me it contained more hops than any beer they’ve ever made. 

“I go into bars sometimes and they’re pouring our beers with no head. I stop them and say ‘I paid a lot of money for that head, put one on there.” 

There is indeed a fresh, fruity, piney aroma wafting off those bubbles, and it’s enough to throw your senses for a loop, because the beer itself is super smooth – it has just 25 IBUs.

“It’s something we do with all our beers,” Connor was explaining to me. “The Bright Ale, the IPA, this – it’s almost all dry-hopping.” He estimates the Summit and Cascade hops for the Pale Ale cost him on the order of $15 per keg.  

It’s hoppy in an aromatic way, which is a big part of our sense of taste, but not bitter or resinous like the Enjoy By. The HFPA is also very slightly dry in a way you’ll be familiar with if you’ve ever had their Bright Ale. Keep a look out for this one. Half Full continues their fall series of beers with a pumpkin beer for October. 

We’ll pass right on through the Constitution State now on our way to Mercury Brewing in Ipswitch, and their Clown Shoes label of contract brew.  I first mentioned this brand when it became available a little over a year ago, and this week I reached for a bottle of their Miracle India Pale Ale. The label shows be-caped Clown Shoes delivery driver “Miracle” Mike Pettengill holding a puppy, and a portion of the beer’s proceeds go to benefit the Minor Miracle Fund, which helps place shelter dogs with homes through the Animal Rescue League of Boston.

This Miracle is a light amber, semi-filtered IPA in which you can see distinct specs of yeast swirling around under a frothy head. There is some citrus on the high, but it’s very light on the nose. It’s pleasantly hoppy on the first sip, the IBUs aren’t breathtaking or anything, and there is a nice malt base without being overly rich. The cumulative effect of the above makes this another smooth-drinking beer – sessionable but substantial. For proof of this, see the fact that I was 7/8ths done with the bottle by the time I got this far in my notes. Miracle is a balanced, almost old-style American IPA, like those created in the 1980s before our nation got hop-wild. 

So: mega-hops, no hops, or kinda-hops two ways – your choice. Go out there and get a beer for the Gipper. It’s what he would have done, anyway.