Thursday, March 3, 2011

Beer Review: 21A Bitter American and Anderson Valley IPA

I guess we're doing a West Coast themed beer review over here at A Flagon of Ale this week. Hella, brah.

I had to drive over the border to Wisconsin to get a bottle of Anderson Valley's Hop Ottin IPA. There must be something about the curvature of the Earth that makes it easier for west coast brewers to ship their beers to Wisconsin before Minnesota despite our apparent proximity. Perhaps our unfavorable and outdated laws have something to do with it. Speaking of California beer by way of Wisconsin news, Stone Brewing will definitely be coming to MN. They have a distributor and events lined up in the Twin Cities. Stone's marketing seems to get in the way of their beer, but they're going to have 20 taps at the Muddy Pig (as well as events with fewer taps at the Acadia, Stub & Herb's and other beer bars) so there will be something for any beer lover to enjoy, and more breweries in MN is a good thing. There have been rumors flying about Stone leaving Wisconsin. These are mostly unfounded, but if true, probably won't bode well for them in Minnesota. If any brewery can't make it in one of the drinkiest states in the country (who, by the way are unhindered by the like of the MLBA) they'll never make it here. On to the beer:

21A's Bitter American is something I was eager to try because it's labeled as an "American session beer" which I would greatly like to see more of in the world of craft beer. Also, it's an American take on a British style by a California brewery that's brewed and canned in Minnesota. Lots of room for something to get lost in translation there, but I'm glad to say that wasn't the case. Granted, in spite of the alcohol content, this isn't really a session beer in my mind because the explosive, bombastic hop flavor that comes at you makes it hard for me to imagine drinking more than one in a row. A session beer should have a reasonable alcohol level, as well as an unobtrusive flavor, but I certainly won't hold that against this beer. Baby steps. To appeal to craft beer drinkers (and it should) Bitter American is essentially a small IPA. It's got huge piney, almost acetonic aromas from the hops and a nice bitter kick as well. It would have been easy for this beer to be overwhelmingly bitter without the malt and alcohol that many IPAs rely on, but it isn't. Hop heads delight: Bitter American has huge flavor without huge alcohol. Will this be the face of American session beer? Perhaps. There is also a chimpanzee on the can which I don't understand. I generally dislike cans, but won't say anything bad about this one. The art is interesting, and it doesn't get confused for soda or an energy drink sitting in the cooler. summary: great beer, will buy this again.

Anderson Valley's Hop Ottin' IPA is one I've been eager to try for a while. It seems to be one of those pioneering, early-ish American IPAs (anyone know if this impression is correct? I couldn't find out when it was first brewed with the Google). There is a folksy story on the label explaining the name. Anderson Valley's IPA is overwhelmingly dominated by bitterness. The first impression is of a powerful bitterness and the finish is even more bitter as it lingers. It's like bench clamp of bitterness on the palate which doesn't leave room for much else. Malt flavors seem to be pushed very far in the background, as are any alcohol or estery notes. The aroma is that of an American IPA: lots of citrus, grapefruit, etc. Overall a nice beer, but not very inspired. I'd drink it again, but I don't think I would seek it out.

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