Craft brewers love to experiment. Whether they’re home brewers or work at a major craft brewery, creativity is really at the heart of this industry. Brewers are always willing to push the envelope with styles of beer as well as ingredients. Purists will tell you that adding things like vanilla, chocolate or chili peppers to beer is unnecessary and in some cases, offensive, but others embrace the experimental nature of brewing and have fun with figuring out different ways to create their favorite beverage. Maybe a craft brewer identifies the flavor bridge exists between earthy and citrus-forward hops as well the spice and fruit flavors that pour forth from certain varieties of coffee, and marry the two in their quest to create the perfect brunch beer. Maybe a craft brewers takes a traditional stout and ages it in oak barrels with a house blend of bacteria and yeasts for an approachable sour where roast from the malt melds together with light acid, fruitiness. Peaks and Pints presents Craft Beer Crosscut 7.30.17: A Flight of Experimentation, a beer flight of craft beers that no doubt came from mad brewers’ labs.
6.1% ABV, 20 IBU
Delivering a smooth foundation from wheat, acidulated and caramel malts, in addition to the sweet orange peel tossed in during boil, No-Li Brewhouse lets the juicy orange flavor and aroma shine in its dreamsicle-esque brew, Slacker, a lighter version of its orange-y strong ale, Brass Monkey. The strong citrus character, reinforced by Comet and Cascade hops, only confirms that the delicious orange does not fall too far from the tree. The real kicker in this one is the addition of Madagascar vanilla beans post fermentation, which gives the beer a creamy, slightly sweet, vanilla taste that melds seamlessly with the orange peel.
8.6% ABV, 22 IBU
The Scotch ale, also called a “wee heavy,” is known for a rich, malty sweetness and strength. The Scotch ale is made with a long boil time that caramelizes the wort and produces sweeter, full-bodied flavor with copper to brown color. Recipes may include peat-smoked malt, which can lend smoky, earthy tones to the aroma and flavor, or actually adding malt smoked over fiery alder wood chips as Dystopian State Brewing Co. did with it’s the Immolator Smoked Wee Heavy. It’s the smokiness that really makes a Scottish Ale, and that’s what comes through wonderfully in the Tacoma brewery’s wee heavy. The Immolator starts off sweet with a smoky finish and faint wood character.
When people discuss sour beers, rarely do they discuss it in terms of dark beers. Dark sour beers are on the periphery right now but they are coming and were on display. E9 Brewery’s Frambuesa Moka is everything one could hope for in a sour stout — it’s acidic on the first sip as one would expect from a sour beer, but it is also extremely creamy, smooth and toasty like a stout should be. It’s a great marriage of these two very distinct styles and its profiles. Then, the Tacoma brewery adds raspberries. Raspberry and chocolate, subtle barrel influence, sour on the finish that complements the raspberry — it’s amazing.
7.5% ABV, 82 IBU
The coffee IPA isn’t a new phenomenon, but Rogue Ales’ Cold Brew IPA is one of the best. It provides enough coffee to wake up a dead guy, while simultaneously offering plenty of old-fashioned West Coast hops to please any hophead. Cold Brew IPA employs Stumptown’s Cold Brew Coffee, which has been cold-brewed for over 12 hours and double filtered. The coffee arrives immediately, but doesn’t dominate. The same can be said for the blend of Rogue Farms Rebel, Freedom and Liberty hops — as well as an additional amount of outside Simcoe. There’s a smooth transition from ingredient to ingredient with pine resin, grain, grapefruit and orange all making an appearance. For 82 IBU, Cold Brew IPA isn’t overly biting, but still packs a solid punch.
10% ABV, 80 IBU
Consider space. Albert became the first monkey in space June 11, 1948, when NASA sent a V2 rocket carrying him up 83 miles. Laika the dog became the first Earth-born creature to orbit the Earth when the Russians sent her into space atop a Sputnik rocket on Nov. 3, 1957. Countless astronauts have since ventured into space, traveling as far as the moon. So is it surprising that Eugene beer maker Ninkasi Brewing decided to launch several vials of yeast into space aboard a rocket and then retrieve the yeast to brew beer from it? Live long and prosper, Ninkasi. In October 2014, six vials of brewer’s yeast traveled up 77.3 miles aboard a UP Aerospace Inc. rocket, returning safely to Earth and cold-transported back to Ninkasi’s lab in Eugene, where it was propagated and tested before being used to ferment Ground Control, a rich, complex imperial stout brewed with Oregon hazelnuts, star anise and cocoa nibs, hops of Apollo, Bravo and Comet, and fermented with an ale yeast that survived a trip to space and back. Enjoy this creamy, milk chocolate stout with almonds, touch of vanilla, bourbon and a little licorice. The mission ends smooth and warm.