Posts Tagged Ninkasi
Just exploring my surroundings some more, I went down to the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. I don’t usually go down there, as it is mostly surfer bros, tatoo and vape shops and a whole heap of trendiness in which I don’t belong. What did belong (in my beer glass) was Beer Run IPA (7.3%abv). This beer poured golden color, with a cap of foamy white head. It smelled floral and bitter. The taste was very bitter, followed by some floral hops into the middle. It was light bodied and lightly carbonated, finishing much as it started: bitter and floral. Not super dynamic for one of my favorite breweries.
“Houston, we have a problem.” That problem is that more breweries don’t take drastic measures in brewing their beer like the crazies/nerds at Ninkasi just took. Recently, they combined two of my favorite things into one grand event: beer and space. These guys decided, “Sure, our beer is good…but we want to send something to space.” So, they loaded some yeast onto a rocket that was bound for space. According to Space.com, on October 23, 2014 a successful launch from Spaceport America in New Mexico saw 4 vials of brewer’s yeast experience about 4 minutes of weightlessness. Ninkasi incorporated some of the ale yeast from that trip to space into its newest offering: Ninkasi Ground Control Imperial Stout.
This beer pours like motor oil: thick, black and sludgy. It had a cap of tan sudsy head that streaked down the glass a bit. Chocolate and faint coffee and bourbon aromas were about all that made it out of the glass on the smell. Strong chocolaty bitterness came through on the taste. Super thick mouthfeel with little carbonation, though more than most other stouts I have had, to break it up made it a bit syrupy. Flavors of star anise came through in the middle, with a little nuttiness fading back to the bittersweet chocolate on the finish.
Although I really wanted this beer to be 5-worthy, due to its long journey to a place near and dear to my heart, alas it was just a little lacking:
There comes a time in every beer drinker’s journey when stars align, worlds collide and things match up as if by Kismet. Now, this may be overstating a bit, but how could I pass up an opportunity to try a release by my favorite brewery that involves one of my favorite games/pastimes as a youngster with one of my favorite pastimes as a grownup? Answer: I couldn’t. Enter Ninkasi Critical Hit Barleywine. As an infrequent fan of barley wine at best, I was skeptical for only a second before diving right in, due to the theme of this particular barleywine.
This nerdy beauty poured dark amber with medium white head that characteristically does not stay around long. Aromas included bourbon and plum, with some spice and maybe a little apple coming through. The taste was strong, with lots of malt up front, followed by what I could only identify as grapes. It had medium mouthfeel, with little carbonation felt mostly toward the back of the throat. Whiskey flavors came on after the malt, turning to more of a spiced wine flavor. It finished somewhat spicy, with whiskey trailing at the back of the throat.
Even though it was a little tart and un-beerlike for my general taste, I very much enjoyed the complexity that this brew gave me.
I started seeing this beer from Ninkasi a few months ago and I thought, “Hmm, I love the brewery…I haven’t had this one from them…” Then I came to the realization, “I should try this!” And so it was that Ninkasi Expo 58 Belgian-Style Golden Pale Ale came into my possession.
It poured a fizzy clear pale yellow color with foamy head that left loose lace that slid down the sides of the glass easily. Yeasty and sour aromas mark this beer as definitely a member of the Belgian family. There was also some malty sweetness at the end. It tasted very yeasty and bright, with light body and mouthfeel. The carbonation was refreshing and light. Some sourness came on toward the middle, with some tangy lemon flavors afterward. It finished with the same yeastiness.
This was a refreshing, tasty beer to start the spring season.
I recently took a trip through beautiful Oregon and paid a too-short visit to my favorite brewery, Ninkasi Brewing. This place of wonder was not quite what I expected: it was in a very industrial part of town, which in itself is not that unusual for a brewery, but I am used to strip malls and office parks with tasting rooms. This particular section of Eugene was full of graffiti, run-down homes and factories whose products at which I could only guess. It was also laid out like it was built around the neighborhood it inhabited, with the road leading up to it leading directly to the main administrative building. I generally don’t expect to get lost at a brewery until after sampling the beer (Of course, I kid…)
Eventually winding my way back to the building where they actually brew the stuff, I was presented with a complex that reminded me of a cross between a brewery and a junkyard (just cluttered, not dirty). There was chain link and black brick surrounding what I could see of it from the front, which was not much given the small city block on which it sat. They did have a small patio area just inside the fence/wall and a fire pit beneath the grain tower. It was cozy enough for the part of that city.
Hopping inside for the main attraction, the situation was much different: bright, shiny stainless everywhere there wasn’t clean, smooth concrete. As is fairly standard across all tasting rooms I have visited, the taps were the first thing to greet me through the door. It was the middle of the day (don’t judge me…) so there were only a few people at the counter. I was excited to try something I had not had from them before, so I got the Quantum Pale Ale and Lux Helles Lager.
Starting out easy, I tried the Quantum Pale Ale first. This poured a rich golden color and had a thick stand of frothy foam that did not stick around long. Tropical fruits and flowers hit my nose on the smell. The taste was surprisingly mild for a pale ale, with light to medium carbonation and light mouthfeel. There was a light taste of tart, sweet fruit, with a flowery taste trailing toward and lasting through a very mild finish.
At a pretty moderate 5.6% abv, not a bad beer I could definitely see myself with after work at some point in the future.
I wanted another beer, but being on the road so long I just got a taster of another light one: the Lux Helles Lager. This one poured light pale yellow with very fizzy head that dissipated very quickly. It smelled yeasty with some lemon and grassy aromas. It reminded me very much of spring, despite the cloudy weather and cool temperature that particular afternoon. It had a very light mouthfeel, with surprisingly light carbonation, given the bubbly pour. The lemon flavor came through first on the taste, followed by a whole lot of fresh-cut grass. There really was not much else to this beer, except some lemon on the finish.
This was not a particularly dynamic beer, though I am not sure that was the point. Still:
I hope everybody had a very merry Christmas. I certainly did. I got to try out a new place in my hometown. It is called Barrelhouse 101 and the 101 is meant to indicate that they have over one hundred beers…on tap! I thought this was great news and I had to try it.
As you can see, the outside resembles a firehouse or something on a dock. It’s also colored a little like a funhouse, with very bright blue and yellow walls, with an all but neon-colored door. Walking in, the interior gave a very industrial vibe as well, with high I-beam rafters and big halogen lights you might find in a factory hanging from the ceiling. The bar area felt a bit cluttered and crowded with tables fairly close together, not to mention close to the bar itself. I appreciated it, though, as most brewhouses are cavernous warehouses of equipment with just a tasting room. Of course, this place does not brew its own beer, so that may have something to do with the layout…
The kitchen area to the left was cool, with a red studded leather wall to separate it from the main dining area. It gave it a kind of retro diner feel, though I don’t know that is what they were aiming for. At least it was festively decorated, with all of their stockings hung along the length of it. The patio area, on the other hand, wasn’t much to look at: fairly small and narrow, with not much to look at but the street. At least it had heaters to help cut the beach wind chill.
They have pretty great food, but who cares about that, right? The beer selection was enough boggle the mind and confuse the eye. I was able to pick one out of the crowd, though: Institution Ale Company Restraint Maple Brown Ale. I thought it appropriate for the holiday weekend I had just celebrated. It poured a deep red-brown color, with a sudsy white head that really stuck to the glass. It had mild aromas of roasted malt and chocolate. Despite the name, no maple came through on the smell. The taste was also mild and smooth. It started with the roasted malts, moving to bitter chocolate. The finish was equally mild as the chocolate lingered.
Despite my hope for a semi-sweet holiday beer, this one underwhelmed a bit:
I was going to stop there, but I was getting on a train home in an hour, so I figured I’d have another look through the prodigious selection. I am very glad I did, as I found a beer Ninkasi let me (and the rest of their followers) know about on Instagram and it was called The Devil Went Down to Oregon Imperial Dark Rye. This is a collab Ninkasi did with Devils Backbone Brewing and it is far more appropriate for the holidays. It poured dark red with medium white head. It smelled sour, with hints of malts and a very slight sugary smell. There was also some spice to make things interesting. The taste was smooth, which surprised me for a rye. The malts came through in the beginning, with the rye spice showing up toward the middle. Medium carbonation helped break up that spice, but it came right back. It finished smooth, with the spice persisting afterward.
I enjoyed this one, despite the spiciness. Call it my Ninkasi bias:
A great place to check out if you are in the Ventura, CA area.
Christmas truly is the most wonderful time of the year: trees, lights, decorations…and Ninkasi’s seasonal beauty Sleigh’r Dark Doüble Alt Ale. It is in the German altbier style, which means it is brewed at a cooler temperature than other ales and uses top-fermenting yeast. This yeast imparts a fruitiness not normally seen in ales. Altbier is also matured at a cooler temperature than is usual for an ale, making it clean and crisp. This beer helps truly ring in the season for me. Come. Take the journey with me.
It poured a rich dark copper color with small, fizzy head that did not stick around very long. It reminded me very much of the way a lager pours. Not much in the way of aromas came from the glass at first, but then lots of caramel and fruity notes pushed through. It tasted light, with pleasant caramel and light sweetness. A bit of bitterness came toward the middle and persisted to the finish with some caramel notes to balance it out.
I really enjoyed this beer. At 7.2% abv, it makes a really good sipper for the holidays.
I would rate this beer:
Ok, straight off the top, I have to make a correction: I jumped the gun and posted some of the pictures under Day 1 that were actually part of the Day 2 festivities. So, here we go…
Day 2 started normally enough. I went for my morning run, came home and read the news with breakfast. Then, after some other mundane stuff, I headed over to good ol’ KnB to see what they were up to for the occasion. They were celebrating by featuring brews from Green Flash Brewing. I hadn’t had anything from Green Flash in a while, so I was excited to see what was on tap.
There was certainly no shortage of choices. I decided on the Hop Head Red. This double red IPA brings the hops, certainly, but didn’t take my head off with the bitter burn that normally comes with such a big beer. It poured a deep orange-red color, with creamy white head that really stuck to the glass. There were lots of hops on the smell with a little fruit, though mostly floral aromas came through. At first, it tasted like I was drinking liquified hops, as the bitterness about knocked my palate clean out of my head. In fact, it reminded me a little of Ballast Point’s Tongue Buckler. There was little in the taste of the floweriness that came through on the aroma. It was bitter straight through to the finish. Not a terrible beer, if only for the creaminess of the head, but definitely one I would drink only sparingly.
The second one I tried while at KnB was pretty much the Pièce de résistance of big (huge, really) bourbon barrel aged beers, as far as I am concerned. If you like bourbon, which I do, you will like this beer. At 16.5%, I opted to split this one with a friend and it still left me wanting nothing. Well, maybe a little more, but you know what they say about discretion being the better part of valor and all.
This poured black with dark brown head that dissipated quickly and left the glass clean. The aroma was all bourbon off the top, with some spice notes toward the end. I also got some rich chocolatiness, as well. Moving on to the taste, I knew what to expect: bourbon was all up front, before moving to the chocolate flavors and a little spice on the finish . This was likely from the bourbon, not that I minded.
Good and done with our libations at KnB, we headed inside to see what they had in their fridges. It took me all of a minute to spot the two (yes, I only got two) I wanted: Ninkasi Believer and Ballast Point Homework Series Batch No. 4 Pumpkin Ale. These are easily my two most favorite beers I have ever had (and I am making a note here) EVER!
The red comes from my favorite brewery, so you know it is good. It poured a dark red, with foamy head that sticks around a little while, though not on the sides of the glass. The smell is of roasted malts, with just a touch of hoppy bittersweet aromas. The taste is much the same, with a nice refreshing quality that may have been helped by the slight hoppiness to lighten things up a bit. All in all, a really good beer.
Then– oh then– I came to the Ballast Point Pumpkin Ale. This is far and away the best pumpkin ale I have had to date. None of my expectations came close before trying this one. It poured dark red-brown with lots of carbonation and quickly dissipating white head. It did not smell too sweet and had a little spice and some bitterness that gave me hope beyond hope that this pumpkin ale was not like any other. The taste confirmed that it was not. The first thing I tasted was a slightly sweet spiciness with some vegetable-like bitterness to follow and heavy carbonation to break it up. The carbonation dissipates quickly to allow the light sweetness to come back through on the finish with a hint of warm malts and some lingering bitterness. In case it was not obvious, I really enjoyed this beer. So much so, I am bringing the very two bottles you see together above to Thanksgiving Day dinner in a couple of weeks. A perfect compliment to a turkey dinner, methinks.
That wraps up SDBW2014 Day 2. Check back tomorrow for Day 3 goings on!
I have finally committed to calling one brewery my favorite and it’s Ninkasi Brewing Company. That decided, I saw this and had to have it. Although I don’t know that much about the Kölsch style, I do know that it makes a refreshing summertime drink. Come to find out, it used to be made exclusively in the town of Cologne (“Köln” in German), Germany. Traditionally, they were all-barley pale ales, but this one was made with the ever-popular German spalt hop variety, giving it a nice mild, easy drinkability.
First, the pour: light and slightly hazy with very active carbonation. The bright head was very light and dissipated very quickly. The first smell to hit me was a sourness; not overpowering, but I didn’t really remember that from any other kölsch I had before. I got lemon, grass and a light flowery scent from this beer.
The taste first made me think I was drinking a wheat beer, with a faint dry, grainy character that is normally reserved for hefeweizen styles, though the large bubbles in the carbonation helped lighten it up quite a bit. After the wheat experience, I was greeted with very mild, fresh taste of lemon and grass. Afterward was a slight sourness, with reminders of the lemony grassiness.
A great summer refreshment overall, I would rate this beer:
Even though it’s only available between January and April, I was able to get my hands on this lovely concoction. Another from Ninkasi, Mosaic is an ale made with a single type of hop. In this case, that happens to be the mosaic hop. Primarily used for aroma, this little goody is said to impart “a complex array of tropical fruit, citrus, berry, herbal, earthy and pine characteristics.” (www.hopunion.com, 2014). But we’ll get to the smelly bit later. First, the pour.
As you can see, it pours the deep clear golden color of a pale ale, with bright white, loose foam at the top. Not much activity in the way of carbonation in this one. The aromas coming from this beer were a bit fruity and there was a hint of pine. I also detected a bit of fresh-cut grass in there, as well. I entered into the tasting with a bit of trepidation. Anyone who has read this blog knows hops and I are rarely on good terms. I must say, though, that I am becoming better able to stomach the good old fashioned IPA a bit more than I used to, so the tide may be turning for me.
On the first sip, I caught the fruit flavors coming through– mostly grapefruit, some orange-like flavors, and maybe a little lemon for good measure. Then came the herbal pine taste. This was not unpleasant and a little surprising. It is always good to keep things interesting. The smooth maltiness this beer offers helped tone that down to a pleasant mildness that followed. That same pine taste did creep through in the aftertaste, though it faded a bit to a pretty mellow finish.
I was pleasantly surprised by this and was left with an overall warm feeling from this beer.
I would rate this beer: