Saturday, June 11, 2011

Southern Tier Brewing Company - IPA

Wegmans is one of Upstate's great assets, and now there's another reason to love them: recently, they started offering 'Craft Your Own Pack'.  Inspired by a similar service available at Beers of the World, the idea is that you pick out 6 single bottles of craft beer and pay a flat rate of $9.99.  It's a bit more expensive than your average 6-pack, but it's worth it for the opportunity to try out different brews from across the region.

When I picked out my half-dozen last night, there weren't a ton of Upstate varieties to choose from; but there was a decent selection from Pennsylvania and New England.  I eventually found 6 NY beers that I haven't reviewed before, and I'm looking forward to sampling them all (purely for the blog, of course).  Here's the complete list:
  • Southern Tier - IPA
  • Southern Tier - Raspberry Wheat
  • Custom Brewcrafters - Caged Alpha Monkey IPA
  • Custom Brewcrafters - Double Dark Cream Porter
  • Ithaca Beer Co - Nut Brown Ale
  • Ellicott Brewing Co - Blueberry Wheat
So, a good range I think - a couple of summery fruit beers, a couple of IPAs (I'm trying to overcome my IPA-phobia, really) and some darker ales which will be a bit more complex and really interesting.  I'm starting today with the Southern Tier IPA.

After my first encounter with Southern Tier, I'm setting pretty high standards for these guys - Phin and Matt's was a great Pale Ale, and if their other brews are of the same quality I'll be very impressed.  Phin and Matt's was proudly brewed with 3 malt varieties and 3 hop varieties - the IPA declares itself to be brewed with 4 types of each, adding an extra layer of intricacy to the flavour profile.  The website description of the brew states that it's triple-hopped - I'm guessing this means it was dry-hopped during the fermentation.  That's a good thing - it means you get a fresher, cleaner hop taste, leaving the bitterness to mellow out in the undertones of the flavour profile.  Dry-hopping also means that the beer will be a bit less clear when it gets to the glass - again, this is nothing to be afraid of.  Here are my impressions:

Appearance - Pale amber in colour, with a respectable off-white head and evidence of low to moderate carbonation.  Pretty clear, although a slight haze is detectable. 

Aroma - Definite floral hops in the aroma, not aggressive or skunky however.  Malt evident as an undertone, hops dominate as they should for an IPA.  Some slight fruitiness detectable, but not sure whether from hops or fermentation by-products.

Taste - Hops are the dominant character, mainly the floral flavour detected in the aroma.  The malt flavour is clean, allowing the hoppiness to shine through.  Some hop bitterness in the aftertaste, but not overpowering.  A slight sulfuriness is detectable, which is a stylistic option according to the BJCP and not a fault.

Mouthfeel - a medium body with low-moderate carbonation (probably a bit low for the style).  Fairly dry in character.  The hoppy bitterness does produce a bit of astringency but it's not over the top.  This is a slight stylistic fault.

Appearance - 4/5
Aroma - 4/5
Taste - 4/5
Mouthfeel - 3.5/5

Overall: 3.875/5.  A good IPA which detracts ever so slightly from the BJCP guidelines in a couple of places.  I really enjoyed this brew because it's a milder example of the style where the hops are a bit more restrained than in some of the extreme versions.  Would definitely drink again.  Maybe I'm becoming an IPA drinker after all...

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