Thursday, January 23, 2003

Beer Exploration

I need to find a way to make fewer than five gallons of beer at a time - I want to experiment, and five gallons is a lot of beer to get through without developing any bad habits.

I grabbed a Russian Imperial Stout (which style actually has its origins in the UK, but mainly for export to Russian aristos like Katherine the Great) the other day called Old Rasputin, and it's one of the more enjoyable high-alcohol brews I've found outside of a good IPA. Black as velvet, surprisingly hoppy, and warming in the tum, it's been described by some as beer's answer to espresso, and I'm inclined to agree.

I also snagged some Newcastle Brown Ale, but wound up disappointed. Compared to the Brown Ale from Richmond's own Legend Brewery, there is no candle it can possibly hold. Newcastle Brown seems rather weak-willed, actually, and not even as full-bodied as a Pete's Wicked Ale or Sam Adams' Boston Lager (and the Sam Adams isn't even a brown ale!), and brown ales are supposed to be full-bodied beers. Interesting to see the differences come to light.

I've also become a real fan of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, but I'm in good company there. Crisper than an IPA, it functions as a good thirst-quencher, so long as you don't mind a fair bit of pucker from its healthy dose of hops.

Speaking of IPAs (India Pale Ales), I've been searching around for a good "standard," and so far the most fun I've had with them has come from Stone's Ruination IPA (which hits the IPA standard like a 10-pound sledge in leather chaps) and Lagunitas' IPA Maximus, which is eminently more refined, though still appropriately (ahem) assertive. Anyone else have a favorite IPA?

Yours in malt and hops,


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