Armory XPA

The first beer from Deschutes’ Portland brewing system (a fancy way of saying their new brewpub in Portland) is an IPA that I am pleased to try, Armory XPA. The nose has a citrus quality to it, but I wasn’t overwhelmed by that, which was good. It should be noted that my nose isn’t the most astute one, so someone else might pick up on the scent more, but I found it muted, like orange blossoms, instead of oranges. However I thought that was perfect for complimenting the finish of this beer.

The hop bitterness starts right up, not overwhelming but still a constant that rides the tongue front to back. The lingering scent helps play off this citrus bitterness, and just like when it clears your nose, the hops clear the palate rather quickly, leaving a slight dryness. The clean finish makes this more ideal, I think, for a late spring beer, when the air is mostly warm, the flowers are confidently out, and skirts are starting to show up.

Unfortunately Portlandia has other ideas about the weather, and it’s been friggin’ cold and windy, even into May. The fact that the pub (and this is truly a wonderful place) is playing Led Zeppelin’s Fool in the Rain is not persuading the climate to shift warmer, sadly. This doesn’t detract from the beer, but I’ll admit that sometimes where and when you have a drink sometimes matters almost as much as what the drink is.

Still, the citrus notes hold up throughout the beer, and I didn’t start noticing a shift toward a more bitter aftertaste until I was 2/3rds through–but this is a hoppy effect; the bitterness can intensify as one drinks, and the beer warms up. It doesn’t detract from the beer; most beers shift as you drink them, but this one follows it’s path of floral citrus hop bitterness, and I’m just going to be led until it’s gone.
The XPA looks a little less amberish than I would’ve expected. It’s not golden by any means, and is has a slight haze that I associate more with hefes than pale ales (I don’t believe it’s out of style though), but given what I’d seen from the Cascade Pale Ale, I had this idea in my head this beer would be clearer. Trust me, I got over it.

Boulder Dam Brewing Samplers

Sigh. There are some things that just can’t be helped, and I’m afraid the beers at Boulder Dam are among them.

I will admit, I don’t like Las Vegas that much-it strikes me as foolishly excessive, ugly, and lacking the element of fun that it so madly insists it is selling to people. I have family down there, though, so I go visit. Now fortunately for me, my Dad also likes good beer so he tries to keep his ears perked for any brewpubs. And since Boulder City is only about 20 minutes outside of Vegas, it was easy enough for him to hear of this brewpub–and so it was on my visit last weekend, we took off for the wares of the Boulder Dam Brewpub.

It’s in the 80’s at least, so it’s the perfect time of day for a beer. Dad and I stroll in to have sampler trays of 6 Boulder Dam beers. The first thing that struck me was this; every single beer was disturbingly cloudy. Even the stout when I held it up to the light, seemed to have a haze to it that didn’t belong. I am not sure if it’s the water in that area causing this haze, or some kind of defect to the brewing system itself, but all the beers had this quality. So just as the tray is being set down in front of me, I’m troubled.

I suppose that the two caveats to this post then should be first: all the beers had a haze to them that in some cases (pils, red, stout) definitely shouldn’t be there, but since the haze was present throughout, I won’t mention it in my descriptions. I’m not sure how water in Nevada might impact the clarity of the beers, but it’s the kind of thing that a brewpub certainly needs to know and compensate for. Second: I only had samples of each beer. There are some beers that just need a pint to get a feel for, and so a touch of salt should probably be taken with these descriptions.

Powder Monkey Pilsner; this had a slightly lemony aftertaste, and like most pilsners, no real nose on it. It also had a mouth feel that was just way too dense for what anyone should expect from a pilsner. Finally there was a bitterness-a kind of dirty aftertaste as well that just didn’t sit well with me.

Hell’s Hole Hefe; this was served with a huge slice of orange, and when brewers’ use fruit to overcome the sourness of their beer, I think something is seriously wrong. At this point, I’m starting to wonder if the yeast strain they used in the Pilsner is the same as the one here; there’s a similar mouthfeel, but none of the more belgian elements (clove, banana) that you’d expect from a belgain beer. There were citrus notes through the entire beer, though, as a positive. From the hops or the orange slice though, I couldn’t tell you.

Raspberry Vice; this had a nice raspberry nose, but that’s where it ended. This fell into the pit of many fruit beers; the fruit is not actually complimenting the beer, it’s either overwhelming or barely present at all. This weiss beer ended up tasting like sickly raspberry candy instead, and both my Dad and I were especially critical of it.

Hop Crisis; This felt a bit more like a traditional IPA instead of the super-hoppy ones made in the Pacific NW. It had an effervescence that cut through the bitterness and had a slightly malty finish, but again there was a dirty aftertaste on this beer that I couldn’t get past.

Ragtown Red; this was the first beer that actually tasted interesting. Because they used black malts the beer had a darker, shade to it, almost a ‘core’ of darkness, surrounded by a lighter dirty golden fluid. This malt gave the beer a chocolate, malty chewiness that I found interesting, and I would’ve liked to have drank more of this beer to get a better feel for it. There was a hint of clove in the nose, and this was the first indication I had that a different yeast strain may have been used in this beer versus the others.

Black Canyon Stout; this felt more like a porter in the mouth, but the line between porters and stouts have been blurry for awhile. The roasted malt flavors hung out in my mouth, but they weren’t unpleasantly sweet, so I wasn’t unhappy about that.

Of the beers I had, I’d try the Ragtown to get a better handle on it, and recommend the Black Canyon…but with serious reservations. My Dad liked the Stout and the Pilsner, but after that had reservations or flat out disliked the rest of the beers.