Beer of the Week: Surly Xtra-Citra

XtraCitra

Beer of the Week: Surly Xtra-Citra

Disclaimer: I am not a hophead. I don’t go crazy for IBU bombs. I might even say IPA is my least favorite style.

However, every once in a while I get a craving for a crisp, fruity IPA. Such an effect is often created with a good dose of Citra Hops.

A beer company rep I talked to recently referred to the hops as “Almighty Citra” for its popularity and difficulty to obtain in large quantities. Other breweries have had more luck, such as Marz Community Brewing Co.

There are also the hop hanchos at the well-known Minneapolis, Minnesota brewery Surly. Unlike the hop-loving public, I don’t seek out Furious, Abrasive or Overrated often.

But one of the latest releases, Xtra-Citra, had me intrigued. The beer screams summer from its sun-yellow can its sessionably low abv (4.5%) to the obvious fruity, spry Citra flavor.

My fridge void of a light, crisp ale in an adventure-ready can, I picked up four tallboys of Xtra-Citra.

Surly is generous in providing information on the ingredients on its website. The beer pours bright golden with an airy, white head. Fresh fruity, grassy aromas follow. The taste is more of the same. There’s lemon-lime and tangerine fruitiness, and a bitter, grassy, almost-saison like finish, likely helped by the Warrior bittering hops and English ale yeast.

As a showcase for Citra, this ale nails it.

But for this malt man, the citra is a little over-the-top. I like my citra balanced with a fuller body and another flavor/aroma hop like cascade.

Ideally, I’d have this beer on occasions where any fresh, light beer tastes good—on a hot day after manual labor, while fishing, between paddle strokes in a kayak or around a campfire with roasted hot dogs.

Rating: Glass – GROWLER – Case – Keg

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Beer of the Week: Ponysaurus Biere De Garde

IMG_1991Ponysaurus Biere De Garde

I have returned from vacation refreshed in mind and body. Helping me remain in this state is trunkload of North Carolina beers procured during a few days in Asheville.

Naturally, I had to feature something from the Tar Heel State on this blog. It is North Carolina Craft Beer Month after all.

I had long thought of visiting Asheville, not only for its reputation for tasty beer, but for its great food scene and outdoor recreation—I had a blast mountain biking and hiking.

I picked North Carolina over other options like Colorado, Montana and Michigan, thinking it would be the warmest option in early April.

But when the time came to leave, news dropped on the state’s new law making it illegal for transgender people to use the public restroom of the gender they identify with. I read up on the issue, and it seemed to me that this law was altogether unnecessary, insensitive and discriminatory.

I considered a sort of protest of the law, by changing course and not visiting North Carolina.

Ultimately, I decided not to hold it against the whole of the state, where there are in fact many friendly people.

Case in point is this plan for breweries to collaborate on a beer called Don’t Be Mean To People: A Golden Rule Saison. This is basically a protest beer of HB 2, the bill that led to the discriminatory restroom law, and all proceeds from its sales benefit organizations supportive of the LGBT community.

The beer will be brewed by Mystery Brewing and Ponysaurus Brewing in Durham, North Carolina. I was nowhere near Durham, but did grab four tallboys of the Ponysaurus Biere De Garde while in Asheville.

Graphics on the can, which are all kinds of awesome (see below), indicate that the “beer to be guarded from thieves” is made from barley, wheat and rye with “aromas of pear, almond, and vanilla, you know, abound.” These statements ring true. The flavor is funky French. Flavors of fig, pear, banana, toast, clove and nutmeg kiss the tongue, while it finishes dry and alcoholic.

This Ponysaurus creation leaves me confident Don’t Be Mean To People, which is set for release in May, will be a forceful beer in flavor and support for this nice cause.

Is it the best beer I had in North Carolina? Hard to say. Further tasting consideration is required—only had 3 days between drives to and from Wisconsin. Sierra Nevada offered a delicious Ovila with cherries as well as two great saisons in Audition and Peppercorn. Highland’s Saw-Whet Saison may be better yet. Burial Beer Company was impressive with its Shadowclock Pilsner and The Rosary Belgian Export Stout. I had originally intended to write about the marvelous Hi-Wire Lager before reading of the friendly collaboration between Ponysaurus and Mystery Brewing.

A big cheers to them. I hope for a chance to drink Don’t Be Mean To People, preferably with some of that great barbecue they have down there. For now, I’ll down this Biere De Garde before some fridge bandit gets ahold of it.

Rating: Glass – Growler – CASE – Keg

Beer of the Week: Base Camp S’more Stout

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Base Camp Brewing S’more Stout.

For those who love beer and love to travel, naturally, beercations are a must.

I’m heading to Asheville, North Carolina this week. I can only hope the trip is as good as the one I took last fall, visiting the Pacific Northwest. I spent most of my time in three legendary beer towns—Bend, Portland and Seattle.

I have many great beer memories from the trip. I watched the sun set behind the Three Sisters mountains—after climbing South Sister earlier that day—with a few hoppy ales and an amusingly drunk mother-daughter combo at Crux Fermentation Project in Bend. I talked politics with an odd duck of an old man at the hole-in-the-wall taproom of Wingman Brewers in Tacoma, Washington over a P-51 Porter.

But the best company I had in my travels was my cousin Bean—real name Jenny, short for Jelly Bean—who lives in Portland. After not seeing each other for 3-4 years, we reconnected in perhaps the best way possible—over beers. We had an absolute blast meeting other people’s pups at the Lucky Labrador, marveling at the $1,500 Dave at Hair of the Dog and enjoying a warm night from the comfort of the Bailey’s Taproom patio—so much in fact we swiped a couple glasses, either just for laughs or for a memento of the many laughs we had that night.

Perhaps the most distinct taproom we visited was that of Base Camp Brewery, themed to recreate the feel of a remote mountainside. Also distinct was the S’more Stout. I had high expectations, but did not expect my glass to have a perfectly roasted marshmallow as a garnish. Given a quick scorch from a blow torch, the marshmallow was a delightful touch on a great beer.

I feel a little strange about this review, having just found out about this incident, but I won’t hold it against the beer. It was also one of the few beers I had on my beercation that I could find in the Midwest—in a sleek, 22-ounce, aluminum, bottle-shaped can no less.

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Despite the badass vessel, having it a second and third time does not compare to the first. Beer is always better in a taproom near where it was made, especially if enjoyed with good company and maybe a toasty garnish.

Regardless, this stout is rock-solid with plenty of roasty and chocolaty notes and a smooth, sweet finish. At 7.7% it is middle of the road for a stout and a good beer to stuff in a backpack on a hike out to quiet spot under towering trees and bright stars. I’ll build a fire and have a cold aluminum cup in one hand and a sticky s’more in the other.

Rating: Glass – Growler – CASE – Keg

Bonus photos from Bend!