In general, I like to pick three different beers—a session beer; my favorite style of beer, usually IPAs; and something different, something outside my normal mix. Today I’ll be reviewing Sam Adams’ Alpine Spring (session beer), 21st Amendment’s Brew Free or Die IPA (preferred style) and Stone’s Arrogant Bastard Ale (new to me).
Stone’s Arrogant Bastard Ale—A strong ale with a disclaimer, this beer is not for the faint of heart. It boasts a 7.2% ABV with presumably high IBUs. It pours almost chocolate brown, clear, with a low head of medium-sized bubbles. The first whiff I had of the beer was something vegetable-like, almost like cabbage. Its earthy/herbal aroma and cabbage/pine taste weren’t appealing. However, as the beer warmed the malt character came out, leading to a molasses and piney finish. Overall, I’d get another bottle as I suspect this one may have been not quite right.
21st Amendment’s Brew Free or Die IPA—A canned beer (I know, don’t judge), self-described as an “IPA with a solid malt backbone and hoppy flavor,” this IPA boasts a 7% ABV with 70 IBUs. It pours amber-brown to gold, clear, sporting a thick creamy head of dense bubbles. The first thing noticed is the intense hoppy aroma, followed by a bready malt nose. It’s an IPA, no doubt, brewed with six different varieties of hops—warrior bittering hops; Columbus and cascade aroma hops; and a blend of Amarillo, ahtanum and simcoe used to dry hop. Citrus notes compete in the aroma, while piney bitterness lasts into the finish. IPA fans, get this stuff, you’ll love it.
Alpine Spring—This beer is self-styled as “a bright citrusy unfiltered lager” and the description holds true. It pours a cloudy honey-gold with a thick head comprised of moderately-sized bubbles. The first thing noticed on the nose is grapefruit-like citrus aroma, with subtle honey notes. The taste is citrusy sweet and medium bodied on the palette and finishes slightly bitter, slightly perfumey from the Tettnang hops. This beer is interesting; you should try it and I’ll tell you why.
Historically, lagers were only brewed in the cold months and allowed to ferment in caves. This is because of the temperature requirements of the lager yeast and also to limit the production of diacetyl and other phenolic compounds. Stylistically, lagers are “cold brewed” at lower temperatures to produce a clean malt profile, allowing the yeast to break down maltotriose. If you’re lost, pick up a pilsner like Pilsner Urquell and you’ll taste what I mean. What you’ll also notice with a pilsner is that it’s very clear, unlike this beer. This lager is unfiltered—presumably it’s skipped the bright tank step of the brewing process which chills the beer, allowing unwanted particles (like yeast) to settle out following fermentation.
For Sam Adams, this beer is a major break from the ordinary as their usual beers tend to be stylistically strong, hitting all of the points in the beer style guidelines. A great example is their Octoberfest, which is low alcohol, highly malty and low IBUs (bitterness). This lager, however, departs from the guidelines on all fronts. If you’re a fan of Sam Adams, you won’t be disappointed with the new direction in which they’re headed. Give it a try or three—after all, it’s a great session beer.