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Tuesday, February 19, 2013


Red Ales, arguably more than any other style of beer, are defined primarily by color rather than taste profile. You see "IPA" and you expect a certain level of hoppiness; you see "Stout" or "Porter" and, yes you expect a dark colored beverage, but you also expect varying degrees of roasted maltiness, chocolate, and coffee in both aroma and taste. But a Red Ale is an independent sort of fellow who refuses to conform to arbitrary stereotypes based on color. Red Ales can run the gamut from malty to hoppy, sweet to bitter. They can be big dessert beers, or light-weight sessions. This month, in recognition of Valentine's Day (red is the color associated with both the romance of the day - as in "roses are red" - as well as the aftermath of the famous gangland massacre on that day - your choice) we decided to take a look at some Red Ales.
Saranac sent along with their Red IPA a new Dry Hop Lager they wanted us to try also, so we've included this as well, despite it's hue deficiency.
Apropos to the day, the food theme was "heart healthy" and the music of choice was love songs.


THE BEER FACTS: STYLE: German Lager; ABV: 6.0%; IBUs: 30; MALTS: North American 2 Row, German Specialty Malt; HOPS: Perle, Mittlefruh, Saphir, Opal, Taurus; Limited release in 12 Beers a Springing variety pack.

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Saranac Dry Hop Lager is brewed with North American and German malt using Perle, Mittlefruh and Saphir hops in the kettle. In aging, we dry hop with Opal, a new variety with wonderful aromatic qualities. Lagers aren't typically dry hopped, but we wanted to showcase a lager blooming with hop flavor and aroma. You'll experience a medium body with subtle malt notes to round out this uniquely hopped brew."

COLOR: Clover honey

POUR: Decent head with respectable staying power and nice lacing. There is a bit of carbonation and it's a little bubbly in the mouth.

AROMA: Bready (lager yeast) with maybe a hint of cloves

BODY: Just shy of medium

TASTE: Fairly balanced with a malty back-end bite; notes of bread, nuts and toffee

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: Heading toward "Can't Get Enough"

COMMENTS: "If I were to drink a lager, I'd grab it; It's a good beer; I'm impressed; If I were at a friend's house and this beer were served, I wouldn't be offended; I really like it; We typically don't drink lagers, but this we would drink; I'd buy it over a Sam Adams Lager, Yuengling, and most lagers; It has a nice appeal to hop heads."


THE BEER FACTS: STYLE: India Pale Ale; ABV: 6.0%; IBU's: 63;  MALTS: US 2-Row, UK Dark Crystal Malt, Dutch Munich Malt; HOPS: US Calypso, Palisade, Chinook, Delta; Limited release available in variety pack (12 Beers a Springing) as well as 6-packs and 12-packs.

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Our Red IPA is a twist on a traditional west coast IPA featuring a deep red color from European dark caramel malts. We brew with generous Palisade and Chinook to give this IPA a distinctive hop aroma. You'll notice a strong hoppy flavor with caramel malt undertones and a unique color that gives this IPA a whole new personality!"

COLOR: Deep amber

POUR: A little better than decent head which faded quickly, but left nice lace

AROMA: Cut hay or mown grass

BODY: A little beyond Medium

TASTE: Toward the bitter end with a nice hoppy finish and notes of pine.

OVERALL IMPRESSION:  Close to  "Can't Get Enough!"

COMMENTS: "They should make this a regular; I would drink this over Saranac's regular IPA, but I still like the White IPA better; For an IPA it's a pretty balanced beer; It's got the maltiness you expect from an amber ale with a nice hop kick."


THE BEER FACTS: STYLE: Irish Red; ABV: 5.4%; IBU: 26; MALTS: Irish Ale Malt, roasted barley.
WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Harpoon Celtic Ale features a deep ruby color, medium body, and a balanced malt bill...Rich in tradition and sessionable in character, Harpoon Celtic is the ideal Spring seasonal."
COLOR: Deep Amber
POUR: A little better than decent head that faded quickly, but leaves a nice lace.
AROMA: Malty/sweet with hints of toffee and clove.
BODY: Medium
TASTE: Mostly malty with peppery spice, also notes of bread and nuts.
OVERALL IMPRESSION: On the upper end of "I Could Drink This."
COMMENTS: "Man, I like this; It has a beautiful color; It goes down easily; It isn't heavy; It has a moderate hop finish; It's a better version of Killian's Red; Has a complex taste; It would make a good session beer."


After singing the praises of this New York State brewery last month, we jumped on the chance to include their flagship beer, CascaZilla. We hope to take a field trip to this fine brewery sometime this spring.
THE BEER FACTS: STYLE: Red IPA; ABV: 7%; IBUs: N/A; MALT: 2-Row, Crystal, Black; HOPS: Cascade, Chinook, Crystal; DRY HOP: Cascade, Amarillo
WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "The name CascaZilla (Cas-kuh-zil-uh) is a play on both the name of a gorge in Ithaca called Cascadilla and the monster amount of Cascade Hops we use to make the beer. The predominant flavor and aroma of this beer comes from fresh American hops. CascaZilla gets its distinctive red color from a healthy portion of caramel malt, which also lends to the beer a hearty body and sweetness. It is a hoppy red ale!"
COLOR: Unfiltered copper (almost amber)
POUR: Decent head
AROMA: Flowery hops aroma
BODY: Medium to full
TASTE: Bitter hop finish balanced with caramel malt sweetness
COMMENTS: "The aftertaste stays with you -it makes you want to try the next taste; It has a gooood  taste!; There's a nice, lingering foam head; I love the aftertaste of this beer; Just let it sit on your mouth for awhile - it is just delicious; It is absolutely delicious!"


THE BEER FACTS: STYLE: Rye Pale Ale; ABV: 6.6%; IBUs: 70; MALT: Four varieties of imported Belgian caramel malts, rye; HOPS: Amarillo
WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Serious hop bitterness, along with an unyielding grapefruit bouquet from the Amarillo dry hop, balances the malty richness of four varieties of imported Belgian caramel malts. Pours a spectacular crimson with a creamy tan head. A generous addition of rye malt accentuates a spicy, crisp finish."
COLOR: Copper/amber
POUR: Decent creamy tan head
AROMA: Complex aroma (and taste) of grains and grapefruity hops
BODY: A bit beyond medium
TASTE: A nice balance of hoppy and malty with notes of spice
COMMENTS: "Too bad it's a 6.6% because it would make a great session beer; I could drink this all day long; This is one of the gentler ryes; Great price - great beer"

THE BEER FACTS:  STYLE: American Amber Ale (a bastarized Scottish style red ale); ABV: 6.8%; IBUs: 67; MALTS: Caramel; 2009 California State Fair - Silver; 1999 & 1998 GABF Silver for Other Strong Ales or Lagers
WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Red Rocket is a bastardized Scottish style red ale that traces its origins to our home brew roots. This full bodied brew finishes on the palate with sweet, caramel malt flavors."
COLOR: Copper/red
POUR: Decent off-white/tan head, with less than stellar staying power and thin lacing.
AROMA: Malty/bready/yeasty
BODY: Between medium and full
TASTE: Full bodied taste. Real malty start with a bitter finish. Notes of malt, bread, nuts, toffee and caramel.
OVERALL IMPRESSION: Not unanimous by any stretch, leaving it somewhere between "I Could Drink This" and "Leave It On the Shelf."
COMMENTS: "It fills your mouth; Complex; It reminds me a little of Arrogant Bastard; I like the aftertaste better than the initial taste; I'd drink one, but it's not my favorite style; I think I was expecting more, judging from their other beers."


THE BEER FACTS: STYLE: Imperial Amber Ale; ABV: 8.0%; IBUs: "Over 100"; MALTS: Canadian Two Row, English Crystal; English Black Patent malt; HOPS: Simcoe, Centennial, Citra.
WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Eagle Claw Fist utilizes the same Chico yeast that shaped Hoppy Feet and Brown Angel. (The malts and hops used) work together to create a unique hop assault, with an intense bitterness that manages to leave your palate in one piece and is harmonized by the flavors of tropical fruits and flowers."
COLOR: Nice Ruby color
POUR: Very decent head with small close bubbles, very satisfying
AROMA: Overpowering, strong. Not a particularly pleasant aroma.
BODY: Fairly full.
TASTE: Musty notes, almost an initial taste of limburger, bitter finish with a strong alcohol taste.
OVERALL IMPRESSION: Leave it on the shelf
COMMENTS: "It reminds me of Abita; Tastes like the socks inside the clown's shoes; Nice bitter interesting aftertaste, though; It rather takes you aback at first, then when swallowed, very interesting; I have a dissenting opinion - it has grown on me; I'm not fond of it - it's not one I'd choose."

THE BEER FACTS: STYLE: American Amber Ale; ABV: 5.4%; IBUs: 35; MALTS: Premium Two Row, Wheat Malt, Crystal 75; HOPS: Bittering - Chinook / Late Kettle - Mt. Hood, Cascade
WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Boasting a ruby hue and an exquisite floral aroma, Red Nectar is a robust yet elegant brew with distinctive accents of toasted malt, caramel, spice and residual sweetness."
COLOR: Amber to brown
POUR: Small, very white head.
AROMA: Rather neutral - there is not much to give away the taste.
BODY: Medium to thin
TASTE: Balanced to malty, with notes of nuts and toffee.
COMMENTS: "It's a 'keep your shirt on' session beer (whatever the hell that means!); You have to remember that it's an ale, not an IPA; It is easy drinking; There's nothing offensive about it; I would drink it in the summer, not the winter when the hummingbirds fly south; As the temperature of the beer warms, the taste becomes more complex and tasty. We may have committed a tactical error in trying this one after some of the others we've had. It is a much 'smaller' beer."

In the Battle of the Reds we really had a number of different styles: IPAs, Scottish style ales, Pale Ales, American Amber Ales, and Rye ales. The underlying connection was that they were all identified as a "Red" (a designation that would have brought down the wrath of HUAC in the '50's). All of them are worth a try and you may find you enjoy some of the ones we didn't score as high. Taste is, after all, a fickle thing. Our highly subjective and woefully unscientific findings are as follows (we won't include Saranac's Dry Hop Lager since that is not a red):
1. (Tie) CascaZilla and Founder's Red Rye PA - Both were unanimous "Can't Get Enough" selections.
2. Saranac Red IPA - A tasty addition to Saranac's growing family of IPAs. Came in just shy of "Can't Get Enough." Tough to beat Saranac in the "bang for your buck" category.
3. Harpoon's Celtic Red - An easy drinking session beer.
4. Red Nectar - Another nice session beer. I prefer their IPA, personally.
5. Red Rocket - Bit of a split decision on this one. Love Bear Republic's Hop Rod Rye. I liked this one better than some of the Guys.
6. Eagle Claw Fist - We found this an odd tasting beer overall. Bit of a musty aroma. A strong alcohol taste that overpowered a bit.



In 1887 there were 2,011 breweries operating in the United States. By the late 1970's that number had dwindled to 89 (during Prohibition, of course, there were none, but over 700 were up and running within the year or so after it ended). While Prohibition was the dagger through the heart of American Brewing in general, it was the post-war (WWII) growth of the mega-brewers (especially Anheuser-Busch) that put a pillow over the face of the small, regional breweries struggling to survive. The big brewers found they could produce a beer using inexpensive adjuncts like rice and corn, skimp on the hops, and then pour the money they saved on product into advertising. The smaller brewers couldn't compete. They either followed suit, were bought up, or went out of business.
Then came the Craft Beer Revolution. Through the '80's and '90's there was a resurgence of small, regional breweries. 
As of June of 2012, there were 2,126 breweries operating in the US.
This is great news if you like good beer (terrible news if you work for the big guys). But it makes our job here at BOTB a daunting one. We are based in the Northeast, blessedly one of the hotbeds of craft brewing. While we do our best to find beers from all over, we are limited. We are well aware that there are numerous terrific breweries around the country which do not distribute in our area. Consider the fact that in nearby Syracuse, NY we have Middle Ages Brewery which produces as fine a collection of English-style beers as you'll find anywhere this side of the pond, but you'll struggle to find one of their beers outside of the Central New York area. No doubt there are numerous small breweries like Middle Ages around the country. Whenever any of us travel, we try to find locally produced beers and at least give them a mention on the blog. But many beers, so little time.  
Luckily, starting this month, a couple of our loyal readers from the South (Florida) have offered to help us span the country and get a look at some of the beers that are unable to find their way North. So without further ado, I'll hand the virtual pen over to Alex Mack so he can give you a virtual taste of Sweet Water Brewing's 420 Extra Pale Ale.

In the South it is all about the simple things, whether it be some good grilling, watching college football on a Saturday, or the appreciation of a good beer. Of course it is the latter of these that you all come for, so why should I waste your time? Our friends and family up North and out West seem to take a lot of the attention away from the South in terms of beer. Who can blame them? We can all be a bunch of Bud-heavy-drinkin'-loud-and-rowdy country boys when the time is right. And hell, let's be honest, the time can be right a lot. Fear not though, for we still have our taste buds intact. Here at the Rebel Yell we know the South lacks the regional craft beer cred of just about everywhere else in the country (except for maybe the fly-over states). At the same time, everybody needs a vacation every once in a while, and it just so happens that there are several hot vacation spots south of the Mason-Dixon line. So for those of you taking a trip down to the land of dominant college football, good fishing, and the birth of Free Bird, the Rebel Yell is happy to help you find the beer to make your trip pleasant.
Now that you know what we are about (and I am one beer shorter than I
was ten minutes ago) I will introduce the Rebel Yell's very first beer. She comes from the state of Georgia - a state quickly trying to make a name for itself in the craft beer industry. The brewery is SweetWater Brewing Company out of Atlanta, and the beer is their 420 Extra Pale Ale, named after the ghost interstate road that was never built...and probably for some other reasons as well. As far as Pale Ales go, this one seems to be more on the bitter side, but not so much that it makes it hard to drink. In fact, this could easily pass for a session beer. Trust me, it makes it plenty easy to get carried away and drink a few more than needed. We are in the South, so you know it is going to have strong notes of citrus as well as pine. My overall opinion is that if you are lounging around and looking for an easy to drink, yet stimulating, beer then the 420 Extra Pale Ale will suit your needs.
From the Brewer: ABV: 5.4%; "A tasty West Coast style pale accentuated by a stimulation hop character and a crisp finish. Don't float the mainstream."


 Check us out next month.
The BOTB Guys


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