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Friday, September 11, 2015

Backyard Brews - A look at Some New York State Beers


Once upon a time, Central New York was the country's leading hop producer. In the mid 19th century, the place for hops was Central New York. Not the Pacific Northwest, but all the way 'cross country on the opposite coast. Unfortunately, three blights - two natural and one human borne - combined to doom a once booming industry. In 1909 sphaerotheca humuli - a mildew struck hop farms followed in 1914 by an attack of aphids. The coup de grace came with Prohibition, one of the greatest examples in our history of cowardly politicians bowing to the whims of a vocal minority.
Prior to prohibition New York State was rife with small, regional breweries. Take a look at some of these pre-prohibition New York breweries:

Though that by no means is a complete list, it begins to show the number of lost breweries since only two of those are still in existence: Genesee and Utica Club (West End Brewing Company - known now for their Saranac line of beers). Some were done in by Prohibition while others were quashed by the mega-brews - either bought out or put out of business.

So it is great to see, like the Phoenix of myth, both hop farms and regional breweries rise from the ashes of their respective ancestors to breath new life into New York's venerable brewing history. This month we delve into some of the latest brews - from small, regional breweries to larger ones with a national presence - to appear in Upstate New York .


The Beer Facts: BREWER: Craft Brewers, Honeoye Falls, NY; STYLE: Session India Pale Ale; ABV: 4.5%; IBUs: 48; MALTS: Superior Pilsner, GoldPils Vienna, Aromatic Malt; HOPS: Bravo, Centennial, Simcoe, Amarillo, Mosaic, Sorachi Ace

What the Brewer Says: "Light on alcohol but not on flavor, this session ale presents a beautiful golden color. Predominant lemon and pineapple meet and carry into a distinct pine finish. The specialty malts add a biscuity complexity to this ale perfectly suited to paradise. This is your go-to IPA to enjoy over an entire evening or afternoon."

Color: Pale yellow gold

Pour: Somewhat better than a decent head

Aroma: Big flowery hop nose

Body: Medium

Taste: Strong hoppy bitterness with strong notes of citrus, lemon, grapefruit and pine. bit of malt balances the beer.

Overall Impression: Can't Get Enough!

Comments: "A lot of flavor for a session beer; Full flavor; Color leads you to think there's not much malt, but there's a nice breadiness there that compliments the hops; Lots of hop flavor for a Session; There's no "monkeying around" with this session beer; Actually, I like it better than Founder's All Day, and I like Founder's All Day a lot."


The Beer Facts: BREWERY: Davidson Brothers Brewing Company, Glens Falls, NY; STYLE: Scotch ale: ABV: 6.2%

What the Brewer Says: "Dacker is a heavily-modified scotch ale that morphed into a completely different style after four generations of being brewed in the Adirondacks. At present, it is similar to a Scotch ale, with a stronger hop presence and correspondingly less maltiness. A very flavorful beer with definite subtle points. It'll teach you something new every time you take a drink."

Color: Orange/Copper

Pour: Decent head with light yellow lasting lacing

Aroma: Bready/metallic

Body: Medium

Taste: Sweet malty flavor with hints of toffee, slight hop. Bready, biscuit, toasted malt.

Overall Impression: I Could Drink This

Comments: "Nice malt presence - not overly heavy, though; A little clove and British yeast taste; Could be a lawn mower beer; Very pleasant; I could drink this; Nice clean finish; It's got that toffee taste you kind of expect from a Scotch ale; Bit of a hop bitterness there, but not much."


The Beer Facts: BREWERY: Middle Ages Brewing, Syracuse, NY; STYLE: India Pale Ale; ABV: 6.3%; HOPS: Centennial

What the Brewer Says: "We make dozens of different beers throughout the year. While many are available all year round, many others are brewed seasonally or even just once a year." Single Batch #2 is one of those.

Color: Dark honey

Pour: Decent head with nice off-white lacing

Aroma: Floral / soap aroma

Body: A bit more than Medium

Taste: Balance and complex with a nice mix of malty and citrusy notes

Overall Impression: Can't Get Enough!

Comments: "Very drinkable; Good mouthfeel; I've never had a Middle Ages that I didn't like; Good hop presence, but nice malt presence as well; Nice hop-bitter after-taste that stays with you; Subtle at the beginning; More of a West Coast style than most of Middle Ages other brews; Aroma and taste reminds me somewhat of Flower Power."


The Beer Facts: BREWERY: Saranac Brewing, Utica, NY; STYLE: American Brown Ale; ABV: 7%; IBUs: 25; MALTS: North American 2-Row, Munich, Crystal, Chocolate; HOPS: Northern Brewer, Fuggles, East Kent Goldings

What the Brewer Says: Disruption is a nitro infused Brown Ale, brewed with a distinctive mix of caramel and chocolate malts. Northern Brewer and Eastern Kent Goldings hops balance the deep maltiness, imparting their own rich earthy-fruitiness."

Color: Dark brown almost black. Very dark for a Brown Ale

Pour: Decent tan creamy head

Aroma: Malty, bready

Body: Full

Taste: Mostly sweet redolant of chocolate, coffee, caramel notes

Overall Impression: I Could Drink This!

Comments: "It's tastes more like a good porter or stout than a Brown Ale; I think it's a Brown Ale only because they decided to call it one; I really like how smooth it is; Give me a Stout or a Porter with that rich coffee/chocolate taste and you can call it whatever you like; Real creamy with a bit of earthy bitterness to counteract the sweet; Nice beer; I just love a beer that has a big taste like this."


The Beer Facts: BREWER: Genesee Brewing Company, Rochester, NY; STYLE: Imperial Black IPA; ABV: 8.0%; MALTS: Caramel, Black; HOPS: East Kent Goldings

What the Brewer Says: "Heavy in caramel, roasted and black malts, this Imperial Black IPA is balanced with an intense bitterness from East Kent Goldings hops"

Color: Dark mahogany, nearly black

Pour: Guinness Class with big, rich dark head and lots of lingering lacing

Aroma: Sweet, molasses, caramel

Body: Full

Taste: Sweet toffee, caramel and coffee initially with a bitter hop bite at the end

Overall Impression: Between I Could Drink This and Can't Get Enough!

Comments: "Bitter bite at the end there; Can taste the alcohol; Has a British vibe; Definitely new direction for Genny; Not your Grandfather's Genesee; I hope they continue in this direction; A really rich, full-bodied beer, one that you want to just sip on; It seems to lean more toward the malt than the hops, but then you get a bit toward the finish."


The Beer Facts: BREWERY: Skewed Brewing, Watertown, NY; STYLE: Imperial IPA; ABV: 8.7%; IBUs: 123

What the Brewer Says: "A hop-centric Imperial IPA with bursts of lemon and a resinous-spice finish."

Color: Golden honey

Pour: Decent Head

Aroma: Malty/bready

Body: Medium

Taste: Balanced with hints of grapefruit and horehound

Overall Impression: Just shy of "Can't Get Enough!"

Comments: "doesn't taste as big as it is; Could sneak up on you; Nice beer, I like it; a little malt boost; Strong bitter after-taste; Drinkable, edging toward sippable; Definitely a winner."


The Beer Facts: BREWERY: Genesee Brewing Company; STYLE: Imperial IPA; ABV: 9%; IBUs: 100

What the Brewer Says: NA

Color: Wheat

Pour: Guinness Class head

Aroma: Resin, yeast but not a big aroma

Body: Full

Taste: Big bitter finish with citrus notes, alcohol warming

Overall Impression: Can't Get Enough!

Comments: "This is from Genesee? Malt, then alcohol, then bitter hops; A "hot" beer; Big bitter finish, A sipper for sure; Not a big nose - but there's no question there's a lot of hops; It's a beer that reminds me of a good scotch - nice to sip before bed; Doesn't taste like the Genesee River and that's a good thing; Wow! I'm just so used to Genesee making lighter German lagers, it's great to see them jump into the big beer arena; Their bigger beers seem to lean more toward British beers as far as taste profile goes - though much bigger than most of the Brit brews."


The Beer Facts: BREWERY: Brewery Ommegang ; STYLE: Dry Hopped Tripel; ABV: 9.2%

What the Brewer Says: NA

Color: Hazy golden orange

Pour: Near Guinness Class heat - white head that quickly settles

Aroma: Bottom-fermented yeast, pilsener

Body: Between Medium and Full

Taste: Initially sweet with hints of cloves, coriander and orange as well as banana.

Overall Impression: Falls short of "I Could Drink This"

Comments: "I wouldn't seek this out; One of those beers where you either like that style or you don't and I just don't; I don't mind this one, actually; There's a spiciness that follows the sweet malt that I kind of like; It's that banana taste that is common to many of the Belgian brews I just don't care for; Really liked the last few Ommegang's we've tried - Hop House, Nirvana - thought they were really good; There's no question that among Belgian-style fans Ommegang is greatly revered."


We had three beers we rated "Can't Get Enough!" Two - Middle Ages Single Batch #2, and Genesee Brew House Test Batch #3 - were big test batch beers available only at the brewery, while one - Bonobo Session IPA was a low ABV beer.

Top 3: Bonobo Session IPA - We really liked this session IPA - a bigger taste than we generally find in sessions.
            Middle Ages Single Batch #2 - Another tasty beer from Middle Ages - big beer with a West Coast vibe - a bit of a departure.
            Genesee Brew House Test Batch #3 Imperial IPA - The Genesee Brew House series is a real departure for Genesee, which has made its mark with German-style lagers. This is a big, bold IPA with a nice warming alcohol hit to it.

Next:   Skewed Brewing 3rd IPA - Just shy of "Can't Get Enough!" this is a delicious big IPA. It didn't taste like an 8.7%.

Then:   Genesee Brew House Imperial Black IPA - Another good one from the Brew House. The beer has a definite British vibe with a nice blend of malt and hop.

ICDT (I Could Drink This): Saranac Disruption Nitro - We felt this was much closer to a Stout or Porter than a Brown ale. A terrific Stout or Porter with big taste of dark chocolate.
                                              Davidson Brothers Dacker Adirondack Ale - A pleasant beer that didn't really knock our socks, but certainly drinkable.

Also: Ommegang Independence Day Ale - This came up shy of I Could Drink This primarily as a result of personal preference - none of us are particular fans of Belgian-style ales. If you are, you will no doubt enjoy this.

The BOTB Guys

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