80 / 100
Bottle purchased at the Oak Barrel; tried by myself on a Tuesday evening because why not, indeed. Note that this beer is probably a year in the bottle, but I'm OK with that for the style.
Pours a russet brown colour, amber shimmer at the edge. Head is white, bubbly and not retaining that well. Little rim of lace around the edge. Mild sedimenty haze. Looks OK.
Smells very funky indeed. Bretty and organic that gives an almost cheesy wild aroma. Tempered in its off character by some nice cherry notes and a slight vinous character. Interesting sweetness throughout as well which is interesting; cinnamon and vanilla character. It's all quite an interesting aroma for sure.
Taste is a little flat possibly because it's old. Just doesn't seem as lively in its complexity as it may have been fresher. It's pretty good, though. Starts rich, somewhat tart with some cherry notes and developing into a richer vinous flavour, Shiraz really with berries and a robust spice note as well. Cherry comes through stronger on the back and there's a funny thickness on the body that seems almost gelatinous as it coats the mouth. More of that mild vanilla flavour to finish which is a really nice complement and I imagine would be smashing with a nice fruit pie dessert. Yeah the finish is largely built on the barrel-ageing and it really makes it something special. Apart from that it's a standard fruit sour.
Mouthfeel is yeah, a little thick and flat by this stage. Pads out any tartness well though but I suspect it's just mellowed and thinned out, and fresh it could be enjoyably puckering and sharp. Or unpleasantly puckering and sharp; I'll never know.
Drinks well; great interplay between sweetness, tartness and rich complexity to give an interesting and challenging drop that's also strangely quaffable.
60 / 100
500ml brown bottle purchased from Whole Foods in Los Altos, CA. I always seem to pick up one or two Hermitage beers while I'm in the area, given that they're super local, and yet I've never yet been really impressed with anything they've done. Let's see if Ale of the Imp can turn the tide.
Pours a very hazy, almost completely sedimented murky orange colour, with a very fine head of yellowish off-white that leaves some pretty good lacing. Body has some heft and weight to it, and the carbonation is powdery and fine as a result. Looks good.
Nose is reasonable, with some forthright generic hop fragrance, giving a bit of pithy orange rind and a slightly herbal darkness. Slight sharp peppery note comes through as well. It's a bit generic, but it's not bad.
Taste is also a little generic, but again, it's not bad. There's a slightly bitter orange note from the hops, which melds with some slightly underwhelming buttery malt notes. Together these would seem to balance each other, but the bitterness wins out, making the back palate pretty aggressive and a little harsh, with a slightly acrid edge to it. This gets more pronounced the more you drink. It's not pulling any punches, at least.
Feel is sleek, with a pleasant crispness that help offset the extra body.
Overall, it ends up being a little bit difficult to digest, and the rather banal flavours aren't enough to warrant wrassling with it to the extent you need to. Unfortunately, it ends up being another of those Hermitage beers that winds up in the "meh" basket.
500ml bottle purchased from BevMo in Menlo Park, CA.
Uncaps without much of a hiss, and then pours a dirty, hazy orange colour, with a loose-bubbled head of very pale yellow. Some lace forms in insubstantial bridges. Body is very light. The carbonation is quite fine at least, and is quite anarchic when the beer is tilted. It looks decent without filling me with a huge amount of confidence.
Nose is dirty, and oddly sweet. Barley sugar makes it smell quite sickly, while the faint, earthy, rather dull hops just create an unpleasant spike in the sweetness. Some musty, woody earthiness provides an organic character which doesn't help. Pretty much everything in here is disappointing, or worse.
Taste is maybe slightly better: there's a tone of orange peel coming through on the front, with an oddly dark character towards the back. It gives it a very slight Jaffa tone, while the bitterness on the back manages to clear out much of the sweetness, very much helping the beer raise out of that cloying phase. It's actually not bad once it's in my mouth.
Feel is smooth but thick. Thicker than it should be.
Overall, this isn't great, but it's not horrible either. The nose really is worse than it should be, but otherwise it potters along and becomes acceptable. That's no great compliment, of course.
58 / 100
I don't have a really god relationship with Hermitage: they tend to brew the low-distribution, low-quality beers that get a limited release at the BevMos in my area of California. But Ahtanum is a hop I'm not all that familiar with, so I thought it was worth giving it a shot.
Pours a clear burnished copper colour, with a full, heady crown of off-white, pocked with larger bubbles. Solid sheeting, slightly frothy lacing. Not bad.
Nose is prickly and sharp, with a vegetative, spicy, herbal greenness. A touch of powdery sweetness comes though, leaving some odd lavender fragrance. Not bad at all.
Taste is disappointingly weak, in fact pointlessly so given this is meant to showcase a hop. Either Ahtanum is weak as piss or this has a pointlessly small amount of it used early in the boil. Light bready grain notes, with just an uptilt of citrus and a flaky hint of something green in the background. Feel is smooth, but lacking bite.
Overall, unimpressive, given it's meant to showcase a hop. It does a decent job on the aroma, but it's really weak on the finishâhopefully this just means it's a low-alpha hop in general. Otherwise, this is an extremely disappointing brew.
Having tried others in their range (which were decent enough, especially the Citra), I saw this new addition and thought I'd check it out. Admiral is apparently a UK-bred hop designed to add a more versatile bittering variety to the English stable. Unfortunately, everyone seems underwhelmed by its potential as a bittering hop, and so we'll see how it goes as an *only* hop.
Pours a bright, slightly hazed orange-bronze colour, with a fine and full head of yellow foam. Minimal lacing, and the body looks solid, but fluid. I like the subtle haze, the colour of the body and the head. Retention could be better, but otherwise it looks pretty great.
Nose is mildly hoppy, in a generic way, giving some earthy hop tones, a touch of citrus and a burly leather aroma. A slightly spicy savoury character comes through as well that smells like... yes, weirdly... pizza. This is probably due to the contention between the rather thick malt character and the quite earthy, savoury hops. It's unusual, but not unpleasant.
Taste is, indeed, less bitter than many an IPA, but it has a pleasant biscuity bite to it, with a touch of crushed greens to it. There's a deep, dark sweetness to it, as well, it almost reminds me of the blackberry characters you get with Bramling Cross. I know, I'm probably just evaluating the hop here, and not the beer, but the fact that the beer does allow me to evaluate the hop is a good sign.
It's an interesting beer, showcasing a hop oddly unsuited to the style in which it is showcased. It's pleasant enough, and smooth enough in its way. It doesn't do anything particularly interesting except get you a look at the hop variety. But really, do you want more than that?
It's Hermitage night here for me, apparently. Nothing of theirs has ever really blown me away, but neither have I ever been really offended. Can they keep the streak going.
Pours a very clear and very light bodied pale golden. Exceptionally light for the ABV, and exceptionally clear for the style. Head is full enoughâa solid fine mesh on the top of the glass. Lacing is good, falling in sheets down the glass. There's some serious things wrong with it, but it looks ok, as a beer in general.
Nose is skunky, funky and rank. Big whiffy aroma of semi-curdled cheese, rubber, ass, seaweed mixed with a predominantly sweet, and rather adjuncty base. It's raw and rustic and definitely pongy, but this is offensive to all the Saisons that do it right.
Taste is even more cheese-like, with a big spicy cheddar bite on the front palate, and a peppered aftertaste that drops out lazily about halfway along the palate. Absolutely nothing on the finish, again suggestion some adjunct. It's extremely savoury, almost like eating cheese and water crackers, and it's not terribly appealing.
Probably the only impressive thing about this beer is the fact that despite the lightness of body and flavour, you can't really taste or feel the 7% ABV (again, probably a touch too high for a saison anyway). But apart from that, this has very little going for it. If anything, instead of accentuating what a good job good saison-brewers do, this one drags them down with it.
Ah, Hermitage. I feel a connection with you because I feel a connection with San Jose. Some day, you will make me a truly good beer. Is this the one?
Pours a dark and relatively opaque brown-black with a frothy and quite consistent head of ochre brown. Lacing is sheeting and pleasant. Head collapses after a while, and the body is very thinâespecially for a beer weighing in at 8% ABV, but it looks decent enough.
Nose is roasty and pleasant, giving a good dash of dry and dusty cocoa to the underlying characters of roasted barley and bitter charred grain. Not particularly sweet overall, but with the potential for sweetness, like a good espresso. Not bad at all.
Taste is rather thin, in fact disappointingly so, but with a pleasant lilting roasted dryness that makes a drinkable dose out of a rather simple palate. Roasted grain on the front, with a slight cocoa semi-sweetness mid palate. Back is very dry, and the feel is woefully thin, giving little complexity or basis on the finish.
I'm afraid that Hermitage are yet to wow me, yet again, but this beer is not unpleasant. It's generally tasty, well put together and drinkable. Sure, it's missing depth, complexity and character, but it's relatively easy to drink, and is surprisingly supple for a beer weighing in at 8% ABV.
It's certainly something I'd consider picking up again. I'm surprised at how low it's rating is.
I'd tried the Citra and Columbus versions, so I figured it was worthwhile rounding out the series with this one.
Pours a thick and rather gelatinous coppery orange colour, with a fine head of off-white that doesn't really want to form. Indeed, it dissipates to a mild film of pancake bubbles soon after the pour. Looks surprisingly heavy.
Nose is hoppy with a decent bite, but surprisingly, a little off what I would consider a classic Amarillo nose. Instead of pure clean and crisp citrus, perhaps with a bit of resin, this gives a oddly vegetative aroma, almost a whiff of smoke and a light sulphury funk. Eh.
Taste is a bit better, but only because it falls into the realm of generic American IPA, with a crisp bitterness on top of just enough malt to ground it. Still, there's a hint of something earthy and minerally, almost a smoked character, which gives it a slight awkwardness. Still, the Amarillo gives a pleasant clean bitterness which is the main event.
Drinkable, and decent enough, but the Citra was the clear winner out of the three. It's unique and strong hop presence was able to cover any other flaws in a way that the Amarillo in this one failed to do.
71 / 100
Purchased from BevMo in Sunnyvale, and tried alongside the Columbus Hops edition.
Pours a golden, coppery colour, with a firm and frothy head of off-white. Large bubbles form at the edges, leaving a web of cracked lace, but the majority of the head stays put nicely. Looks good.
Nose is fresh and citrussy, giving big bright lemon characters, with a sharper crispness that almost makes it like fresh lime zest. Extremely fresh and ripe. There's not a lot more to it, but it's a lovely hop, and this does a great job of showcasing its aroma.
Crisp and bitter on the palate, with a lingering nutty grain character that reminds me a little of Mikkeller. The fresh lemon characters don't really appear hereâhere the citrus is stinging grapefruit bitterness, and while it's not as forthright and oppressive as the Columbus bitterness on the other I tried, it still feels unbalanced.
Feel is lighter than it should be. Indeed, the lack of body could be the source of the imbalance.
Not a bad IPA by any means, but a rugged and raw one. The nose is gorgeous, at least, and the novelty of this hop means this version clearly wins out over the Columbus Hops.
41 / 100
Pours a dark orangey amber colour, with a filmy head of white foam. Body looks surprisingly thin for the style and the ABV. Minimal lacing. Colour is decent, but the head is disappointing, the the weak body leaves me feeling a little worried.
Nose is oddly nutty, with a twinge of chocolate and orange. Really, really odd. A little bit of organics, which I can't find the words to describe, except it smells like the leaf mold under ferns in a rainforest. Quite an arch description, I know. Certainly, it smells nothing like an IPA - in fact, it doesn't smell much like anything I've ever sampled.
Taste is also extremely weird. Big nutty vanilla characters, possibly oak super-saturated, but otherwise little in the way of character. Some resin, maybe, very slightly? Hazelnut sweetness wells up later on the palate in an unusual and slightly rank finish. No, there's something wrong with this. It's just grating against me in all the wrong ways. Not a fan.
Feel is smooth enough, and fortunately quite light so the characters don't stick on the palate too long, but again, that's out of character for the style.
Nope. Sorry. Doesn't work at all. There's something seriously off about the beer by itself, and it's way, way off stylistically. Not worth the effort even for itself, and certainly not worth it if you're looking for an interesting oak-aged IPA.