Apr 3 2009

Brooklyn Brewing’s Blast IPA Review

“….the smell and taste of things remain poised a long time, ready to remind us… the immense edifice of memory.” – Marcel Proust

Your senses trigger memories. We’ve all felt the power of a single smell or sound which can conjure up entire scenes from the past. And studies show that our odor memory seems to be the most resistant to being forgotten. Images often begin to fade in a matter of hours or days, but smells can trigger memories for as much as a year.

The brewer is an artist working in mouthfeel, flavors and aromas just like a painter works in colors, textures and forms. The most rewarding beers are the ones that offer up complexes and, sometimes, uncomplimentary components. This is part of the wonder of trying beers: seeing what experiences we bring to the glass.

I was set on down this path by tasting a Brooklyn Blast IPA the other day. I had had this beer at a Brooklyn Brewing Beer dinner that was hosted by Garrett Oliver a few years ago. As Oliver explained, it was born out of a drunken 3 am dare between him and the usual suspects of Pizza Port and Russian River Brewing. The west coast vs. east coast rivalry was alive and well, and Oliver delivered something I thought I’d never see: a hoppy Brooklyn beer. Apparently, the brewers loved it so much, that they never released it outside the bar in Brooklyn. It was insanely hoppy and citrus, but remarkably green. In homebrewing, one of the best parts of making a batch is breaking out the hops and smelling the grassy intoxication of the pellets. The aroma of this beer is the closest I ever smelled to hops straight from the sealed bag. This was humulus heaven. Oliver said it was dry hopped with eight different hops, half American and half European. I cannot believe I didn’t hit him up for the recipe later.

When I stopped by Beer Run, once of the beer shops in town with a bar, and saw this Brewmasters Reserve beer on tap, I had to order it again. But it was very different this time.

It was served in a brandy snifter and it was a murky amber color. It looked more like a cider than a beer. It had a meager head which quickly dissipated, but the lacing on the sides of the glass was very impressive as I drank.

There was an immediate hop bitterness that was full and expanding. It grabs your tongue and fills your mouth with some of the greenness I tasted before, but not to the same degree. This time the flavors was dominated a resinous earthy flavor.

The earth flavors ran the gamut of dirt, leaves and dryness, but not quite in the direction of the pine flavors I enjoy from a Great Divide Titan IPA or other beers that seem to have those Simcoe-like influence. And I hesitate to throw in the dirt reference because it is not a bad flavor, but one that I could only describe as such. The taste, and to a small degree the smell, were the heavy, musty smell of warm dirt.

The back note, and this is the one that trips memories, was that of a dry, leafy character. It was multi-colored brittle leaves spinning to the ground on a fall day.

There’s a moment each fall where all the pieces come together. The sky is full of dark, sedan blue clouds that emit just the right type of light that enhances the colors of everything underneath them. The garish leaves are that much brighter and the world seems to be a little clearer for a moment. A stern and searching stare into the coming winter. The air smells like fresh fragile leaves before they turn a wet nesting of decay. And the air tastes, because words are bigger than things, like football.

The Brooklyn Blast captures that moment for me. It is not a beer that I could have more than a few of at a time, but it was very interesting. I think it would be amazing paired with vichyssoise.

It is night and day different from the Blast I had had before, but it felt like Garrett Oliver had done away with the east vs. west thing and taken this back as his own. Another beer on his own terms. I look forward to seeing if, and when, this evolves again.