Lompoc’s Spring Fling

13 Apr

This past Monday, as we settled back into the week, with a long, depressing sigh for how faraway Friday would be, it got a lot better when we realized we were headed over to the Sidebar to taste the upcoming spring releases from Lompoc. All together, we tasted seven different beers that will be released over the next few weeks. In fact, some of them were released tonight. Below are our collective tasting notes. As you know, the Sidebar always has something new up their sleeves, so if they sound good don’t dilly-dally too much. Head over before these beers are tapped out.  

Heaven’s Helles: Utilizing the same hop and grain bill as last year, the big difference here is the use of a Mexican Lager yeast that Bryan Keilty and Jerry Fechter picked up from Wy’east.  One of only two local breweries to get a pitch of the new strain, this yeast definitely made a big difference between this year’s and last year’s brew.  My initial impression of this beer was: a right fine German beer!  Color is straw, nose is a bit skunk, taste is initially bitter but gives way to dryness and a slight hint of sweet.  But there is clearly something to the Mexican Lager yeast.  What I started to realize was how much this tasted like a Mexican beer from back home.  Take your pick: Sol, Corona, Carta Blanca…the list goes on and on.  This is a real deal summer beer to me, and I might even try to squeeze a lime into it (if nobody was looking, that is).  All they need now is the requisite Corona-type commercial on the beach.  Probably my favorite beer of the night, if for no other reason than the memories it brought back.

1060 EZ Taxation Ale: Interesting story about how this beer came about.  Jerry was talking adjuncts with a fellow brewer and they decided to brew some beers that were riffs on the big boys.  This one has 30% of the grain bill in corn and is a take on Busch? Before Jerry even started telling the story, I took a smell and there was not much going on.  When I tasted it, I immediately thought of a macro brew.  My first inclination was Bud, but as I sat with it and tasted it a few more times, I really couldn’t say it was more like one macro over another.  I will say that the corn definitely came through in the flavor, but the hops were almost non-existent.  Clearly this was brewed for a particular crowd in mind…not really sure who though.  I think for what they are trying to do with this beer, they have done a really nice job.  Not sure it’s my cup-o-tea, but I respect the fine job they did with it.

Cherry Bomb: This beer has the base of the Proletariat Red, which I found interesting, because the body / mouthfeel was much lighter than I would have expected from the Proletariat. That said, the body on this beer was light in a good way; it was crisp and clean, but definitely didn’t feel thin. Maybe my favorite part about this beer was the nose; it had an unmistakable, almost overpowering, sour cherry aroma that made me want a slight of homemade pie. This continued on the palette as the sour wasn’t from an added yeast, but from the natural fruit. Because of that, the sour wasn’t the kind that would make you pucker. I also noticed the barrel flavors from the aging process; they were mild, and mostly came out in the lingering flavors, which worked really well with the lighter body of the beer. If it were a hot summer day, I could drink this all night. It’s nice to have a fruit beer that is very drinkable, complex, and approachable for most people.

Kick Axe Dry Hopped Pale Ale: The Kick Axe is slightly different this year, made more to (owner/brewer) Jerry’s taste. It was reassuring to know that the brewers are still making beers they love to drink rather than just trying to make a beer for the masses. This year, they changed from Clusters to Centennials for the bittering hop, but they still dry hopped with Cascades.  These definitely come through in the aroma. Although the nose isn’t too strong, the hop that is there, is all Cascade – very citrusy and flowery. This is a medium-bodied beer with a nice bitter hop, balanced well with a slight caramel malt. The caramel isn’t strong enough to call out per se, as the hop is the more prominent flavor, but it adds a nice balance. Overall, this is a nice, crisp, citrusy, slightly bitter light ale. It’s perfect for tailgaiting and summer BBQs. It once again competes as one of the best pales in Portland.

Valley of the IPA: Well, you just heard about the Kick Axe Dry hopped Pale Ale, and it is replacing the Condor pale ale on Lompoc’s standard beer list.  Well, there are two more beers going the way of the dodo: the Centennial IPA and the Sockeye Stout.  The Valley of Hops IPA will replace the Centennial IPA once the current batch is gone.  The first notable thing about this beer is the use of Meridian hop, a new variety Lompoc got from Indie Hops.  Hearing this, I instantly wanted a hop cone to crush in my fingers in order to smell exactly what a fresh Meridian hop could bring to a beer.  Since there were no hops, I went straight for the beer.  The beer had only a slight hop aroma,  but for a sessionable, medium-bodied IPA, this was just fine. Despite that, there was a strong bitterness on the tongue.  It started slightly sweet with hints of citrusy hops and finished dry and spicy.  The beer was excellent, a worthy new member of their standard beer list.  This is the kind of IPA you wish came in six-packs so you could take it with you to your summer BBQs.

Additionally, the Lompoc will be releasing a new IPA that I am quite excited about.  The beer, brewed by Irena Bierzynski, will be called Danger Zone (cue Top Gun montage) and will include one of my favorite hops, Simcoe, along with Centennial and CTZ (also a hop new to me).

Ryeteous Badger Belgian Style Red: If you can’t make it to the Sidebar this weekend to pick up a pint of this delicious beer, no worries, as it is Lompoc’s submission to the Cheers to Belgian Beers fest.  I think I have said this before, and I will say it again: I love rye beers!  It adds a real nice dryness and astringency to the finish I have yet to get over.  The Ryeteous Badger did not disappoint me one bit.  The nose and first taste of this beer was both sweet and spicy – very complex.  The finish was perfect, all that dryness I love while still being unique enough to make the beer memorable.

Stout Out Loud: I mentioned there are two more new beers Lompoc is adding to their standard list; this is that second beer.  This beer will replace the Sockeye Stout.  At the time of the tasting, it had not been decided yet whether to use the old name with the new recipe or change the name as well.  If you have read this blog before you will know I am a huge fan of Lompoc’s beer, so I am a little hesitant to admit this, but I never really cared for the Sockeye stout.  It wasn’t a bad beer, but it really did not deserve a spot next to C-note or LSD.  I am happy to announce this beer is head and shoulders above the old recipe.  The nose was light and roasty but not overpowering.  The beer was dark (duh, it is a stout) and rich, without being heavy, which is perfect for a beer that clocks in at 4.1% ABV.  The finish was smooth and dry with just a bit ‘o’ coffee to round it out.  So, I say the next time you’re at the Sidebar go ahead and have two. After all, it is still raining outside.

In addition to a number of spring releases, Lompoc has several upcoming celebrations. We are particularly excited for Hop Head Night at Sidebar, next Wednesday, April 18th. In celebration of the hop cone, they will be serving: C-Note, C-sons Greetings, Flower of the Gods, Kick Axe Dry Hopped Pale Ale, Valley of Hops IPA and Centennial IPA. If you love hops, you won’t want to miss this!

To find out about their events and see what’s on tap, visit their website. You can also keep in the know, in realtime, by signing up for their e-mail list or through Facebook. But let us warn you, if you do that, it will be very difficult for you to resist a weekly visit. Trust us, we know.

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