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Oct 23, 2014

Beer Break

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Beer Break Vol. 3, No. 19
More beers to compare and contrast

Feb. 20, 2003

Last March we suggested conducting a "compare and contrast" tasting, where you try beers that have something in common -- color, alcohol content, amount of hops, most obviously style -- and discuss what you find similar in them and what you find different.

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Realbeer.com's Battle of the Beers, which starts Monday, provides a good excuse to try beers side by side ... day after day.

Consider, for instance, one of the Monday matchups: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Yards Extra Special Ale. SNPA is brimming with Cascade hops, thus citrusy and piney. Yards ESA is hopped with a full sack British East Kent Goldings in each keg. Still hoppy, but in a gentler way, earthier and more cedar-like. That's why we call SNPA "West Coast style" and ESA "British style."

Don't be afraid to haul out a pencil and paper and write down the tastes you discover. Finding something in one beer that isn't in another makes it easier to understand when you perceive a beer as fruity, roasty, spicy ... and hopefully pretty good.

On March 3, Tabernash Weiss and Widmer Hefeweizen are matched. Widmer, like SNPA did with pale ale, pretty much wrote the definition of American-style hefe. The beer is cloudy, like a traditional Bavarian weiss beer, but American hops and the yeast character make it distinctly different. Michael Jackson writes that it "tastes somewhere between a beer and a fresh, sweetish grapefruit juice, but deserve points for that curious distinction."

Tabernash reintroduced many Americans to the traditional Bavarian style in the mid 1990s. Its Weiss has a clovey spiciness up front and plenty of fruit throughout, particularly banana.

If you can't get those two beers for your pairing, consider another wheat combination. Perhaps Pyramid Hefeweizen (which goes against Harpoon UFO on March 5) will be available. The American-German matchup is always interesting. Sierra Nevada Wheat, for instance, is fermented with an American yeast that imparts none of the clove characteristics you'll find in a beer like Paulaner Hefe Weiss, but the use of Strisselspalt hops for aroma gives SN Wheat a distinctly spicy finish.

We won't begin to try to describe the cornucopia of flavors you'll discover if you put Avery Hog Heaven and Arrogant Bastard Ale side-by-side on Feb. 28. These two beers are available far from their homes, Colorado and Southern California respectively, and both have particularly loyal following. This is one of the most intriguing first round showdowns.

If you can find these two beers, your "compare and contrast" notes may turn into an essay.

Tasting notes

MAD HATTER ALE
Brewed by New Holland Brewing in Michigan
Michael Jackson writes:
Attractive, full, pinkish-amber color. Very fruity aroma. Like tropical fruit trees in a hothouse. Scenty and sweet for a moment, then drying. Reminiscent of dried orange peels. Lightly oily palate. Oily, malty, dryness. Quite agressively dry and astringent. Perhaps a suggestion of orange zest. Like biting an orange that has been peeled. Needs rounding in the middle.

Read more from Jackson at http://www.beerhunter.com

COTTONWOOD ENDO INDIA PALE ALE
Brewed by Carolina Beer and Beverage in North Carolina
Roger Protz writes:
Gold to pale copper color, with an entrancing aroma of resiny hops, rich malt and tart fruit. A mouth-filling hop bitterness with deep, almost roasty malt notes - I suspect a touch of crystal malt or something similar. The finish is quenching, bursting with hop bitterness, tart fruit and ripe malt.

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