At this very moment, I'm having my ass kicked by something called Samuel Adams Hallertau Imperial Pilsner. Magnificent. But I'll come back to that.
Back in 2005, Margaret's lifelong friend Erin got married to her very cool (and beer-loving) beau Ben in Healdsburg, California. That's up in the wine country, but it's also a good place to get beer – downtown in the quaint little village is a brewpub called Bear Republic, and we had a mighty fine time there the day before the wedding. I'm happy to report that they must be doing well, because their products have just started showing up here in Austin. And in an timely coincidence, as M'Lady headed up to Philadelphia to visit Erin and Ben and their new baby (check her blog for details soon) this weekend, I decided that my just reward for watching the kids alone for four days would be some tasty treats from Grape Vine Market — and there were the Bear Republic brews right up front, beckoning to me.
I think about six styles were available, and I grabbed three — the Hop Rod Rye Specialty Ale, the Racer 5 India Pale Ale, and the Red Rocket Ale. All three were tasty, but it is the latter that still sticks in my head three days later. The bottle describes it as "a bastardized Scottish style red ale packed with distinctive flavors and an aggressive hop character …." To my tastes, it was like a strange IPA — all the hoppiness that makes me love that style, but with a richness that I expect from a darker beer. I heartily endorse it, and encourage you to try any of their products. Or better yet, go out to California and give them a visit. The wine country is magnificent for many, many reasons, most of which have nothing to do with alcohol.
As for this Sam Adams … man, this is not what I expected at all, but I'm loving it. Most of my beer-drinking buddies are serious hop-heads, so I implore them — go get some of this right now. It's definitely not what I think of as a pilsner. The bottle says I should prepare for "an intense hop experience," and they weren't kidding. It's much more like an IPA gone nuts – in fact, I think the only thing I've had hoppier than this is Dogfish Head's 120 Minute IPA, which is the only beer I've ever had that was too bitter for me. This comes in just shy of that intensity, just the right level for me. And according to the brewer, it's not just any hops — he regards the Noble Hallertau Mittelfrueh hops, from Bavaria, as "extraordinary." I'd have to agree. If you're not a hop-lover (and some of my friends aren't), don't even look at the bottle — you might go blind or something. Otherwise, dive in and revel in the glory of this special brew.