It’s Independence day folks, and you know what that means: millions of Americans all over the country will gather with friends and family, fire up the BBQ, and set off bucket loads of fireworks – all in celebration of the moment the United States separated from the United Kingdom.
Here at TA Brews, we see independence day as a two-fold celebration: yes it’s the day you finally gave the finger to those “damn limeys” (of which I’m one by the way), but more importantly it’s the official day that spawned the start of a nation that would go on to make some of the most exciting, boundary pushing, flavorsome beer the world has ever known. So, if that’s not cause for celebration – I don’t know what is.
Here are our top picks to accompany your celebrations this July 4th:
Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA
No celebration of the US craft beer movement would be complete without mentioning Sierra Nevada; they were one of a handful of pioneers who dared to be different in an increasingly bland, banal post-prohibition beer scene across America. The classic, and still very relevant Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, is one of those beers that will always be synonymous with those earlier days. On a personal note – it was the first beer that taught me there was more to American beer than light, bland lagers.
As good as their Pale Ale is, we’ve chosen to step up with the Torpedo Extra IPA for this list. As a more recent addition to their expanding portfolio, it’s just more in tune with the direction US beer has been going over recent years – it’s far more boundary pushing and celebrates the American appetite for dreaming big.
Using a revolutionary dry hopping device named the “Hop Torpedo”, the brewery are able to extract maximum hop aroma, without excessive bitterness. The Hop Torpedo works by drawing beer out of the fermenter – through the column of hops, and back into the fermentation tank – pretty impressive, huh?
The result is a beautiful example of a highly hopped American IPA, with aromas of tropical fruit, orange liqueur, and pine. On the taste Torpedo has an initial sweet caramel maltiness with a creamy mouthfeel; quickly followed by huge resiny hops of grapefruit and orange flavor with a lingering peppery bitterness.
Beer reviewed by Marc of TA Brews
AleSmith Speedway Stout
AleSmith brewery is one of the companies that has created a movement in barrel aging beer in America. Their first beer, Speedway Stout, uses bourbon barrels to age their beer and create a whiskey like beer that improves with age. Not much else is freely released about this brewery with regards to brewing methods, but AleSmith continues to win awards for their beer year after year and maintain their spot within the craft beer world as some of the best available.
Speedway Stout pours black and smells of chocolate, caramel, dark fruits, and heavy roasted malts. The taste is very much of the same, but chocolate and malts take up most of the palate, with caramel and dark fruits supporting and has very smooth carbonation. The strong chocolate flavor is attributed to the addition of Ryan Bros. Coffee, a local California roasted coffee. AleSmith recommends aging this beer for a few years, which would make for a very interesting vertical tasting later.
Beer reviewed by Ponto of TA Brews
Russian River Supplication Sour Brown Ale
Korbel Champagne Cellars, a champagne vineyard in California, began brewing beer in the 90’s and continued to do so until 2003. When they decided to stop, they offered the brand to their brewmaster, Vinnie Cilurzo, and his wife, Natalie Cilurzo. During the time when Korbel still operated Russian River Brewing, they had purchased another winery on Lake Sonoma and built another brewery, allowing Vinnie to build it in his design complete with a tasting room and immense view. Since the winery and brewery were right beside each other, Vinnie began using wine barrels that had contained wine to age his beer in experimental ways. Since Korbel decided to leave their beer brewing to Vinnie in 2003, he and his wife took the brand and opened a brewpub with the brand name in 2004 and have been operating ever since.
Now, on to the beer! River Sour Brown Ale is aged in pinot noir barrels for 1 year. In addition to the brew, these barrels also contain sour cherries and yeast & bacteria used specifically in wild beer brewing. The pour is an amber brown beer with a khaki brown head. Smells of oak prominently and tart cherries with a slight citrus, acidic smell. The taste is balanced between a wine vinegar, oak, tart cherries, and sweet sugar, very easy to drink, leaving an acidic mouthfeel and sour aftertaste.
Beer reviewed by Ponto of TA Brews
Goose Island Bourbon County Barleywine
As seen above, some great American beer uses bourbon and wine barrels to great effect and produces some very interestingly tasty beverages. Goose Island is another brewery using barrels, but they use bourbon barrels that contain whiskey for 8 years on average and various types of wine barrels. This allows their brews to gather the inherent flavours and aromas present and add them to the depth and complexity of their recipes.
Having been a forerunner with this process, Goose Island has had many years to expand and develop this technique. With bourbon barrels, beer ferments and ages between 8-12 months in storage that has no climate control. According to Goose Island, the exposure to extreme temperatures “contracts and expands the wood, pulling the barrel’s whiskey character into their brew.” Wine barrels are used a bit differently; primary fermentation is done in stainless steel barrels and then fresh fruit and wild yeasts are added with the beer and secondary fermentation takes place for 9-18 months in the wine barrel. They say that this process creates an “unprecedented depth of character, increased acidity, and a light essence of fruit without too much sweetness.”
Bourbon County Barleywine, as you might have guessed, uses bourbon barrels for aging; specifically, third-use barrels. This means that there have been 3 batches of bourbon aged in these specific barrels for an average of 8 years, this is a beer that was at least 25 years in the making, including aging by Goose Island. Knowing that, it’s almost wrong to drink this particular beer outside of ideal conditions, but here goes nothing!
On the pour, this beer pours a dark, heavy crimson, nearly as heavy as the weight of 25 years in anxious anticipation and diligent care. The aroma is powerful, but not overpowering, everything is present: charcoal of a roasted barrel, the dry heat from a well aged and mannered kentucky bourbon, vanilla from the oak barrel, still present from the original cut, slight tobacco adding a note of old world class to the intoxicating aroma, and dark fruits, cherries and plums, to finish off in a smooth well-rounded way. The taste follows from the nose, with an emphasis on the barleywine boldness and fruity flavours. The mouth is coated in a thick, silky blanket of intemperate flavors that dissipates as your palate begins to acclimatize. Overall, a masterpiece.
Beer reviewed by Ponto of TA Brews
As you’ll observe from the notes in italics, our picks for Independence Day are a TA Brews team collaboration. The first beer is readily available in the UK from Waitrose super-market while the remaining three options are easily obtained in BC, Canada.
Access to American beer beyond big corporate brands has really boomed in recent years; so no matter where you are in the world – say no to mediocrity and help celebrate one of the worlds most vibrant beer nations.