Thursday, February 3, 2011

Foamy Furlough: THURSDAY

We have arrived at Thursday, the fourth day of my mandatory unpaid vacation, and the fourth installment of the FOAMY FURLOUGH© series. Today is named in honor of the badass Norse god, Thor. His legendary hammer (which actually had its own name, Mjǫlnir) was capable of pulverizing mountains. It is with disbelief that I must report that none of my suppliers carries a beer named after either Thor or Mjǫlnir. Much as the fearsome Thor might, I'll address this problem with a two-pronged attack.

For Mjǫlnir (translation: "Crusher") I will taste Redhook Ale Brewery's Long Hammer India Pale Ale. My sense of Redhook's reputation is that they produce beer that is decent but not outstanding. The only Redhook product I have tasted previously was their Redhook ESB (Extra Special Bitter), which I thought was... decent but not outstanding. But I'll be as objective as possible going into this.

Into my pint tumbler, this beer pours a bright yellow gold. Very pretty. Surprisingly good head retention. It has a very clean grassy hops nose. So far, so good. The first taste impression is sweet and lemony. The ale is light bodied -- I swear there almost seems to be a commercial pilsner foundation here. After the admittedly nice floral hops beginning, this tastes more like a lager than an ale, and that is somewhat confusing.

The main body ends fairly quickly, without much complexity. The finish does linger a bit with some pleasant bitterness on the tongue. Long Hammer presents nothing objectionable, but I wouldn't go around proclaiming its glories -- especially to anyone who was specifically looking for an IPA recommendation. That said, it would be a fine, refreshing beer for beach, picnic, or other summer activity outdoors.

And now for prong number two. In honor of Thor's native culture, and to appease my small but vocal Norwegian readership, I will taste a rare and exotic brew: Norway's HaandBryggeriet Odin's Tipple. (This also serves as a make-up tribute to Odin for yesterday.) As anyone who has taken a few online courses in conversational Norwegian could puzzle out, the brewery name HaandBryggeriet means literally "by hand brewery" or "handmade beer." The craft brew movement is truly global, and that is a beautiful thing!

The Odin's Tipple label features a caricature of an impish, winking Odin offering to the viewer a ram's horn overflowing with elixir. Cute, but a deception that is quickly dispelled by the monstrous intensity of this beer's pour! I may have to send a bottle of this to Stephen Hawking, because I think we just figured out what black holes are made of. Light simply does not penetrate the tarry blackness of the glass.

Furthermore, this is the darkest head I have ever seen on a beer. It has the exact appearance of the froth on a freshly pulled espresso -- not a latte, mind you, an espresso. The color of the coat of a chocolate Labrador retriever. Beautiful, rich, ruby-tinged brown. The nose is a boatload of molasses. Maybe some freshly harvested alfalfa in the background.

The taste is absolutely astounding. Every expectation set up by the visuals is met and exceeded. This is a truly enormous-tasting imperial stout, packed to improbable levels with flavors of chocolate, charred grain, dark fruit, and of course a tummy-warming high alcohol payload. Tie goes to the grain, as it always should in a well-made beer. It is really remarkable that with all of the sweetness and all of the dark, dense flavors at play here, the beer is not a complete mess, but HaandBryggeriet has indeed pulled it off. Even the role of the finishing hops can be separately detected. There is enough complexity here to keep a diligent taster happily pondering, right up to the point where the 11% ABV kicks in and forces you to abandon yourself to the sheer sensory pleasure of it.

Featured beers:

Honorable mentions:

Previously on FOAMY FURLOUGH©:


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