Monday, April 22, 2013

Beer Reviews: White Birch Hop Session and Hooksett Ale

Time for a quick bonus beer review... or reviews in this case!  Whenever I'm out buying groceries or homebrew supplies I'm always on the lookout for new beers and last week Mandi and I were looking for a little food and drink at the local Bet-R store and two new ones from White Birch Brewing caught our eye.  I'm always a little leery of new breweries that I haven't heard about, but these were affordable at $5.99 and $6.99 so we picked up a White Birch Hop Session and a White Birch Hooksett Ale.  Very clean labels, and I really liked that they had the bottling dates so clearly marked.  Another thing I'm always leery about is finding an IPA that has a bottling date of somewhere around 9 months ago!  Not the case here though, fresh, new... worth a look. 

A little more about White Birch Brewing... they are a relatively new brewery (founded 2009) from Hooksett, New Hampshire.  You mean you've never been to Hooksett, NH?  Yeah, me either... in fact I've never been to New Hampshire, or Vermont, or Maine, or Rhode Island for that matter.  That little corner of the country is one of the few missing on my states list it turns out.  White Birch Brewing is currently using a 7-barrel system for their beers, which makes it even more surprising to see some in Baton Rouge... for reference Tin Roof uses a 30-barrel system... over 4 times as large, and they aren't even distributing to the whole of Louisiana. White Birch has three beers out right now, and it seems like they do three year-round beers plus a regular rotation of multiple seasonals. 

All that said, it's the beer that we really care about, so how do these beers really stack up?  Typical tastings go from light to dark, but we had an Anglo-American IPA and a Belgian Style IPA to work with so we started with the lighter abv beer, the Hop Session Anglo-American IPA.  Now what exactly is an "Anglo-American IPA?"   I'm not entirely sure, but based on the name "Hop Session" and the low 5.2% abv I can assume that this is intended to be a sessionable easy-drinking IPA... and that's exactly what they have created.  It's light bodied, but not TOO light, and it's hoppy but not TOO hoppy.  This is exactly the sort of beer I think more breweries should strive to make... simple, easy, hoppy.  It shows off the hop flavors without being obtrusive and balances it well with a lighter malt body.  Very nice work.

The second beer we tried was the Hooksett Ale, a Belgian Style IPA coming in stronger at 8.5% abv.  This one (just like the Hop Session) was bottled in March of 2013, so it's pretty damn fresh which is how you want your IPAs.  They describe it as "Inspired by our love of Belgian ales and hoppy West Coast ales. We bring Cascade and Columbus hops together with our house yeast for a smooth Belgian style hopfest."  Mmmm, I love some Columbus hops, and this beer really works well with them and the Belgian yeast.  Smooth, creamy even, with a good hop profile and just a little funkiness to it.  All in all another nice beer.

So there you go... two really nice additions to the beer shelves and at nice prices too. Maybe we'll see the third flagship and the seasonals in the future?  Based on these two I'd definitely give them a try.