24 March 2009

Upland AHA Rally 2009

The American Homebrewers Association holds membership rallies a few times each year to encourage people to get their friends involved in homebrewing. These rallies are a great way to find out who else in your area is brewing and get some free drinks in the process. Homebrewers consist of all ages, sexes and races. Pretty much anyone you know could be a closet homebrewer (we have 2 on our block alone). Upland was generous enough to host this Spring's membership rally and brought out a few special beers and basically gave us brewery tours and let us hang out and eat and drink for free all afternoon. The AHA had a great turnout and everyone appeared to have an awesome time.

We were able to try out 2 atypical beers on tap. A version of Upland's Chocolate Stout aged in 23 year old Pappy Van Winkle barrels and their Dragonfly IPA dry-hopped with Summit Hops and served out of a firkin.

The cask Dragonfly IPA poured little to no head, copper in color and quite cloudy. Caleb did mention that it was brewed in the past week and that it needed a few more days before it was officially done. The nose was pungent with soapy florals and hints of spicy hops. There's also a little bit of freshly cut grass in the nose that comes across as it warms. The mouthfeel was syrupy and not too hoppy. Overall it was very smooth and more of a hop nose than a hop flavor.

I was more impressed with the Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon Barrel Aged Chocolate Stout (that name is long enough that I think I need to drink one to get through it) which had a toffee colored head and a motor oil appearance. I was disappointed that it didn't quite coat the glass - but it wasn't an imperial stout so all is forgiven. The nose had hints of bourbon, blue cheese and vanilla. The flavor was very smooth and not overpoweringly bourbon-y. The taste was complex and had layers of chocolate, vanilla bean and some sort of dark, dried fruit that I can only assume was figs.

The bourbon aged Chocolate Stout gave off a delicious aroma of warm bourbon, complete with vanilla, light brown sugar, cherry and oak scents. This was blended in with caramelized banana and apple notes. The flavor of this matched the aroma well, but lacked any of the alcohol burn you would expect to find traces of in a barrel aged stout. Vanilla, figs and a sweet, smooth bourbon flavor came off strong, leaving hints of creme brulee and molasses behind. I'm not sure the ABV on this but it was highly drinkable no matter how strong it was.

The cask-conditioned Dragonfly IPA was very smooth and perhaps a bit thick. Summit hops created a prominent grassy aroma that was accented by notes of pine and hemp. The mouthfeel on this one was very soft and carried a hint of malt sweetness. Dried orange, orange zest and caramel mingled with a restrained level of bitterness. While this was interesting, I can't help but think a few more days in the cask would have helped it out.

After enjoying a few rounds, we embarked on a tour of the Upland brewery. They work with a good deal of space, thanks to an enlarged warehouse attached to the back of the brewpub. 3 grain silos dominate the rear of the building, while additional speciality grains are stored inside. Making the most of their space, lambic and bourbon barrels litter the inside of the brewery, awaiting their time. It was noted that their bottling line is currently running at full capacity and this week they're bringing in a new, higher capacity unit. It should also be noted that each of their sampler 12-packs are hand assembled from the contents of other cases, making for a very labor intense process. And now, on with the pictures!

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