Thursday, December 15, 2011
On the 6th Beer of Christmas... Vermont Spruce Tips are in Full Effect.
Brewery: Harpoon (100 Barrel Series)
ABV: 7.0% | IBU: 38
There's no surprise to the people that know me... I like to listen to people that know what they are talking about. If I'm at a restaurant and I don't know what to get on the menu, I'll ask our server... if I'm at the Supermarket, I'll ask the Butcher or Fish Guy what's good... More important, if I'm at a bar, I'll ask the bartender or server what they like. (Speaking of... Plan B Milford plug... if you get Michelle F. as a server, listen to the girl. She knows her craft beer.) These are the people that KNOW what's good and chances are you'll be happy with their advice. So when my good friend Ruark (fellow beer drinker and craft beer connoisseur) chimed in with Harpoon's Barrel Series Vermont Spruce Tip, you can better believe I'm going to listen.
First impressions on color alone, this looks like it's going to fall into the lager category. With an aggressive pour, I got about two fingers of white head that slowly disappeared. And even know as it sits in my glass, there's a non-stop effervescence going on, champagne-like. Amber/Dark Orange in color... and the lacing is pretty fluid, too. A couple of swirls around my glass... and its gone after 5-6 seconds.
Now, with a beer named "VERMONT SPRUCE TIP" I really expected a strong piney presence on the nose. Not the case here... I think the brewers wanted to focus on the natural flavors of the spruce, and NOT over hop it. Keep in mind, this offering is only at 38 IBUs. As I try to pick out any distinct smells, there's really hardly anything noticeable. Maybe some mild caramel notes, and some roastiness too. I have no idea what to expect on the taste... Let's read the bottle:
"A robust flavored ale with notes of spicy sweet pine from locally gathered spruce tips, balanced by roasty caramel malt and a hint of Chinook hops."
Ok... I have to say, MOST seasonal beers are quasi-predictable. An Octoberfest, is going to be an Octoberfest... Spring beers aim to be lighter, some hops present... Summer Beers will have some fruitiness to them (lemon, raspberry, strawberry) or be a pale ale, but mostly pretty light. Then you have Winter Beers. You have your stouts, dry, sweet... you have your lagers... you have your ipas like Lagunitas did this year... so saying something is a Winter Beer... MEANS NOTHING. It could be ANYTHING! And this beer is like nothing I've ever tasted this time of year.
The taste... I don't know if I would agree that this is a ROBUST flavored ale, but that's not saying that I'm not totally enjoying it. It looks like a lager, but drinks a lot lighter than it looks. There's a sweet, brown sugar, breadiness to it with a tasty malt quality and verrrry subtle spice notes.
The finish is very clean and crisp. Refreshing with a little, hows-ya-father bitterness in the end. This is where I get the spruce. Not in the smell, not in the taste... but in the finish. And like I mentioned, a very fresh taste to it with a touch of hop bitterness.
Given the fresh taste, you could really pair this with a lot of things. I could see going with some thai food - or some spicy/smokey bbq. A dish that grabs a hold of your taste buds... then let's the Vermont Spruce Tip clean out your palette.
Like I mentioned, Winter Beers are all over the map. And Harpoon has been doing a pretty good job with their Barrel Series. If you see this on shelf (22 oz), I'd definitely give it a go. It won't wow you... and at 7.0% it won't knock you out... but a very well balanced beer. Worth a try. There's so many other Winter varieties to try out there, I don't see myself buying another one, but if this ends up on tap somewhere - count me in.
Posted by Tony Leone at Thursday, December 15, 2011