Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Hermitage Scores with their Latest Winter Releases

Hermitage's Chinook Single Hop IPA
Like many Silicon Valley companies, Hermitage Brewing constantly innovates and pushes the envelope.  Their latest winter beers, released last Thursday at their South San Jose brewery, is just the latest example of this.  I stopped by the brewery that evening and here's what's new from Hermitage.

Chinook Single Hop IPA
The latest in the popular series from Hermitage where a single hop variety is showcased in all its glory.  Brewers typically blend hops to generate a depth and complexity of flavor in their brews, which Hermitage does as well in beers like Hoptopia and Ale of the Imp.  However, some hops really stand out on their own, but only a small fraction of breweries make any beer with just one hop.   Hermitage takes this rare practice a step further with an entire series of single hop IPAs.  This popular series has emerged over past couple of years as a interesting and tasty exploration of the ever growing world of hops.

Hermitage's Barrel-aged Ryetopia
Chinook hops are commonly used in some of the most popular and revered West Coast IPAs.  I found Chinook Single Hop to have a bitterness dominated by a resiny character, rounded out with some tropical fruit flavors and a peppery spiciness.  As Hermitage Brand Manager Peter Estaniel explained that evening, "It's got a very clean bitterness as opposed to other hops where the bitterness is more muddled."  It worked well for me as a fresh, arousing IPA and I'm looking forward to seeing what hop Hermitage tries next in the series.

Ryetopia Bourbon Barrel Aged Barleywine
The real star of the night was Hermitage's Barrel Aged Barleywine, Ryetopia.   Lead brewer Greg Filipi described the creation of Ryetopia in a press release stating, "We started with a big bodied barleywine style ale then beefed it up with a healthy does of rye malt and crystal rye (about 16% of the total grist).  Rye is known for its dry, slightly spicy flavor in beer  Crystal rye goes through a different malting process which converts some of the starches in the grain into simpler sugars before we add it to our mash.  This results in a sweeter flavor, adding hints of licorice and toffee to the finished beer."

I found it to be a rich, complex, and noticeably sweet brew.  After fourteen months in bourbon barrels it emerged with noticeable bourbon flavors, a little smokiness, notes of pepper and a slight boozy alcohol burn.  As for the "hints of licorice and toffee", let me say Ryetopia had it's own, unique flavor and the best beers are the ones often perceived differently, resisting any attempts to be easily deconstructed into tidy flavor components.  Barrel aged beer can be a risky swing for the fences that don't always work, but Hermitage hit a home run here.  I found this to be a great late night sipping beer and enjoyed mine very slowly.

Maybe I'm biased in supporting one of my local breweries.  I'm just pleased Hermitage continues to help forge a South Bay brewing identity.
Where the Hermitage magic happens.

What's going on inside these barrels?



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