Redhook 8-4-1 Expedition Ale

I think one of the hardest things about reviewing beer for me is that every time I try a new brewery or type of beer I like – aka: 95% of my posts – I want to go and pick up ALL of the beers that particular brewery makes and ALL of the beers I can find that are the same type.  It easily becomes a very vicious circle of breweries and brew styles.  If I had the money, a warehouse of refrigerators, higher metabolism, and no chance of getting drunk, as well as access to every craft beer out there, I’m pretty sure I’d be fine for the rest of my life.  But what to drink first?  Funnily enough, I felt this way about books a few years ago, always feeling left behind in the literary world when a dozen new best-sellers would come out at once and I wanted to spend days in Barnes and Noble thumbing through novels to catch up.  That’s why I got a library card.  And I realize that it’s only been a month since I’ve started seriously delving into the craft brew world, so I have a long way to go, but I’m hoping that within a year I might have at least 50 breweries under my belt with multiple beers from each.  Fortunately, this blog is allowing me to make a list of the beers I’ve already tried, and once I get to a point where I’m comfortable in my knowledge, I might be able to go back and revisit each of the ones I really enjoyed.  Until then, I shall carry on only stocking my fridge with beer for reviewing and continue complaining about never having anything to drink.

Tonight I tried another once-brewed beer, Redhook Ale Brewery Spring/Summer 2010 Limited Release (mine was brewed in March): 8-4-1 Expedition Ale.  That is an immensely long title, but at least you’re getting all the information you need right from the start.  From the ale’s description, the numbers respectively refer to:

“An American-Style Strong Brown Ale developed by eight Redhook brewers working in four teams of two to create one beer.  The ale reflects a compilation of each team’s individual receipes that were then carefully blended into one distinct beer.”

I would be interested to see what each of the four teams came up with in terms of their own recipes, because they all were blended together quite nicely.

It poured a murky brownish-red, reminiscent of an old penny (unlike my last limited edition post on the Brother’s Reserve Prickly Pear Braggot, which was more new penny), and sported deep ruby red highlights in the sun.  If it was murky initially, it seemed to clear as it warmed, which makes me wonder if it was a little too cold.  A heavy – but fluffy – off-white/beige head built to just over a finger thick and dissipated gradually, leaving sticky spots of lace along the glass and a thin collar surrounding light patches in the middle.  And although these pictures may suggest that the carbonation was flowing easy, they’re really just action shots I managed to take as I was pouring.  The second I stopped, the murk swallowed everything.

The nose was a little difficult to pick up on, and as it warmed all of the complex aromas seemed to melt together, but I’m pretty happy with what I pulled out of it with the time (and amateur nose) I had.  There were lots of sweetly toasted malts, some honey, a light woody oak scent, burnt caramel, and hints of vanilla as it warmed.  There were very few hops that I could pick up on, though there was an odd citrus tint that didn’t seem to belong with the rest of the earthy compilations.  After some research, I deduced that the citrus was thanks to the Cascade hops, which are used as an aroma-type cultivar and produce obvious floral and citrus tones.

My first swig of this heavily wooded brew was pleasurably smooth, made up of a medium mouthfeel with small but adequate carbonation that created a surprising kick of spiciness that mellowed out quickly.  Another reason for the spiciness was thanks to the Willamette hops, which are a triploid aroma-type cultivar that are actually Fuggle hop seedlings, and they are known for their spicy/woody characteristics.  Many of the flavors that were present were very obvious thanks to the resemblance to the nose, with a sweet malt, quaint honey and vanilla flavors, and a strong wood/oak base; all I needed was to be sitting on a mossy rock in a thick forest watching little insects floating lazily through the sunbeams.

All of the different tastes were quietly and subtly wrapped in a smokey cloak as it rolled off my tongue, leaving just enough room for a mild bitterness to leak into my taste buds.  The flavor was definitely a stronger version of the nose and carried lots of oak and wood notes, making it the most nature-istic brew I’ve tasted yet.  I would love to take this with on a camping trip up in the mountains, surrounded by the tranquility of the trees and just being out in the wilderness.  Being able to drink in the awe-inspiring freedom of nature while enjoying a delightfully crafted brew that pulls all of it perfectly into a liquid is a good way to cover each of the five senses.  This is one for those who take time to appreciate their life and all the wonder present in the little things, even if that little thing happens to be the Grand Canyon.


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