Saturday, January 3, 2009

Schlafly Dry-Hopped American Pale Ale

Brewery: St. Louis Brewery/Schlafly Tap Room

St. Louis beer drinkers, I hope you know what you have in the Schlafly Tap Room (and the Schlafly Bottleworks). Definitely a brewery I will do a full write-up on in the future, it felt very appropriate picking the Schlafly Dry-Hopped American Pale Ale as the first review for OMG Beer. I've driven hours for this beer (and other Schlafly brews) on multiple occasions, as its not found in the Chicagoland area as far as I can tell (unless Chicagoland as a geographic moniker has become synonymous with the whole state of Illinois).

I poured a 12-ounce bottle of Schlafly Dry-Hopped American Pale Ale (APA) into my newly acquired Schlafly pint glass (pint glasses last an average of 6 months or less in my apartment, largely due to my own clumsiness). The head bubbled up off-white and after a short time of full and fluffy, collapsed to a thin ring around the glass. Some lacing lasted longer than the head, but generally things settled down quickly. You have to appreciate a beer that gets down to the business of being drunk by the holder of the bottle/glass/stein. Also, pale here doesn't mean yellow or straw colored. This APA shines orange.

Like most APAs I've tasted, or rather, smelled, the first aroma that hits the nose is hops: an earthy, slightly citrus, green pine suggestion. There's a hint of bread and caramel from the malts, but the hop aroma is dominant. The smell of beer often suggests its flavor, and here, that is mostly the case. The first sip is bitter, earthy, woody even, but also with a touch of citrus, perhaps grapefruit if I had to pick an actual citrus fruit. Dry-hopping a beer does amazing things to the hop aroma and flavor, intensifying both and often overwhelming any malt characteristics. Here, though hops definitely present first and often in the flavor, the malt backbone rounds out the flavor, lingering through the dry finish and surviving as a sweet bread-like aftertaste.

Skip this paragraph if you can only handle so much beer geekery. The Schlafly website says the APA is made using Chinook, Cascade, and Marynka hops. The first two, Chinook and Cascade, are definitely hops I've seen in recipes for APAs, and its more bitter, even hoppier cousin, the India Pale Ale (IPA). The third though, I had to Google. Marynka hops are apparently Polish, which you might have guessed by the name, and have become more common because of a recent hop shortage/crisis. One description compared their flavor to cedar. Whether they were used to bitter, flavor, or even just to add some aroma to the beer, well, I'll ask someone at the brewery about that in the future. There's definitely an earthy, woody flavor to the APA that suggests this Polish hop variety played at least some part in the dry-hopping of this beer.

If you are ever in the St. Louis area, visit the Schlafly Tap Room. Besides fresh kegs of the Schlafly Dry-Hopped APA, there is often a cask-conditioned version. Not for those who love their beer frosty cold, the cask conditioned version is served at room temperature, the carbonation is very gentle, with little as far as bubbles are concerned, and the flavor is distinctly fruitier, slightly sweeter perhaps, and the hops show up more full-bodied, yet extremely well balanced.

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