Saturday, July 14, 2012

Russian River Row 2/Hill 56 Pale Ale

Type: American Pale Ale
Origin: Santa Rosa, CA
Price: $5.99/500mL
ABV: 5.8% 
NSP: 4.84

Saw this one on the bottle list at Bine and Vine and trundled right on over there to pick one up.  There aren't many breweries for whom I'll make a special trip, but Russian River's one of them. This is apparently part of a new, presumably all single-hop varietal line of beers from RRBC.  It's made with 100% Simcoe hops and is named after the specific location within the Yakima, WA hop yard in which Simcoe hops were created.  The label (which is pretty cool) indicates the three farms from which RRBC obtained the hops. It kind of strikes me as a winery-like approach in both craft and naming, and if anyone's going to do that, it'd be this Sonoma County powerhouse.

So, I admit that I'm not so much of a hop connoisseur that I know what Simcoe is supposed to smell and taste like.  But this sure seems like a good way to learn. There's not much to be discerned from the color, it looks like a pale ale.  The smell is definitely familiar, as it should be given Simcoe's general popularity- piny and citrusy, though initially a specific citrus fruit isn't really jumping out at me.

The flavor's similar, piny and citrusy in equal proportions, and quite delicious.  The bitterness is highly amplified relative to a run-of-the-mill pale ale- it's like a low-ABV (but not to the point of a session) IPA.  As it started to warm, the citrus in both the nose and the flavor morphed from not-all-that-identifiable to obvious grapefruit, while the pine stayed more or less constant.  Wait, that's kind of a dumb thing to say, who the hell knows what specific pine tree species taste like? Anyway, the body's nice and light, and the finish is super dry, so it's really drinkable- though it's not like you should be shotgunning this even if you could. This is one of the only pale ales I've ever had that I'd recommend taking enough time with to let it warm a fair bit- it really develops as it sits in the glass, and if it's ice cold the hop flavors will be muffled.  At the very end, I get something a bit metallic...or maybe more accurately minerally.  It's not off-putting or anything, just a little tinge that makes we wonder where it came from.  All in all, quite good, and edumacational to boot.  I'll be looking forward to other entries in the RRBC Hop Grower's series.

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