Thursday, April 11, 2013

Kern River Winter Ale

Type: Rye Ale
Origin: Kernville, CA
Price: $7.35/22oz
ABV: 7.0%
NSP: 6.19

I bought this almost entirely because Just Outstanding is so just outstanding.  But I haven't bought their Isabella Blonde, which has been readily available in stores around here.  Call me inconsistent.

Anyway, ordinarily the term "winter ale" is enough to make me walk on by.  And here we come to the second reason I bought this- because Lagunitas Sucks has singlehandedly made me reconsider my previous nose-upturning at winter seasonals.  Kern's website is pretty short with the details on this one- it has rye in it, and some hops.  Which doesn't give me any basis on which to form any sort of expectations or idea of the beer's style.  But the smell is enough to quell any misgivings that this might be a winter warmer- the hops are nice and punchy with a good amount of citrus, and it's got a honeyed/caramelly malt scent that brings me right back to Sucks again.  There's a little bit of rye spiciness there too...or maybe more accurately, there's some spiciness that I can attribute to the rye that I already know is in there because I looked at the website.

Tasting this, I'll admit that I'm at fault here to an extent.  I let this sit in my fridge for a bit too long.  Because the flavor's telling me that this is probably really excellent when fresh.  The hops are pretty flavorful and citrusy without being overly bitter (initially), the rye is fairly potent without being dirty or musty, the body's nicely light- it's a very well-crafted rye IPA.  The flavors are well balanced, again initially- but after a bit the bitterness becomes a bit heavy and the citrus flavors (and aromas) dissipate, unfortunately.  Despite those flaws it's still a nicely drinkable and tasty beer.

But I also have to lay some blame for my overcellaring, and thus some of the flaws of the beer, at Kern's feet.  Nowhere on the bottle does this say that this is an IPA.  There's no label information whatsoever about the style or ingredients, other than some cartoony hops and grain, which obviously don't tell me a damn thing.  No born-on or drink-by date either.  The only concrete things I could learn from the bottle is that it's brewed in Kernville, on the northern tip of Lake Isabella (which tells you immediately why the aforementioned blonde ale is named as such), and that I shouldn't drink this before driving/operating machinery or if I'm pregnant.

So, the take-home from this overly bitchy review is: this beer is good- if you like rye IPAs, definitely try it, but don't expect it to compete with Nelson- but it would've been better had Kern told me I needed to drink it right away in order to maximize my beerjoyment.  Good thing you have Non-Snob Beer here to provide you with such important information so you don't make the same mistake if you happen to be in one of the few beer stores that happens to carry Kern River and they actually manage to get a minimally-distributed seasonal and you've had Lagunitas Sucks so you no longer hate winter seasonals in general and you've had Just Outstanding so you know how good Kern River can be so you'll be happy to try one of their other beers in the first place.

P.S. Some of the BA reviews of this beer say that it's a "rich" or "dark" brown.  Uhhh...is it possible to be colorblind with brown?

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