I arrived down at the Sandy location, a hop and skip from home, Monday afternoon. My trip was a response to seeing the list of seasonal beers on Facebook. Who says social media doesn't work? The list included Pumpkin Ale, Pale Project #21 (Fresh Hop Pale), Deranger Imperial Red, Megafauna Imperial IPA and Fresh Hop Free Range Red. I'll get to the beers shortly.
Brewmaster Vasili Gletsos told me via email that the seasonal production isn't yet linked to the deal with the CBA. They are apparently just about ready to release Workhorse and Red (it won't be organic outside the pub) in the new packaging (six-packs), but that change hasn't yet impacted what they can do in the main brewery. Soon, though.
"We just had a bunch of projects we needed to get done, like getting our GABF entries together," Gletsos said. "Plus it's fresh hop season, so we got some of those together, as well. My goal, once we do have the CBA production in full swing, is to keep a great line-up like this on at all our pubs full time." Great news!
Pale Project #21 is a fantastic take on the fresh hop style. It has a pervasive hop aroma and flavor. Coming in at 5.9%, this is a highly drinkable beer. Like many, if not most fresh hop beers, Laurelwood brewers use standard dry hops for bittering. They added Cascades from Crosby Farms and Willamettes from Goshie Farms to the bright tank with the Pale. This succulent fresh hop beer is reminiscent of Fresh Hop Workhorse, which leans on fresh Centennial hops. FH Workhorse isn't pouring at the Sandy pub at the moment, but it has been spotted on tap around town..and there may be another rev on the way.
When we last visited fresh hop season, Fresh Hop Free Range Red was the beer I preferred here. Not so this time around. Last year, I thought the malts balanced the hop character in the Red. This year, hops character seems subdued. They evidently used Cascades alone (in the bright tank) and I might have had a hard time fingering this one for a fresh hop beer if not for the board. It isn't a bad beer by any means...just lacks the bold character of the Pale.
I really don't need to mention Deranger and Megafauna, do I? These are both terrific beers. Deranger features a monumental blend of flavor and aroma hops over the top of a solid malt backbone. It's the late addition hops that make this beer, I think, and it's a winner. Megafauna is a gigantic hop bomb packing robust citrus, tropical fruit and pine flavors. Both of these beers are to be sought wherever they appear.
The Pumpkin Ale is simply the old Stingy Jack with a new name. The name change is the consequence of someone else owning the rights to Stingy Jack. Pumpkin Ale is a generic name, not subject to patent. I suspect this beer will have a proprietary name by this time next year. No offense to the brewers, but I'm not a fan of this particular pumpkin ale. Maybe in October.
Today's seasonal board at Laurelwood is just a sign of things to come. As I said in the earlier post about the deal with the CBA, I'm looking forward to seeing what Vasili and his crew come up with once they are out from under the bulk of their production brewing duties. This will be an interesting, tasty experience.