Editor’s note: Luke went to this tasting over a week ago and filed his story shortly thereafter. A certain person, well, me, lost it amid the many story drafts filed and didn’t get around to it until after visiting Santa Fe today with my relatives who are in out of town. The good news is you can still get this beer at SFBC and at local liquor stores. — Stoutmeister
We do a lot of stories about the business of beer and beer events, but the Dark Side Brew Crew page also promises beer reviews. As a fledgling Bullpen member of the Crew, I will also do my best to keep that promise. On Friday Sept. 26, I visited Santa Fe Brewing Co., using my favorite excuse to make it out to the brewery. They were having another beer release party, this time for a limited edition brew, simply titled the ECS Double White IPA.
This Frankenstein’s monster of a beer is the first in their new “Ever Changing Series.” As the ECS name implies, Santa Fe will be brewing up something new each time, giving the brewers a chance to break away from the norm and really get creative. Released quarterly (in-state only) and sold in wax-tipped champagne bottles, these beers are special. And who doesn’t love a label covered with mad-libs for beer drinkers? You’ll want to grab them for your collection while you can, as they won’t be around for long. And “Too bad,” I say, because many people, not just Belgophiles and IPALs seemed to rather enjoy this one.
As for me, I’ll definitely be picking up some of this beer, and months down the road, I may be found in a cave somewhere, clinging to my last bottle, calling it “my precious,” or I may simply move on, be glad for the memories and refer to it, from time to time, as, “The one that got away,” and then I’ll be at the taproom again, waiting for the next ECS beer to walk by and wink at me. Before you hear my full thoughts on the beer, however, let’s see what you guys had to say about it.
After I sat down and had my beer and said a little prayer to the hop gods (which has now become my interviewing ritual), I went around and started talking with The People about what they thought of the ECS Double White IPA.
First, I ran into a fellow named Kyle Burns from Santa Fe. He was flanked by friends, carefully cradling his shapely snifter, and already on his second Double White IPA. He couldn’t recall having a beer of that style before. But when pressed for his opinion, he seemed familiar enough. He thought it had a good bitterness to it that balanced out the sometimes overt sweetness of most Belgian whites.
Outside, I found Scott, from Fort Collins, Colo. He was sitting at one of the patio tables and was enjoying his first taste of a Double White IPA. Assuming he must know something about beer, being from the Fort and all, I asked him for some quick tasting notes. He said, “I liked it a lot. I’m a big IPA fan. It has a good real hoppy flavor, which is nice, but it’s not over hoppy on the end. It mellows out. It just kind of fades away. Sometimes any of the IPAs can be way too heavy on the finish. So this is nice!” When asked what his favorite IPA was, he remarked, without hesitation, “Happy Camper.”
Sometime later, I came in contact with a gentleman named Jacob Sandoval from Santa Fe. In regards to the Double White IPA, he said, “This one was way too citrusy and way too sweet. It felt like it was taking off at least the first, if not the second layer of my teeth.” When I asked if he was a fan of Belgian witbiers or ‘whites,’ he gave an emphatic no, and reiterated, “Too citrusy, too sweet, too sour!”
As the sun began to set, I bumped into a couple lovely ladies in the crowd. When asked about what they thought of the beer, Elise, from Santa Fe, said, “It was good for an IPA! I don’t normally drink IPAs. It was tolerable.” It should be noted that on a typical outing, she enjoys the lighter side of beer with hefeweizens or (light) lagers. Rachel, from Chicago, who was not a virgin to Double White IPAs, said, “I think it’s actually pretty tasty! But … it’s not my thing.” She, at the other end of the spectrum, prefers the much darker stouts and porters. “Something black,” she added, raising her other glass of what could only have been the State Pen Porter or the Java Stout.
Finally, as I paid for my shiny new hand-labeled bottles at the bar, I chatted with a bloke from London. I asked Adrian what he thought of the beer, and this is what he shared: “I think it’s pretty good actually, yeah. It’s better than what I expected, but then, I wasn’t expecting this.” I asked him the top three things that came to mind when he thought of this beer. He said, “It’s fresh. It has a lightness to it, but it also has a good kick to it as well.”
For my review, I didn’t want to repeat what you’ve no doubt already read in Beeradvocate, so I took a different road. To me, the beer is a dream, in which you find yourself in a world where the sun is always setting, but the clouds remain white and frothy. You’re lost in a great orange grove where you soon realize that the oranges are alive and can talk. You want to ask for directions, but you can’t tell which ones to trust, the sweet ones or the bitter ones. Each side vies for your attention, until a great battle ensues. We’re talking brutal orange-on-orange violence. You’re forced to flee on your own.
At the edge of the grove, you reach a towering and dense pine forest and take refuge inside. In here, the trees are bright and intimidating but helpful, and they are more than happy to guide you along your way. Friendly pines, you think to yourself, maybe Ents. Once you’ve reached the end of the forest, they thank you for visiting and gift you with fruits of dragon and passion and maybe a grapefruit for the road. They are now your friends, and you plan to Facebook them later.
Finally, you’re left before a field of wheat that stretches off into the distance, and it’s quiet here. All you hear is the buzzing between your ears and Nicole, the bartender, asking, “Can I get you another?” as she pulls the empty snifter from your twitching fingers. Your girlfriend then gives you the look, because she already warned you that 10-percent ABV was too high a price to pay for the mere thrill of something new, daring, and over-the-top. But she was wrong. And you’d do it all over again.
It was a great beer, for me. But I like big and complex beers. I enjoy the fruit flavors as they change from opening to finish, from citrusy to sweet and mellow. I enjoy the power of the South African J-17 hops, as they maintained a great presence throughout, but don’t linger. The beer felt well-balanced to me, but my scale weighs the flavors of Belgians and IPAs equally. Others’ scales may not.
It is somewhat reminiscent of “Le Freak” by Green Flash Brewing Co., which is an American Imperial IPA mixed with a Belgian Trippel. Try both, and let’s talk. These kinds of beers are big in both directions, whereas if you like Trippels or Double Whites, but don’t like IPAs, or vice versa, you may still find something you enjoy about the style, even if it’s not your thing. But this beer, the ECS Double White IPA, is a wild ride, and not for the casual theme park enthusiast. This ride has a height requirement. Luckily, I’m packing platform shoes.
If you’re looking to test the mettle of your taste buds in this way, Alana Jones of Santa Fe Brewing Co. says the bottles will be available all over New Mexico, although your best bet is probably at the independent liquor stores. They will also have the ECS Double White IPA on draft at very select locations in Albuquerque and Santa Fe. (Jubilation is the first to get it in Albuquerque. — Stoutmeister) Well, that’s all for now. See you at the rail. Think globally; drink locally.
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