THE EDITOR’S DESK :: A YBN Posse Sessions Sixpoint Brewing

by Harvey Gold on September 25, 2012

l to r. Eric, Jerry, Wendy, Harvey (pic by dolli)

A couple weeks ago we had a mini-get together for a session with Jerry Welch, Northeast Ohio Ambassador for Sixpoint Brewing, located in that craft beer hotbed of Brooklyn, NY.

We did it at YBN headquarters, ordering a couple pizzas: for scientific purposes, one was a deluxe with tomato sauce, mozzarella, sausage, mushrooms, onions, green peppers and ham; the other a white pie with olive oil, oregano, grilled chicken, mushrooms, onions, spinach, feta cheese and diced tomatoes.

I invited a couple people over who are known to have diverse palates. One, Eric Hider, of dB Audio Labs  is a serious audiophile and lover of complex dark brews, though as a high-energy renaissance guy, open to trying anything. Wendy Schweiger, creator of the wonderful music blog, I estivate, therefore I am  and a true beer lover—having turned this writer on to creamy nitro can propelled Boddingtons Pub Ale—enthusiastically joined in, having already sung the praises of Sixpoint “Sweet Action” ale to me.

Once settled in with 4 oz. tasters in hand, Jerry pointed out that while every brew offered by Sixpoint had it’s own story, one thing distinguishing the line overall was that every beer they made was dry hopped, bringing, naturally, an enhanced presence to their hoppier brews, and yet an interesting layer to the ones that weren’t. Having started out as a dark ale and stout man, falling, later in life, in desperate love with hops…and loving pizza…I WAS READY!

So, with just an occasional quote here or there, here’s the distillation of what our crew thought of these beers. Jerry picked the order and off we went:

1) The Crisp,  5.4% ABV

This is a German pilsner, the kind of beer I describe as one of those Miller longneck-style beers that I had no interest in when growing up… but in this case, actually good! This is another step in my re-introduction to the “standard issue yellow” session beers, learning to find a taste for them when brewed properly. I found Pilsner Urquel to be my gateway brew in said journey, and this offering from Sixpoint to be a pleasant stroll down the same road.

The nose was very “lager” at the outset, but Eric detected what he described as a lavender scent. The thinking here is that this, as well as the very nice bitter on the back end, is a result of the dry hopping. The IBU stands at a respectable 42. By way of comparison, there are 12 IBUs in a Miller Genuine Draft, and an almost identical 41 in Pilsner Urquel. Hops aside, The Crisp has that nice, subtle mouth feel of chewing on grain that I‘m coming to enjoy in a good pilsner.

2) Sweet Action, 5.2% ABV

This is the beer from Sixpoint that Wendy was raving about when we told her about this proposed session. The brewer describes it as “hard to define,” claiming it be part pale ale, part wheat, and part cream.

Now THIS one hit me with that floral, sweet nose Eric seemed to get a hint of in The Crisp, displaying none of the “beery” nose one would expect from a wheat beer.

Described (NOT by me) as a “lady’s drink,” with 34 IBU, it really is a gentle brew, but brimming with flavor. At this tasting I found it to be too perfumy to be a session beer. The combination of Citra, Amarillo, and Cascade hops wouldn’t, by virtue of that grouping, seem to be what makes it so, leading us, at this point, to wonder whether there was some consistency of the mix of hops used in the dry hopping stage by Sixpoint that might be key to this commonality we detected in these first two.

There was the argument that we might have been tasting this one a tiny bit too warm and that it may be a more complete experience if drunk colder. Wendy seemed to think that was a fair notion, and I can see how this could be a nice, refreshing, but still stand apart drinking experience with a little more of a chill to it.

As it was, I found it to be such an interesting beer that, without question, I’ll seek it out again.

3) Righteous Ale, 6.3% ABV

My first experience with rye in beer was down in Austen TX, when I sampled Real Ale’s Full Moon Rye Pale Ale. What I liked about it, is what I liked about this rye beer. At 57 IBU, Righteous Ale has a roundish, malty body, but with a crispness and a balanced bitter backstop to it.

Eric, who looks for what he calls “length” in a beer—a continuation of the sip after swallowing—felt it tapered off at the end, perhaps lacking some dimension. Overall, this offering was met with a little less enthusiasm from my cohorts.

I personally liked it just fine.

4) Resin,  9.1% ABV

This, for me, along with Sweet Action, represented the Event Beers of the night. At 103 IBUs, this is a big beer, an American Double/Imperial IPA. The name suggests a big, sticky, compelling beast, the can as tall as their standard release 16 oz. tall boys, but narrower to accommodate 12 oz., suggesting the small but mighty Red Bull. Clever, evoking the feeling that a little goes a longer way than most, and all things considered, it does. I hate Red Bull. Tastes like watered down, carbonated Robitussin, but I have to say it was kind of fun drinking out of the tall, skinny POWER CAN.

I’ve often written about how we judge an IPA. Sometimes, as my YBN partner Dave opined in a piece we recently did featuring Fearless Mjolnir Imperial, an IPA that starts bitter, brings bitter down the middle and has a back end that can best be described as “bitter,” pretty much fills all the requirements of an IPA. So true and fair a statement, I’m always pretty noisy when I taste an IPA that is really distinctive. Recently I made mention of a Belgian IPA from our friends at Hoppin’ Frog, and a Thirsty Dog Citra we tasted as examples of unique, yet faithful, India Pale Ales.

This Resin is also unique in that what is heartily braced by a serious bitter is a really sweet and fruity middle. Jerry tells us that Citra hops are a huge part of, if not the only hop component in this brew, and there’s a lot of sweet malt here. This dominant flavor note appears to be the result of the malt sweetness using the big Imperial floral hop presence as a booster rocket. The two flavors mixing to offer a fruity sweet mouth that clearly requires both in play, at this level of ingredients, results in a vivid and powerful experience. Love it!

5) Brownstone, 6% ABV

OK, here’s where things get really sticky, as in “sticky wicket.” We agreed that we’d try the Brownstone, at 45 IBU, not just an American Brown Ale, but what Sixpoints describes as their “… first fermented creation — our bedrock.”

We figured wedging it between the gigantic Resin and their single (+ dry hopping) IPA, Bengali Tiger, we’d benefit from the contrast and certainly give the next tasting a fair shake by distancing the two IPAs.

Now, we don’t often write awful things about a beer. More often than not, if we dislike a beer, we just don’t write about it. That may be considered journalistically suspect by some, but we’re here as fans first, feeling it’s our responsibility to tell you what we DO like and recommend as opposed to feeling a need to go all Olberman on some poor bastards who’re trying—just not succeeding—in a particular instance at a particular tasting by a particular person. We’re still taking no advertising at YBN so threadbare pockets also speak to our integrity in this instance.

But then there’s context, precisely where we find ourselves, so now we suck it up and let it rip:

The nose—
• Wendy: “Sewage!”
• Harvey: “Skunky”

The flavor—
• Eric: “Not complex”

As for me, having recently returned from the UK where I started to learn about the subtle qualities in beers and ales, not jacked up to Crayola Color levels by big craft beer alcohol propulsion systems, I found it to be an OK, well-balanced beer. It reminded me of  Samuel Smith Nut Brown, a beverage I don’t love, but do like, one held in incredibly high regard by seemingly everyone BUT me, so chalk this one up to subjectivity, big time. I’ll also admit I was so surprised by the reactions across the board, I wouldn’t mind giving it another go as we, this “particular” night, seem to be in the minority.

6) Bengali Tiger, 6.4% ABV

Jerry told us about the high concentration of Citra hops in the Resin Imperial IPA, a brew that tasted sweet and fruity. Now in this Bengali Tiger, the brewer speaks to “an abundance of citrus hop bitterness and a full pine and grapefruit bouquet in the aroma.” I found the nose to be an unremarkable IPA nose, but the citrus, lemony presence in the taste was huge and wonderful! Sweet & drinkable, we probably should have had it before the Resin. If it wasn’t sitting at 6.4% I would consider it, based on it’s outstanding drinkability, a perfect IPA session beer. Yet another standout in the IPA family brought to us by Sixpoint!

So, what do we say here in conclusion? If we distill everyone’s reactions, proclivities, likes and dislikes, and say that of the 6 Sixpoint Beers we tried, we liked 2 well enough, loved 3 of them, and gave a solid thumbs down to 1, is this is a good report? I’d like to think so. They’ve truly gone after some of these with guns blazing and have hit the target solidly far more often than not. As soon as I finish this, I’m popping a Resin, something I’ve been craving since I started writing about it.

So thanks to Eric and Wendy—Dolli for taking pix, picking up the good pizza, and drinking a nice red while babysitting us—to Sixpoints for going for it, and Jerry for deciding we were worthy of a session.

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