2 O'Clock Tasting:
Other Half Brewing Company (Part 2)
If you are at all on the pulse of the craft beer scene (which, seeing as you're here, you probably are) and live in New York City (iffier, but still very possible), you've probably heard about Other Half Brewing. Nestled into the tiny Brooklyn neighborhood of Carroll Gardens, Other Half often has lines around the block on the days they release their limited-run canned 4-packs, sometimes selling out within hours. These are beers brewed with the freshest local ingredients and intended solely for the NYC area. Each release is a unique iteration of their company ethos. Samuel Richardson and Matt Monahan started Other Half just last year, with a mission statement based in the idea of brewing as a public service. The two met at Greenpoint Beer Works (home to Heartland Brewery and KelSo Beer) and bonded over food & beer. One pop-up dinner and a Craigslist listing for a brewing space later, they opened Other Half. They admit that brewing beer ethically and well in NYC is difficult and expensive, but they believe that it's worth it, for both beer quality and the community. All signs suggest that they're on to something. Because Other Half puts in the work to get the best ingredients, their brews are often designed to let those flavors shine. They tend to favor clean, dry recipes that let one ingredient - like a single, charismatic hop - take the spotlight. It's quite possible that some of the beers in today's tasting will never be made again. Let's be a part of history:
Though technically named after the hop strain (and thus, pronounced with the gringo hard-L), this first beer visually lives up to its Spanish namesake. The appropriately yellow brew poured hazy, with basically no head beyond a thin rim of bubbles, looking like a liquid lemon drop. Past the visuals, the beer lived up to expectation as a member of Other Half's single hop series, with both aroma and taste putting the Amarillo hop front and center. On the nose, the brew had the floral, tropical aspects typical of the Amarillo, with herbal and tangerine notes. The most surprising detail was the turn on the tongue: the beer started juicy, before immediately drying up on the tongue, unexpectedly blasting the palate with a powerful grapefruit bitterness. There's nothing in this beer to distract from the titular hop, and the clarity of purpose is effective.
7% ABV Our second beer was another one of Other Half's single hop series, and is arguably one of their most lauded - it is featured at Per Se, after all. The Galaxy hop itself also has a hefty reputation, due to its oil content: hop flavor comes from oils, and Galaxy has the highest typical oil content of any known hop variety. With a unique flavor profile somewhere between citrus and passion fruit, the Galaxy is potent and vivid, and deserves a showcase such as this. The beer poured clearer and darker than the Amarillo, with a hue approaching gold and sporting a similar absence of head. The tropical fruit scents of passion fruit and guava, typical of the Galaxy, wafted up from its depths, along with a dankness that turned the fruity tones. The effect was vaguely similar to barely overripe fruit - still sweet and floral, but with a potential volatility. Once we drank, this became the most divisive beer of the tasting. Where Amarillo epitomized "bitter," Galaxy plied its trade in sour, the dank fruitiness of the nose mirrored by the taste. One of our tasters likened the flavor to that of canned pineapple - decidedly tropical, but with a synthetic tone that complicated the flavors. If you can, try this one for yourself, as it's worthy of investigation.
Hop Showers IPA
7.4% ABV Hop Showers marked a departure from Other Half's single-hopped selections but a continuation of the visual trend established by the first two: darker, but still no head. This amber brew struck us as similar to dark honey, but with an undeniable orange tint. Its crystal-clear complexion might imply transparency on the tongue, but Hop Showers actually turned out to be the most complex beer of the tasting. Exhibit A: the first adjective given for Hop Showers' scent was "sticky," possibly a result of the rich pine notes mixing with a tender sweetness to inspire an impression of sap. The final aroma to reveal itself was a faint Valencia orange tang, which was one of the first flavors to arise in the front of the mouth, lending a juiciness to the mouthfeel. Those pine details came back in the form of a savory, nigh-hermetic aspect, bolstered by an underlying coriander mode. The overall effect was pleasing, if difficult to pin down - Hop Showers has many layers to unpack.
Green Diamonds Imperial IPA
9.1% ABV For the uninitiated, the term "imperial" references beers that were brewed to withstand long voyages from England to Russia. These beers are, therefore, heavier, with higher ABVs (to impress the Russian court) and are full of hops to balance out the higher malt content and preserve the beer. Green Diamonds fulfills all of these comparative descriptions in relation to the previous IPAs, and with a 9.1% ABV, it's not messing around. Any Czar would be suitably impressed, we think. Green Diamonds was both the darkest and thickest beer of the tasting, though still sported almost no head, with nothing more than a ring of foam around the edge. The scent was juicy and tropical, but with an edge to it - the most evocative description a taster gave was that it smelled like a "mango tree on fire." Shades of papaya and the "Three C" hops - Columbus, Centennial, and Cascade - are also at play here, rounding out the equatorial aesthetic. Impressively, all our hypotheses from sight and smell proved true on the tongue: Green Diamonds is thick and sticky, containing a syrupy, caramel sweetness that balances out with a rounded, grapefruit aftertaste. Combined with the aroma, it played across the palate like a subtle fruit reduction, albeit one with some boozy heat. This is not a "crushable" beer - it forces you to take it seriously.