Sunday, January 13, 2008

Beer of the Moment: Southern Tier Gemini

Southern Tier has always impressed us with its high quality, and constantly evolving product line. It seems that every 2 months or so, the brewers at this Lakewood, New York-based brewery are coming out with new 22oz bottles, and always with beers for a variety of tastes.

Southern Tier not only casts a wide net in terms of styles (Pumking, Raspberry Porter, Uber Sun Imperial Summer Wheat, Heavy Weizen Imperial Unfiltered Wheat Ale, Jahva Imperial Coffee Stout), but they have one of the most versatile 12-packs around, with three-each of their IPA, Raspberry Wheat, the crowd-pleasing Phin-N-Matt's Extraordinary Ale, and a rotating "mystery beer."

They have never been shy about creating good beers with hops, and with their newest release -- Gemini, an Imperial IPA -- they have created a sort of hoppy Frankenstein's Monster. The label of the bottle calls Gemini a "blended unfiltered ale." In this case, the blend is between Southern Tier's own hoppy fraternal twins.

The brew is a mixture of Southern Tier's Hoppe, an Imperial Extra Pale Ale, and Unearthly, their Herculean Imperial IPA. With Gemini, Southern Tier manages to capture the best of both brews, while combining them to form a beer that puts it on a par with either one.

Perhaps a brief examination of each of the twins is in order. Unearthly, which has been around for several years, is a very strong (11% abv) ale that came out before double-digit alcohol-content beers were in vogue. Unearthly is a reddish-orange brew with a supremely fragrant hop aroma. The hops are extremely strong on the sip, but mellow at the swallow. They don't punish the taste buds as they would have every right to. It's smoothness is a surprise. Though it is a thick brew, but the high alcohol is relatively understated.

Hoppe, on the other hand, is a bright, clear brew that might look like a light lager save for it's colossal head. The smell is hoppy, but with traces of oak and pine. The aroma is also balanced by a dry malt, differentiating it from it's hop-heavy brother. Whereas the hops come out nicely in this brew too, they are more flowery and woody. The alcohol (10% abv) is a lot more noticeable here. It is a good beer but not one we've craved like we have the Unearthly.

Gemini takes the best of both beers and creates one that we really enjoyed. The look of Gemini is closer to Hoppe: clear and bright and with a rocky mountain of head that evaporates quickly, but leaves a nice Brussels lace. It doesn't look imposing.

The aroma is this beer's best quality. The hops are a wonderful, fragrant citrusy hop smell. It's sweet and refreshing, and only a little bit perfumey. The pale malt aroma is very complimentary and keeps this beer from teetering over the edge to a classic overhop. The citrusy smell is enchanting and intoxicating (no pun intended).

The taste is supremely bitter hops, with some traces of pine and flowers. The taste is more bitter than the sweet aroma, but terrific nonetheless. The sweetness acts as a calming accent to the sharp hops. It's hoppy as hell, but not in the "extreme" category.

The beer feels chewy and rough, but in a very good way. It's leaves a nice bouncy, bitter film. Substantial, but not a choker-downer.

It seems brewers are starting to revisit their approach to their heavier beers and realizing that strong flavors are good, but balance is crucial to the enjoyment of any fine brew. We all enjoy the novelty of a beer with an insane amount of hops, or a roasted malt that tastes like a burnt cookie. But the brews that are going to stick around -- the brews that Southern Tier are routinely releasing -- are the ones that offer a tug-of-war between sweet and bitter, between strong and drinkable. Here's hoping that Gemini is more than just a seasonal offering.

1 comment:

Toastie said...

write about the deliciousness of the always brilliant, never duplicated, life changing jacob best. cold blooded!!!!