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Belt’s Beer Garden: Way Out West...Still

Iron Fist’s Nelson the Impaler & Notch Eight by Klamath Basin

I continue my West Coast binge this week as I bring you beers from SoCal and southern Oregon (SoOre just doesn’t have the same ring to it...).

First up, California’s Iron Fist.

Iron Fist is family-owned and calls Vista, California home. The brewery, located about 40 miles north of San Diego, has been around since October of 2010. Currently you can find their concoctions all over California as well as in Hawaii, Arizona, Ohio, and Seattle, Washington. They offer an array of year-round beers (nine in total) including their Nelson the Impaler, which I was able to snag while I was in California.

Nelson the Impaler is an American pale ale that was made with a single hop – Nelson Sauvin (from New Zealand) – and loads of Pilsner malt. Clocking in at only 5% ABV and, with a price tag of $7.99 for the 22 ounce bomber, this beer is pretty standard in both alcohol and price.

Due to the abundance of Pilsner malt and the single hop, this was quite a light beer. It poured a hazy straw color with just a moderate amount of thick, airy head topping it off. About two fingers of foam coated the side of my glass and stayed there for quite a while.

When it came to the aroma, this brew was super juicy and surprisingly dank. Copious amounts of grapefruit, pineapple, and mango filled my nose with that hoppy musty smell lingering behind the fruit.

It was finally time to taste this beer. I battled through the heavy layer of head to get to that first sip. Up front you get a strong carbonated fizz to the beer that stings your palate. Then a wheat-like twang from the malt and some floral dankness kicks in.

It wasn’t until the backend of the sip that the grapefruit and pineapple came to the surface with a surprising hoppiness to it and a sting of bitterness (even though this beer only ranks in at 28 IBU). After the sip there is a slightly dry finish with a pineapple-like aftertaste that lingers for a little while on the very back of the tongue between sips.

As the contents continued to vanish from my glass, the sticky head created some cool patterns around the edge but didn’t leave any distinct markings…just a web-work of bubbles.

After a while, the beer seemed to do better as it warmed up a tad. The strong bitterness seemed to fade a little and the carbonation wasn’t nearly as harsh. However, for the most part, the juicy fruit notes that were so abundant in the smell were still hidden behind the other flavors.

For me, there was just way too much carbonation and dryness. I normally love beers with Nelson Sauvin hops, but this one (ironically, with all that carbonation) falls flat. There are moments when it has some solid flavors (mostly towards the end of the bottle once it warms up). But, between the fruit taking a backseat and the bitter kick it has, it’s just not enough to live up to the aroma the beer has. 7/10

7 beers

Next up I head a bit north to Klamath Falls, Oregon:

Klamath Falls, a smaller city of about 21,000, sits in south-central Oregon near the Oregon/California border. It’s home to Klamath Basin Brewing.

The brewery was founded by two friends back in 2001 and, in just four years, they went from brewing in their garage to opening a brewpub in the downtown area. Right now you can only find them in Oregon and parts of Washington, so I’m glad I was able to find a bottle of one of their staple brews – Notch Eight.

Notch Eight is Klamath Basin’s year round IPA and a 22-ounce bomber will run you just $5.99; so it’s certainly on the lower side of the price-range. It’s named after the eighth notch of a locomotive’s throttle, which was the highest/fastest a train could way back when.

The beer poured a very dark copper color, almost a red-orange, with minimal head building up. There was less than a finger of thick off-white bubbles around the edge of my tulip glass, with the middle having just a dusting on the top.

On the nose there was a hoppy bouquet of pine and loads of citrus (grapefruit and mango mostly). Solid caramel malts provided a nice backing to the hops, giving Notch Eight a pretty balanced aroma; with the needle pointing slightly in favor of the hops.

My first sip was met with a watery, lighter mouthfeel with barely any carbonation. Initially the hops provide most of the flavor quite subtly; the citrus fruit blending with the pine to create a nice earthy but sweet flavor. The malts cut into the hops up front but they don’t provide too much in terms of flavor.

The backend of the taste contains a piney hop bite and just the slightest carbonated sting. The hops linger on the palate for just a few moments before faded completely - the 62 IBU showing themselves here.

As the beer was gulped down, I learned that the little bit of head sure was sticky. It left clear lines across my glass and strings of bubbles in between the lines. The 7.1% ABV is on the higher side of things, however, you’d never know it was that boozy from the taste.

I will say this though; after drinking most of the bottle…the bitter ending seems to get a little worse as the beer warms up. Also, the higher alcohol content sure does sneak up on you. About halfway through, you’ll start to feel your face and chest warm just a bit…so, my advice to you, bring a friend to help you with the bomber.

Overall, this is pretty good IPA. The piney hops get to be a little much towards the end and I wish there was a tad bit more of the citrus…but, outside of that, this is a tasty, balanced West Coast IPA. 8/10

8 beers