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Belt's Beer Garden: Whoa, Black Betty (...bam-a-lam)

Two more beers from the West Coast this week as I finish my time in San Diego.

My last review of beers while I'm actually on the West Coast will feature two breweries I haven't had before. One from California and one from Washington.

I'll go from north to south...which means Black Raven's Trickster is up first.

trickster

Black Raven is located in Redmond, Washington, a pretty decent sized suburb of Seattle. They were founded back in April of 2009 and have been fusing Pacific Northwest flavors with old-world styles to create a unique variety of brews. For now, you can only find these guys in Washington state. And, while I was there this summer (albeit only for a night), I stumbled upon one of their mainstays...their Trickster IPA.

This year-round IPA is made with Amarillo, Cascade, Chinook, Magnum, and Simcoe hops and packs can pack a punch, at 6.9% ABV and 70 IBU. The 22-ounce bomber will set you back a minimal $4.99, so the price is certainly right! Hopefully the beer inside is just as good.

When I poured Trickster into my glass it was a dark copper color with thick, airy tan head. The foam built up well over two fingers before slowly bubbling down to a moderate level. As it faded down, the lacing was quite noticeable even before I took my first sip.

On the nose there were copious amounts of piney hops with some light citrus notes brightening up the IPA. There was also a pretty noticeable biscuity smell from the Munich and Crystal malts that backed up the hops.

My first taste was a whole lot of pine and bready malt. The earthy notes stung up front with a moderate hop punch and carbonated fizz. Once the hops and aeration dissipated, the malts took over the taste, providing some relief from the hops, before the sip ended on a caramel like sweetness.

The citrus didn't show up until the very end of the taste. There was a grapefruit bitterness that was left on the palate after each sip. For me, I would have liked to see more of the juicy fruit flavors come out in the initial taste instead of the aftertaste...at least the first half of the beer was like that.

And I found out I spoke a little too soon...because, as the bottle was slowly drained, the flavors changed.

Just over half way through the beer the grapefruit began to seep into the main taste and cut out some of the piney hops. The bready malt still had full reign of the backend of the taste but I was happy to see more of the fruit flavor come out. Maybe that's why they call it Trickster...it tricks you into thinking it tastes one way before it completely changes it up on you.

As I continued to drain the bomber dry of its original contents, massively thick clouds were left all down my glass from the foam. There is quite a good amount of booze inside this bottle but it is hidden really well in the taste, only coming out towards the end of the bottle...and in the subtle way of warming my chest as the sip went down.

Overall this was a decent IPA. Not one of my favorites but it sure does have a lot of complexity to it. Trickster is heavy on the malt flavor while keeping the hoppy bitterness an IPA should have. It has both piney and citrusy flavors, with the citrus coming out more towards the end, which I was a fan of.

If I had rated this during the first half of the bottle, I'd have given it a 7.5...however, that additional citrus push the second half had pushed it higher. 8/10

8 beers

Heading down towards the San Bernardino area, I bring to you Hanger 24's Betty.

betty ipa

Hanger 24 calls Redlands, California home. Located near San Bernardino (and 65 miles east of LA), they began back in 2008 after a pilot, and avid home-brewer, wanted to branch out in the craft beer world. And, so far, he's excelled.

Using locally grown ingredients, Hanger 24 offers a variety of seasonal/specialty brews to go along with their four mainstay beers. While you can only find them in Central and Southern California (plus the San Francisco Bay area), they continue to expand.

Named after the iconic girl that B-17 pilots covered their planes with during World War Two, Betty IPA is one of the four year-round brews Hanger 24 offers and is made with Centennial, Citra, Mosaic, and Simcoe hops (yum!). The 22-ounce bomber only cost me $5.99, so the price is certainly affordable too.

The hardest part of this review was letting this beer get to 48º, the ideal serving temperature according to Hanger 24's website. After what seemed like forever, I'll be honest, I just gave up and decided to open the beer...it was close enough. Also, for beer geeks, you're technically supposed to serve this in a tumbler glass...well I'm on vacation so this tulip glass I have will have to do!

Betty filled my glass with a light golden copper color and a massive buildup of head. Over two fingers of thick, sticky white foam bubbled up and almost poured over the edge...had it not been as sticky it might have. It laced my glass as is fizzed out, which it did surprisingly fast. Shortly after pouring it, there was just a thin line of bubbles left floating atop the brew.

The aroma was quite inviting. Loads of melon and tropical fruit filled my nose and had me licking my lips, waiting to get at this beer. Behind the juicy fruit there were some pale malts and that typical hoppiness that IPAs are known for.

On the first sip, the beer had a lighter, smoother body but made my tongue fizz with the solid amount of carbonation it contains.

But, as I was happy to see, the flavors followed suit with the aroma. There was a copious amount of grapefruit, mango, cantaloupe, and other melons up front that give this beer a slightly sticky quality from all the sweetness. After the fruit flavors had faded down a bit there was a strong piney note with some prominent nutty qualities from the malts that finished the taste.

I will say, there was no real aftertaste left by this beer, as the flavors seemed to fade almost as soon as the beer was swallowed.

However, Betty ends on the dry side of things. That dry ending, coupled with the sugary-sweet fruit juices, had smacking my lips for relief (and for more beer). The 6.5% ABV that she holds is hidden completely behind the tropical paradise hidden inside this bottle.

As the beer warmed, the flavors changed. Once it settled, the brew went from the sticky sweet fruit bomb it was originally to a grapefruit and pine explosion with a tad bit more bitterness.

There are 68 IBU in here but, until it warmed up a tad, you really couldn't tell it was that high on the scale. And, the sweetness and malt profile really cut into the hoppy bite that West Coast IPAs can have. And the abundant amount of head that originally topped the beer made sure to stick around, lacing my glass with a well-defined patchwork of bubbles all across my glass.

Overall, this was a really good IPA. Betty had great flavors and was smooth and quite easy to drink. The one drawback was the dryness she left you with. But if that's the only problem with a beer...that means you have a good brew in front of you. 8.5/10

8.5