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Belt’s Beer Garden: Keep on Truckin’

Catawba’s Mother Trucker & Port’s Nelson the Greeter


This week beers from opposite ends of the country. We’ll start on the east coast before moving all the way to the Pacific for the second brew.

Up first, a new comer to BBG - Catawba Brewing Company.

Catawba Brewing Co. has been around for quite some time, beginning in 1999 and the Morgantown, North Carolina brewery has certainly come a long way in those 18 years…especially in the past five years or so.

They exploded in the mid-teens, going from selling 1000 barrels in 2012 to selling more than 7200 in 2015. Now Catawba has the capacity to brew between 12,000-14,000 barrels per year, has four locations in the Tar Heel state (one in Morgantown, one in Charlotte, and two in Asheville), and has seven year-round beers. You can find their beers mostly in the southeast; in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee.

Today I have one of their staple brews – Mother Trucker pale ale.

Mother Trucker was brewed with Cascade and Magnum hops along with 2-Row Pale and Crystal malts. It has been Catawba’s go-to pale ale since 2012 and is right in the middle in terms of IBU (51), ABV (5%), and even price ($11 for a six-pack).

It poured a dark copper color with a finger and a half of tannish white head that pretty quickly fizzled down to a small ring around the edge of the glass.

The brew had a surprisingly sweet and malty aroma, with toffee, caramel, and bready notes leading the way. Behind the malt, the hops struggle to make an appearance but do add some light citrus and pine characteristics.

My first sip began with a moderate sparkle of carbonation that, like the head, quickly disappeared and made way for the flavors that followed.

The hops were much more prevalent in the taste than the smell and started off the flavors with a burst of lemon, orange, and tangerine while the malts added a complimenting sweetness in the form of caramel and toffee.

Midway through the sip, with the citrus still holding strong, the sugary malt seemed to fade away some and allowed the hops to really showcase their flavors. There was a rush of bitterness that sat on the front of my tongue for a little while the citrus fruits and a new, slightly nutty flavor danced across my taste buds.

As it was all wrapping up, the brew finished with a long, low bitter bite, some residual caramel sweetness, and a light earthy pine flavor that lingered on well after everything else.

Mother Trucker had a very nice balance between the hops and malts which, flavor-wise, really complimented each other well. But, despite the balance, there wasn’t anything that really stood out about Mother Trucker.

Sure, it was good. And, yeah, I could easily (and very well might) drink multiple cans in a night. But it’s a pretty standard pale ale. If you like the style, odds are you’ll like this brew. Just don’t expect to be wowed by it. Well made but pretty typical.

Up next, we head to a brewery that’s no stranger to BBG - Port Brewing.

This is the third time San Marcos’ Port Brewing has been featured here (fifth if you count their Lost Abbey brews).

They began as Pizza Port many years ago before branching out and becoming their own brewery. Since their inception, in 2006, they have grown exponentially and created the offshoot Lost Abbey (which focuses on abbey ales while Port continues the San Diego tradition of hoppy brews).

You can find them in California, Colorado, Arizona, Washington, Georgia, New Jersey, Philly, Boston, and Chicago with new areas popping up every day.

Today, I have one of their newer year-round brews – Nelson the Greeter, an IPA made with Nelson Sauvin hops. A six-pack runs the usual $10, with each can packing a modest 6% ABV.

Nelson the Greeter poured a slightly hazy, mostly translucent straw color with solid head topping it all off. A good two fingers of sticky, off-white foam sat atop the brew for a minute or so before slowly giving clearance to the beer below…but not before makings its mark with some solid lacing atop my glass.

The Nelson hops provide a sweet, white wine aroma but there is also a spicy hop profile as well. Along with wine and spice, there were some citrus notes like that of grapefruit and a solid nutty, pine backing. I could tell that there would be some bitterness to this brew as well.

My first sip began with a sharp hoppy bitter bite that slowly fades out and just a dash of carbonation up front that slowly fizzled out as the sip continued on.

Right after the carbonation started to fizz on my tongue, the Nelson Sauvin hops joined in and attacked my taste buds with a sweet, fruity taste. White grapes led all flavors with grapefruit, lemon, and orange nipping at the heels.

Midway through the hops turned and, instead of continuing with the fruit flavors, it was the pine and nuts that made an appearance. A quick nutty bite shifted the taste from the light citrus to a dank earthy flavor.

As the sip ends, there is a hoppy bitterness that comes with those earthy flavors and continues well after the beer has gone, leaving a nutty, bitter bite lingering on my tongue.

The beer started off with that sticky head but, as it both the foam and beer disappeared from the glass, so too did the lacing. There was nothing but a few strings of bubbles left clinging to the side of my glass

All in all, Nelson the Greater is a lighter IPA that has all the flavors you can squeeze out of a hop. It starts bright and citrusy but quickly turns to the more bitter and piney as the taste continues. If you’re a hop-head in need of a clean, crisp, and easy to drink IPA…look no further. But, to me, there’s too much pine and not enough of that nice grape/citrus flavor.