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Belt’s Beer Garden: Birthday Brews

Celebrating my birthday by giving you not one, not two, but three beers! Barrier’s Step Into Space, Ft. George’s 3-Way IPA, and Ex Novo’s Really Tied the Room Together

My birthday was just a few days ago and what better way to get rid of those birthday blues than with birthday brews! And why stop at two when you can have a third?!

But, since drinking alone is no fun, all three of the beers I showcase today are collaborations.

I have Barrier Brewing and Alvarado Street’s Step Into Space. Then I’ll sample Fort George’s 3-Way IPA which was brewed with Ruse Brewing and Cloudburst Brewing. And, lastly, I try the Ex Novo/Brothers Cascadia collaboration Really Tied the Room Together.

The first collaboration I have is between two breweries on opposite sides of the country – Oceanside, New York’s Barrier Brewing and Monterey, California’s Alvarado Street Brewery.

Barrier Brewing started in 2009 and has since grown to a six-state distribution across Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina. Alvarado Street opened in 2014 and has since opened a second location some 20 miles away in Salinas, California. Their beers are available across NorCal.

Despite the 3000+ mile space in between breweries, they teamed up to create Step Into Space, a New England-style IPA brewed with Citra, Mosaic, Rakau, and Simcoe hops and then double dry-hopped with Citra, Mosaic, and Simcoe lupulin powder. Each 16-ounce can has a solid 6.9% ABV and set me back $8 each.

Step Into Space poured a super cloudy, golden straw color with a massive head topping the beer. Three fingers of thick, dense, eggshell white foam prevented access to the beer and took its sweet time fading away.

On the nose this hazy IPA featured big notes of juicy tropical fruits and solid malt backing. The hops gave off aromas of mango, papaya, tangerine, and pineapple while the grains provide notes of biscuits and oats that balance it nicely.

My first sip started with a tiny rush of carbonation as the beer began to wash across my tongue. It had a slightly thicker, creamier mouthfeel and sits a bit heavier when it reaches my stomach.

Flavor-wise, the hops kick things off with a blend of tropical fruits – mostly papaya, mango, and tangerine. From there, a soft and pillowy feeling blossomed over my taste buds with grapefruit peel and acidic pineapple characteristics following closely behind.

The oats were the only flavor that appeared from the grains and it wasn’t even that prolific…just added a bit of sweetness to the already juicy brew. The double dry-hopping and malt profile eliminated almost all of the bitterness, with just a light bitter twinge hitting late, towards the back of my throat.

This brew then ended really quickly and really cleanly. The only thing that remained was a small hint of dryness and a dash of that citrus rind.

As the beer disappears from my glass (and at a very rapid pace, no less), the foam laced my glass nicely. A coat of bubbles covered three-quarters of the glass, with the only clean space being those places I took sips from.

Step Into Space is a really smooth, super easy to drink IPA that featured a nice blend of tropical and citrus fruit flavors. The malts add a nice sweetness while staying out of the hop’s way and, to top it all off, that nearly 7% ABV is hardly noticeable.

This collaboration was well worth the cost and, if you can find it still, don’t miss out.

Next up, a beer from the oldest American city West of the Rockies - Astoria, Oregon.

Founded in 1811, Astoria is the oldest city west of the Rocky Mountains and sits on the banks of the Columbia River, near the Pacific Ocean on the border between Oregon and Washington.

Fort George Brewery + Public House has only been around for 12 of the town’s 208 years, opeining in 2007. You can only find their beers in the Pacific Northwest (Idaho, Oregon, and Washington) and that’s the way they like it, making sure you (and they) know you’ll be drinking the freshest beer possible.

However, despite living in Chicagoland, I was able to get my hands on one of their summer releases, 3-Way IPA.

Fort George has been making 3-Way IPA since 2013. Each year they bring in two different breweries to collaborate with and, for 2019, they’ve chosen Ruse Brewing from Portland, Oregon and Cloudburst Brewing out of Seattle, Washington.

During this year’s run of 3-Way (it’s available June through September), they will be rotating the dominant hop variety throughout its three-month availability. The one I have today used Cashmere hops as the leading hop. Each 16-ounce can has a solid 7.2% ABV and costs $5.

3-Way poured a hazy bright orange color with just about two fingers of white head topping the beer. The small layer of bubbles quickly fades down into a thin ring around the edge of the glass and leaves a dusting covering the top.

This brew smells amazing. It’s like a liquid tropical fruit punch filled with big and juicy aromas of mango, berries, tangerine, orange, and more. The malt base provides some more biscuity and grainy sweetness.

At the start of my first sip, a small rush of carbonation zipped across my tongue before the hops began their assault on my taste buds.

It began with a slightly dough, thicker mouthfeel that gave way to those tropical fruit flavors. The mango and tangerine hit first and foremost. Behind those two main flavors, more fruits were noticeable as notes of pineapple, grapefruit, strawberries and blackberries peaked through.

Just like the fabric, the Cashmere hops gave this brew a soft and pillowy feeling but also brought a slight sting of bitterness that builds as the sip progresses. With the bitterness, a grapefruit rind twinge begins snowball too, building more and more as the flavors continue.

As the grapefruit and bitterness continue their ascent, the tropical fruit flavors begin to fade, allowing the citrus peel to take control and dominate in the final moments.

The citrus zest lingers for a few moments afterwards, as does a dry feeling. But, outside of that, 3-Way finishes rather cleanly.

All-in-all this was a good mixture between a hazy IPA and a West Coast IPA. I wish it tasted as juicy/good as it smelled…but, either way, 3-Way had a lot of nice tropical flavors before the West Coast hoppy aspect took control midway through the taste.

And finally I pop open an Ex Novo collaboration that takes its name from the Big Lebowski.

Ex Novo’s humble beginnings began in a garage in Portland, Oregon in 2012. After about two years of planning and hard work, Ex Novo opened their original brewery in July of 2014. After a successful beginning they have opened two other locations – Beaverton, Oregon and Corrales, New Mexico – and can be found across the West Coast and Southwest.

Recently they collaborated with Vancouver, Washington’s Brothers Cascadia Brewing to create Really Tied the Room Together, a Big Lebowski-themed hazy pale ale brewed with five pounds of Galaxy, Mosaic, and Simcoe hops in each and every barrel. It was brewed and canned at their Corrales location and each 16-ounce can has a decent 5.8% ABV and costs about $5.

It poured a super cloudy, murky orange color that had just over a finger and a half of off-white head topping the beer. The foam quickly fizzled down to a thin line around the edge of the glass with a few clouds floating aimlessly in the middle.

On the nose, holy crap was this brew juicy. Huge notes of pineapple, mango, grapefruit, and orange filled the air. There was a light hoppy presence underneath and solid malt profile that smelled like it featured flaked wheat and oats.

My first taste began with almost no carbonation and really subtle flavors that took a moment to register on my tongue. It was weird…for a bit the beer was in my mouth but no flavors came forth. Finally, after about two seconds, a blend of tropical fruits and flaked wheat began to take shape.

Pineapple led the way with papaya, mango, and a dash of peach hitting underneath. It was like a sweet pineapple juice cocktail. But, unlike the usual acidic and tangy bite you get from pineapple, this beer had a much more subdued pineapple flavor which helped it blend with the other fruits instead of overpowering them.

After another moment, the oats and flaked wheat really hit, cutting into the hops and adding an oasis of bready grains midway through the brew.

As Really Tied the Room Together began to fade out, it ended surprisingly clean. The pineapple peaked up once again towards the end and, this time, had that acidic feeling as the brew was in its final stages.

Outside of that spike of pineapple, there was almost nothing left behind…just the tiniest hint of dryness that built up with each consecutive sip. After half the can, I needed a sip of water to clear it but it really wasn’t bad at all.

RTtRT was a super crushable pale ale. Before I knew it, my glass was empty and I was ready for another. The 5.8% ABV is hidden entirely and helps it be sessionable without sacrificing any flavor.

So glad I have three more of these bad boys in my fridge.

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