Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Southern Tier

As I mentioned over the weekend I picked up a couple of Southern Tier beers to drink over the weekend. I decided since it was going to be a pretty warm weekend and I was having a hankering for some jalapeños that I had better get a couple of hoppy beers. I went with the Unearthly Imperial India Pale Ale and the Hoppe Imperial Extra Pale Ale. I don't remember if I've written about this before but I've been kind of off hops for a couple of months since I was real sick in San Francisco in September. During that sickness my tastes got all screwed up for some reason and I haven't wanted anything hoppy. I've been really digging some of the more malty beers especially the marzens of October which I haven't typically done.

What I didn't pay attention to when I bought them was the alcohol content of each of them. I should have been tipped off since both beers called themselves “Imperial”, which is beer slang for strong*. On Saturday night I grilled some burgers and we had a Vard family favorite, burger bar. Stella fries an egg to put on her burger and I roast a couple of jalapeños to put on my burger. Then we also have lettuce, pickles, tomatoes etc. to choose from to top our burgers (it's a big hit with the kids). Well my burger had 2 roasted jalapeños on it and I covered it with Tabasco. This was the perfect opportunity to have a hoppy beer (hoppy beers go very well with spicy food). So I cracked open the Hoppe, the extra pale ale.

*This is completely backwards in my mind, imperial, in the beer world should mean weak and evil. For instance, Budweiser shouldn't be called the great American lager it should be called an imperial lager. There's a political point in there somewhere if you're willing to dig for it.

The Hoppe is a very pretty beer, it pours a nice orange gold and looks just like what you want a beer to look like. You can definitely smell the hops with a nice citrus smell as well. For all the hops involved, the beer ends up on the sweet side of the scale, which you don't usually get with a pale ale. And while I've been favoring sweeter beers lately, the Hoppe disappointed because I had paired it with a food that made me want the bitter hop flavor to be dominant. That is not a criticism of Hoppe, just my food pairing. It's a very good beer that is sweeter than the name and label would imply, but overall very flavorful and enjoyable.

Monday night I made nachos. Nachos are a favorite of mine, we make our own seasoning for the meat and use black beans, tomatoes and jalapeños. It's one of my favorite meals. What goes better with a nice spicy batch of nachos than a nice IPA? Nothing. The Unearthly IPA was no exception. I didn't notice a whole bunch of difference between the Hoppe and Unearthly other than Unearthly was quite a bit more hoppy. Of the two, I enjoyed Unearthly much more. But, for an imperial IPA it was still pretty sweet. I'm not informed enough about Southern Tier but I'm tempted to say that they make sweet brews. Unearthly was a very good beer, but for $6.79/22 oz. it doesn't blow me away. If I want an IPA I'm not sure I want something with the sweetness the Unearthly brought. That doesn't mean there's anything wrong with it, I just don't find it a great value. But, it does bring a whole bunch of flavor that is worth trying out. Maybe your mileage varies. I definitely don't think anyone could be revolted by the Southern Tier Unearthly.

After I formed my impressions of the Southern Tier beers, I looked up what else they had to offer. I'm super intrigued, obviously by the raspberry porter that they offer. I've never heard of a fruity porter (there's a great joke from the 1920's in there) and I think Southern Tier can bring the goodness, I'd love to try it.

Southern Tier brews are only available in Missouri at this time. So any liquor store in Missouri that has a good beer selection should carry several Southern Tier beers. I'm certainly going to seek out some more.


  1. Very nice review! Glad you enjoyed them. I'm a pretty big fan of the Unearthly - a 22oz. bottle of delicious IPA that's 11% ABV for $6.79 seems like a decent deal to me, though. I suggest their "Oat" Oatmeal Stout as well - it's excellent. Apparently they have a Creme Brulee Imperial Milk Stout that I've been anxious to get ahold of - Lukas did not get any this year :( Their Pumking Ale is remarkable as well. I heart Southern Tier.

  2. What I like most about Southern Tier is the brewer notes. If you are attempting to clone one the brews or just try the style in general, it will get you close.

    I really enjoy your blog. My family lives in the KC area and I use your site for beer info when I visit. Keep it up!

  3. Gomer's on Holmes had some Pumpking left last weekend. If you like pumpkin beers, it is one of the best. The aroma is amazing. I really liked the Creme Brulee (great aroma again), but some people thought it was too sweet. The Oat didn't do much for me, it was a little harsh. Gomer's Midtown has the Cuvee No 1 aged in Oak. I just picked one up today, so I haven't tried it. A little pricey at $12.99

  4. Sounds like a typical east coast IPA. If I were going to generalize I would say that west coast IPAs tend to be hoppier with less malt sweetness. Also, being 'imperial' they probably have more of a malt presence to support the higher ABV.

    I'll second what everyone said about Pumking. We're out in my neighborhood but I'd get some for Thanksgiving if I could.

  5. Great review. The IPA sounds interesting; I'm not known to turn down the sweeter imperial variety (I'm thinking Dogfish Head 60/90/120 minute), so I think I'll pick one up one of these days.

    Speaking of Dogfish, I sure wish they distributed out here. Their Punkin Ale is my favorite of the style, but Southern Tier's Pumking is #2 in line. Comparing the two, Pumking is definitely sweeter, aligning well with your conclusion that Southern Tier tends to produce sweeter beer in general.

  6. Imperial (double) IPA's are always on the sweet side to me. They need to push more malt to get the higher alcohol content, and as such they are never as hoppy as I think they're going to be. The best double IPA I've had is Stoudt's Double IPA, which was really the best at about 60°F.