First up, the blonde ales
– Hop Valley’s Double-D Blonde is a bright yellow ale with a peppery start and a tart finish. It’s clean and dry, obviously made with easy refreshment on the mind.
– The slightly rosier California Blonde from Eel River started rich and smooth, and ended with a touch of sour that dissipated more quickly than the tight, creamy head.
Since this was a throw-down, I’ll be brutal: my vote went to the California…not just for the name, but for the character it bore. The Double D was by no means shabby, but when I want that light of a brew I’m usually reaching for a lager.
Next came IPAs. Both bore enough hops to knock the other flat out, but the bout wasn’t really close.
– Eel River’s Emerald boasts copper flavor and a smooth, balanced approach. It’s piney, but I find myself wanting more.
– The Citrus Mistress brought it all in an onslaught that began with aromatic promises, followed through with fresh citrus worthy of the name, and finished sweet and crisp with little left on the palate. The color was a brighter gold than its rival and, for me, if you’re winning the IPA category that’s just called, “winning.”
Lastly, we judged a long contest by two robust porters.
– The Vanilla Infused Porter (VIP) from Hop Valley was a rich dark brown that felt like velvet in the mouth. It’s no surprise that vanilla notes sounded throughout, leaving the imbiber with a lingering iced coffee flavor.
– The well-rounded Eel River Porter with a smooth head and creamy feel. It’s an almost black color and smacks of toasted malt. This was a long, drawn out decision but I gave my nod to the Eel River.
Though I picked the blonde and porter both from Eel River, my favorite category was clearly taken by Hop Valley. My blog partner felt slightly different, giving the edge to VIP over the Eel River Porter. Hopefully you’ll have the chance to sample your favorite style from each so you can decide for yourself. We loved the style of this event. Brick’s did a great job showing off the occasion with a welcoming atmosphere and plenty of friendly staff. Distributor folks were present too, ensuring that the square off was fair in every way – no ballot stuffing here. No stuffiness-the bar was lively and fun, and it was a delightful place to spend the evening.