Monday, July 20, 2015

Beer Tasting with Division Brewing

Do you ever just have one of those days? You know the one: you wake up with bed head, you realize the dog puked on your arm in the middle of the night, you decide to go ride bikes when it's 100 degrees at 10am, someone nearly runs your wife over while riding the bikes. Yeah just your average meh day.

Well this was the shape of our weekend until we got an invitation to a tasting party from Wade Wadlington, owner and brewer of the soon-to-open Division Brewing in Arlington. The clouds opened up, the planets aligned, baby Jesus set down his Les Paul and told Johnny Cash the jam session would have to wait a second while he turned to look down upon us with favor. Wadlington recently returned from California with the holy grail of craft beer enthusiasts: Pliny the Elder from Russian River Brewing Company. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this double IPA, it has ranked at or near the top of many reviewers' best beers in America lists for at least 6 years. Quite simply, it is widely considered to be the best beer available.

Pliny was highest on my wishlist, and now it
sits atop my all-time favorites list

The genius behind this beer isn't borderline irresponsible overuse of hops or even skull-splitting high ABV you've come to expect when someone slaps the word "Imperial" in front of their IPA. This beer was meticulously crafted to provide excellent hop character with a relatively dry finish for a balance that defies physics. You don't get your mouth coated in resin after each sip; instead, you perceive almost a crisp beginning and ending of each taste. By the brewer's own admission, its drinkability is both a blessing and a curse, given the 8% ABV. Russian River plasters the label with no less than 12 warnings for the consumer to drink Pliny fresh since hop character tends to degrade quickly with time. The date on our bottle was July 2, 2015, so yeah. Pretty dang fresh.

It is examples like Pliny that inspired Division Brewing's impressive complement of tasty IPAs. We had the distinct honor and olfactory pleasure of sampling several of the beers Division will soon be pouring in the heart of downtown Arlington: Clifton Clowers Blonde Ale, Carl Kolschak Kolsch, Hula Hopper IPA, FrankenFroth IIPA, Tres Craneo Triple IPA,  X-Mas Morning Porter, and Ben Stout.
The full line-up of offerings Division is planning!

We started the tasting off light with Clifton Clowers Blonde Ale and Carl Kolschak Kolsch. Both were very clean and clear, with the Kolsch yeast displaying the tell-tale slightly fruity character where the blonde ale allowed the simple malt to shine through. Both are excellent examples of their respective styles and perfect for a warm summer day. Okay, hot summer day. Okay, sweltering.

As with Pliny, balance is the name of Division's IPA game. Hula Hopper is a great refreshing hoppy beer. It does not feel too heavy for 7% ABV and showcases an excellent hop profile that you taste rather than feel. A step up to FrankenFroth adds 2% ABV to the Hula Hopper and tons more hop flavor while maintaining a solid malt backbone. Whirlpooling hops after flame out helps to wring every bit of flavor out of the nuggets of green gold in this outstanding IIPA. As you would imagine, Tres Craneo, the Triple IPA goes even further into the heart of dankness. Boasting 200 IBU's (according to their website) and double digit ABV, this beer is large but approachable. That many IBU's demand a big malt bill to keep the beer from tipping too far one way or the other-bitter or sweet. The hoppy side of the equation is loaded with pine, citrus, and some good tropical fruit flavor. On the malt side of the fulcrum is the taste of rock candy, slight biscuit/bread flavor, and a mouthfeel that tells you, "This right here is the good stuff!"

The X-Mas Morning Porter was a representation of a Wadlington family tradition of waffles, coffee, and chocolate syrup (not necessarily in that order. Or maybe so, I'm not a damn doctor). With a touch of toasted coconut, this delicious porter leaves one satisfied but not stuffed like a Christmas turkey. The Ben Stout, named after Wadlington's brother, boasts oats (say that five times fast) for mouthfeel, roasted malts for flavor and color, and plenty of hops to deliver a dry and earthy finish. Division bills this as "the stout for IPA lovers," and rightfully so. Some brewers' take on this relatively new sub-style is to create a roasty-tasting IPA and call it either a Black IPA or a Cascadian Dark, but I believe Division has captured what the style ought to be, the other way around: a boldly hopped well-made stout.

Aside from these great hop forward beers, Division will be pursuing an extensive sour beer and barrel program. Sean Cooley, Division's other brewer has long been developing great recipes and experiments for various sour styles. Cooley's years of experience with sour ales and his own impressive bank of various yeasts, blends, and bugs portend a bright and delicious future for the Texas sour market. Division's wide variety will allow them to focus on providing many different offerings as fresh as possible to the patrons of their tasting room and select few local bars and pubs. Though we didn't get to try any of their sours at the tasting, Cooley described several recipes as well as some advanced techniques he is working on perfecting for the pucker-lovers on opening day.

The tasting was complete with delicious beer, stimulating conversation, and a cheerful group of beer lovers all brimming with excitement for Division's launch, expected this Fall. Wadlington and Cooley have miles to go before they sleep, but with an ever expanding contingent of beer nerds and thirsty Arlingtonians, their journey will surely be rewarding for everyone involved. We here at New Main wish Wade, Sean, and all the fine folks at Division the very best luck and congratulate them for taking their outstanding passion for brewing great beer to the promised land of professional brewing. Cheers!

Today's Main Break: There are over 30 breweries and brewpubs in the DFW Metroplex and Denton! Many of these fantastic brewers started out homebrewing for friends and family, so drink local and support your favorite hometown heroes!

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