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Monday, April 27, 2015

Rude Hippo Brewing's Wooden Nickel

  • Style: IPA aged on oak
  • ABV: 6.5%
  • Ease to locate: Smaller craft bottle stores in the Chicagoland area, but they should be expanding as the year goes on.  Here's a link to their website with a nice list of places that they supply and to  their Beer Menu page
  • Color: Hazy & golden brown with hints of orange
  • Head: Huge head with lots of  delicate lacing clumps
  • Aroma: Citrus (Cascade) and slightly floral (Williamette and East Kent Golding). No oak on the nose
  • Mouthfeel: Medium body, crisp & dry
  • Finish: Medium length with definite oak & citrus/floral note sections
  • Food friendly?: Yes.  The citrus and oak notes work in harmony with each other .  Try it with something that responds well to wood notes, like a skirt steak chimichurri sauce or charred vegetables.

Apple User's Link:  Thus proving that there is truly a museum out there for everyone. But remember, lots of people like stupid stuff
                                                Yes, Virgina.  There IS a wooden nickel museum.  And if you are a bad girl, we will take you there.

Most breweries play it a little safe when they first start out.   A citrus forward IPA or a nice refreshing APA.  Maybe a milk stout if they are feeling a little crazy (and their name doesn't start with "Pipe" and end with "Work".  When those guys go a little crazy, anything that moves could end up in that bomber, including too slow family members.)  But Rude Hippo Brewing decided to go against the grain (see what I did there?  Is there a Kentucky Fried Chicken museum?  Maybe?  I honestly don't know.)  Rude Hippo, with the audacity of a jungle beast that is also an awesome board game for five year olds (or 40 somethings who possibly may think they are five) released a beer brewed with beets and an IPA aged on French oak.  Since I think beets are the devil's candy, I decided to open my bottle of their oak aged IPA first.  I'm rather glad that I did.  I mean, there's crazy and then there's CRAZY.  

My Wooden Nickel poured a very hazy golden brown color with subtle hints of orange tints.  It's a gorgeous color for an aged IPA (yes, those words seem wrong to me as well, but just go with it here.  Some IPAs you can age.   It's a matter of faith, people.)  You can almost see the influence of the oak wood on the liquid inside the glass.  My bottle was a bit over carbonated in my opinion.  Not a gusher by any means, you'll be glad to know that all of the beer made it safely into my glass in tact.  But it was a long pour with plenty of time needed for foam settling before I could obtain a full glass of ale.  Even with plenty of patience, it still retained a three finger head of fluffy, delicate white foam.   The resulting lacing was rather pretty; clumps of soapy tiny bubbles clinging to the side of the glass for a good portion of the drink.  God, I do love a good lace porn show.   (Don't mention that to the Down the Hatch Matriarch, if you should run into her at church or at Khol's.)   The ABV is only 6.5%.  This puts it well under the typical ABV percent for Imperial IPAs which are often used for aging.  It sort of makes Wooden Nickle even more remarkable for the moderate hop presence on the nose.    I could smell an abundance of citrus notes, mainly grapefruit and orange  with a bit of floral essence layered into the profile.  There was absolutely no oak on the nose as far as I could tell, which was very different from the other oak aged IPAs that I've sniffed in the past.  Luckily for me, the taste built upon the nose's profile instead of merely mirroring it.  In the beginning of the sip, the hoppy presence of grapefruit, orange and wild flowers sprung to life on the tongue (as expected), but this citrus goodness was quickly followed by a distinct sweetly clean wooden, very lightly caramel, vanilla oak layer.  It ended with a strong mixture of floral and orange characters.  It was a surprising progression of flavors that I very much enjoyed.  A crisp and dry medium bodied mouthfeel kept this beer from verging too far to the oak side of life.  Some barrel aged IPAs that I've tasted in the past were overpowered by either the wood aging or by the syrupy Imperial IPA mouthfeel.  Rude Hippo was able to avoid this pitfall.  The barrel used to age the IPA in was a French oak barrel, not the expected bourbon or rum or other spirits barrels that are so popular in the brewery world right now.  The pure french oak gave the beer a clean, uncomplicated air which helped to enhance instead of mask the hop profile.  The medium finish began with the mixed citrus/floral character, abruptly moved to the oaky wooden sweetness and ended with a solid hit of lingering flowery orange character that both surprised my taste buds and made it an ideal mate for food.

Oak aged IPAs are usually a difficult beer to pair with meals.  All food pairing are a balancing act between beer flavors and food flavors.  Throw in your typical oak enhanced notes and it can easily become a mess and a half.  But Rude Hippo has brewed such a nicely balanced beer that I can easily imagine a few meals that their Wooden Nickle would go lovely alongside.  I want to try this IPA paired with a Grilled Skirt Steak lightly sauced by Chimichurri .  The heartiness of the steak and the fresh green notes of the sauce will work perfectly with the beer's citrus notes while the clean, barely sweet oak flavors will bring out the delicious char on the meat.  You can also serve Wooden Nickel with mixed platter of Grilled Vegetables  making sure to get a good char on the heartier veggies to bring out the oakiness in the beer.  Rude Hippo Brewery brews out of Slapshot Brewery at the moment, which just goes to show what a small world the Chicago Craft scene really is (my great and undying love for Slapshot beers is well documented.  I think of thios as beer by association.)   Karl and Marilee Rutherford of Rude Hippo were generous enough to supply me with a bomber of Wooden Nickel to drink (as well as the previously mentioned beet enhanced Beeting Heart Ale, which I promise that I will try, if only to get to eat my desert afterwards.)  My dad, the Down the Hatch Patriarch, used to tell me not to accept any wooden nickels when ever I left the house for an event.  Most of the time I was very thankful that I listened to this very sage fatherly advice.  My not accepting any wooden nickles kept me out of many a Craig's List mess, Vegas poor house debacle and, quite possibly,  real life jail on more than one occasion.   This, however, is one wooden nickel that I'm rather glad that I accepted.