There are many products that drive sales based on brand loyalty. For example, we always have two types of peanut butter in my house because I prefer Jif and my wife likes Skippy, and while we make many compromises in marriage neither of us were willing to change our PB brand. While macro-lagers have used brand loyalty as a major tool for sales, beer geeks tend to be promiscuous in their selections, wanting to try every new and exciting beer that they can get their hands on. This trend has spurred the growth of mix packs, either produced by the breweries or mix and match 6 packs sold in bottle shops. Peak Organic took an interesting approach with two of their new IPAs, instead of packaging each in it’s own six pack and convincing stores to carry both, they are selling a mixed 6 pack with three cans of each beer. I like this approach, especially when you have two beers of a similar style, and hope other breweries follow suit. The two new IPAs are Crush, brewed with blood orange peel and Evergreen, brewed with juniper berries and spruce tips.
Peak Organic Crush pours a hazy deep orange with a solid off-white head. The smell is a big burst of citrus-centric hops. The hops also dominate the flavor, notes of grapefruit, tangerine and mango along with a little bitter bite. The blood orange nicely melds with the hop flavors, adding an additional citrus punch without overwhelming the beer. The hop flavor is balanced by a little malt, touches of toast and crackers along with some body. Crush is medium bodied and goes down pretty easy for 7% ABV. The finish is crisp with some lingering hop and citrus flavors. I really enjoyed this beer, I am a little partial to the citrus flavored hops and the combination with blood orange is well done. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
Peak Organic Evergreen pours a hazy copper with a moderate cream colored head. There are some hops on the nose, floral and pine aromas. The flavor is also very hop forward, notes of resin, grass, herbs and lemon. The addition of spruce and juniper berries is subtle and complements the natural hop flavors. The flavor is rounded out by some malt, touches of bread dough and biscuits. Evergreen is medium bodied and goes down smooth, but packs a little punch at 7% ABV. In general I prefer IPAs that lean a little towards the citrus and tropical fruit flavor, but this is a nice beer all the same. Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5.
Previous Peak Organic Reviews:
Peak Organic Super Fresh, Peak Organic Hop Harvest, Peak Organic Fresh Cut Pilsner, Peak Organic Simcoe Spring, Peak Organic Hop Noir
Let’s talk for a minute about beer styles. Styles are really a way to convey to the consumer general information about the flavor profile of the beer they are about to purchase. If I go to a pretty novice beer drinker and ask them the difference between a stout and an IPA they will probably be able to give some general information about color and hop levels. Some of the big beer competitions take it to another level, adding strict guidelines for color, ABV, hop and malt levels and flavors and acceptable yeast contributions in each defined style of beer. These strict guidelines result in some beer drinkers getting bent out of shape when a beer is labeled as a style but falls well outside the typical description. A good example is Super Fresh a relatively new release from Peak Organic Brewing company in Portland, Maine. Super Fresh is an extreme version of Fresh Cut, a very popular pilsner that is dry hopped with a solid dose of New World hops, something that isn’t traditional in a pilsner. Super Fresh takes it to another level with more hops and over 7% ABV, both well outside of the defined style guideline, but it’s still labeled as a pilsner and not an IPL or hoppy lager. Personally I don’t care, a brewery can call their beer whatever they want, and it’s not like Peak labeled Super Fresh as an imperial stout. Good beer is good beer, and with all of the experimentation going on the lines of style are blurry at best. Peak Organic Super Fresh is available intermittently (mostly due to popularity) on draft and in tallboy cans.
Peak Organic Super Fresh pours a clear straw yellow with a massive off-white head. The scent is a pungent burst of hops, cut grass and citrus. The flavor is also hop forward, notes of pine, grapefruit, lemon and mango along with a solid hit of bitterness. There is minimal malt flavor, some light touches of crackers and grain. Super Fresh is crisp and very easy to drink, it packs some punch at 7.6% ABV but you don’t get any alcohol in the flavor. There is a clean lager finish with just a little lingering bitterness. I really enjoyed this beer, the hops and the booze really don’t scream “pilsner” to me but the beer is delicious regardless of what you want to call it. Hoppy Boston score: 4.75/5.
Previous Peak Organic Reviews:
Peak Organic Hop Harvest, Peak Organic Fresh Cut Pilsner, Peak Organic Simcoe Spring, Peak Organic Hop Noir
Outside of the now ever-present pumpkin beers, there are a couple other trends that seem to predominate craft beer fall releases. An always popular fall style is the malty German marzen/Octoberfest style lagers. A newer trend is wet hopped beers, brewing with the freshest possible hops right after the fall harvest. I guess it should come as no surprise that at least one brewer is adding these two trends into the same beer. Peak Organic Brewing Company’s fall seasonal release is Hop Harvest, an Octoberfest style lager with generous additions of freshly harvested hops. Normally the marzen style is very malt-forward, but some American brewers have complemented the clean drinking malty lager with large doses of hops. While it isn’t the most traditional way to brew the style, it helps fit US craft beer drinkers love of big hop flavors in their beers. Hop Harvest is available on draft and in 12 oz. bottles during the fall season.
Peak Organic Hop Harvest pours a hazy copper orange with a solid off-white head. The smell is mostly hops, bright floral and grassy scents. The hops lead off the flavor too with notes of pine, grapefruit, orange and lemon. This fresh hop flavor is balanced by a solid malt body, touches of whole grain bread and caramel with just a hint of malty sweetness. I was actually pretty surprised that this was a lager, but I think it is the extensive hop additions and kick of bitterness that mask some of the easy drinkability that you expect from lagered beer. At 4.9% ABV it falls towards the light side, great if you want more than one or two. The finish is pretty clean along with a solid, but not tongue numbing, bitter kick. Overall this is a very worthwhile selection if you want a fall seasonal beer that leans towards hoppy. The malt backbone gives it enough body to stand up to hearty food and cold weather, but the fresh hops really shine through here. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
Previous Peak Organic Reviews:
Peak Organic Fresh Cut Pilsner, Peak Organic Simcoe Spring, Peak Organic Hop Noir
It’s hot out and I’ve been on a huge pilsner kick recently which will be very obvious as I review a bunch of craft pilsners over the next couple weeks. I love the interesting adaptations on the style made by many American craft brewers. While traditional German/Czech pilsners have more hop flavor than many of the bland American macro-lagers, they aren’t really “hoppy” beers, especially by US standards. It is not a surprise that brewers in the US saw the light malt body and crisp finish of a traditional pilsner and thought it would be complemented perfectly by a liberal, late dose of American hops. The most successful of these beers keep the subtle flavors of traditional pilsner in tact and meld in enough hop flavors to complement the beer without overwhelming the palate. One of the most popular local hoppy pilsners is Fresh Cut Pilsner, brewed by Peak Organic Brewing in Portland, ME. Peak Organic takes a traditional pilsner beer and dry-hops it with Chinook, Citra and Centennial hops. Dry hoppping adds a lot of the hoppy aroma and some flavor without adding bitterness to the beer. Peak Organic Fresh Cut is available on draft in 12 oz. bottles and now in cans.
Peak Organic Fresh Cut Pilsner pours a straw yellow, slightly hazy with a massive white head. The first scent hits your nose with a huge burst of hops, fruity with some undertones of pine. The hops are present in the flavor too, but more mild, with touches of lemon, resin and grass. This is what you’d expect from a dry hopped pilsner, tons of hop aroma but more subtle flavor along with subtle bitterness. There are touches of malt in the backbone, cereal and a hint of fresh baked bread. This beer is extremely drinkable – the perfect beer for summer. The finish is crisp and clean with just a touch of hoppy bite on the tongue. Peak Organic Fresh Cut is one of my favorite pilsners! The hops add so much to the beer without overwhelming it. This is a creative and unique take on a classic style. Hoppy Boston score: 4.75/5.
Previous Peak Organic Reviews:
Peak Organic Simcoe Spring, Peak Organic Hop Noir
We finally made it to April! The weather is improving, temperatures are rising and the sun is making more frequent appearances. The porters and stouts in the fridge are starting to get replaced by pale ales and other lighter beers that complement the warmer days. My ideal spring beers are light and drinkable enough for a warm spring afternoon, but complex and full bodied enough to stand up to the chilly nights. Even though many breweries have started putting out seasonal beers months ahead of the actual season, expect season-appropriate reviews on this blog. I recently sampled the Spring seasonal from Peak Organic Brewing of Portland, ME. Peak Organic’s Spring beer is a single-hopped American pale ale showcasing the Simcoe hop variety, called Simcoe Spring. The Simcoe hop variety has become one of the most popular American hops due to the mixture of citrus, tropical fruit and pine flavors it gives to the resulting beer. Like all of their ingredients, Peak Organic uses locally sourced and organically grown Simcoe hops for their brew.
Peak Organic Simcoe Spring pours a clear copper-orange with a solid and well sustained off-white head. The smell is dominated by the Simcoe hops with tons of citrus followed up by touches of tropical fruit and pine. The taste is also very hop-forward, it starts with grapefruit and lemon, then some earthy and forest notes followed by hints of guava and resin. There is some malt character in the backbone, some noticeable caramel flavors that provide a little sweetness. Overall Simcoe Spring goes down pretty easy and is a very manageable 5.4% ABV. The finish is clean, with a touch of malt sweetness followed up by a significant hop bite. At 66 IBUs some would call this an IPA, but it drinks like an American pale ale. Overall this is a solid spring beer – hoppy and refreshing, but still full bodied. Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5.
Previous Peak Organic reviews:
Peak Organic Hop Noir
Peak Organic Brewing in Portland, ME is proud to support local businesses that focus on the production and use of fresh, organic and sustainable ingredients. Peak Organic sources many of the malts, hops and adjunct ingredients for their beers from local farms and artisanal businesses, many in New England. It is the support of Peak Organic and other breweries with a similar philosophy that has led to the growth of local farms producing organic hops and malts. This shows the impact that craft beer can have on the economy, not just the jobs produced making and selling the beer, but also the farms that grow the key ingredients necessary for brewing. Peak Organic makes a series of year-round and seasonal ales. One of their most popular beers is Hop Noir, their Black IPA. Hop Noir is brewed with a combination of dark malts including organic black patent malt along with liberal additions of Centennial hops.
Peak Organic Hop Noir pours a very dark brown with a mild, but well sustained tan head. The smell is pretty tame overall. There are some hops to start, with notes of pine and citrus. This is followed by some dark malts which contribute coffee and dark fruit aromas. The hops are much stronger in the flavor, adding pine, earthy and spicy notes with aggressive bitterness. This bitterness is rounded out by the dark malty flavors, chocolate, black coffee, caramelized sugar and a touch of vanilla. The beer finishes solidly bitter, leaving a lingering sensation on the tongue. This is not surprising because Hop Noir has 98 IBUs (the human tongue can only taste relative bitterness up to 100-120 IBUs, so this is on the high end). At 8.2% ABV Hop Noir is pretty strong for a black IPA, and the alcohol combines with the pungency of the hops to make this a slow sipper. If you like your black IPAs balanced between dark malty flavors and a tart finish then Peak Organic Hop Noir is a good choice. Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5.