The Hop Brief: Boneyard Beer Armored Fist
Enjoyed on 7/19/2011
Brewery: Boneyard Beer
Location: Bend, OR
Beer: Armored Fist
Presentation: 64oz Growler
Style: Northwest Style Cascadian Dark Ale
Imperial Cascadian is the NW style of this brew. This is a very well balanced, extremely hoppy black ale. It is very reminiscent of a winter ale. Armored fist is a collaboration beer brewed with the good ole boys from Three Floyd’s Brewing out of Chicago.
Beer Advocate: B (3.88)
Rate Beer: 91 (3.88)
As you may have gathered from previous articles on this site, my (Timperial) Mom lives in Bend, OR. Prior to her recent visit, being the amazing mother that she is, she asked me if I wanted her to bring any beer with her. Obviously, I jumped at the opportunity.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – the very best thing about the current trend in collaboration brewing is the fact that the two (or more) breweries then share distribution networks for the release of the beer. Armored Fist offers North-westerners a rare glimps into the storied world of Three Floyds Brewing. This proves an excitement for me that I can’t easily put into words.
As of this moment, I have only had one Boneyard beer. It was very highly thought of. Let’s see if it was a fluke.
Armored Fist is the precise color of a fictional, most perfect CDA in my mind. So I guess it’s no longer a fictional beer. I’m currently holding it in real, live, 3D. It’s as beautiful as I thought it would be. It’s not really black. It’s not as dark as I remember Stone XI being. I bring that beer up because it’s the first CDA/IBA that I ever had. I recall that, from all outward appearances, it was a stout in my glass. Then, it was full of hop aroma and flavor. Stone XI captured some serious shock appeal, which isn’t without merit, but as more and more beers of the stye have hit the market I have had the privileged of becoming a much more discerning aficionado.
Maybe I have just made an association with certain examples that have wowed me. Maybe it has to do with the way that the CDAs that I have brewed turned out. I’m not entirely sure, but however I have come to the realization, I firmly believe that the D in CDA is a D not a B for a reason. The brew should be dark, not black.
This beer is brown with ruby highlights. When held to the light, it shines a deep maroon with excellent clarity. The head that forms on the pour is tan, approaching brown, and is mighty dense. It falls gracefully, leaving a lace that cakes up something impressive. There is always a faint wisp of tan on the brew’s surface, a product of the firm carbonation that rises from the vessel floor. This is my second Boneyard beer and the second time that I have offered them a perfect score in appearance.
As with RPM IPA, this beer was growlered at the brewery in Bend and transported to me by my mother. That was 18 days ago now. In my time at Lazy Boy Brewing, I would never suggest to a customer that they wait more than two weeks before consuming a growler. Sometimes life gets in the way though, and here I am, reviewing the beer none-the-less.
Though to be honest, if I had opened the growler to different results I would have scrapped the review completely. I’m not going to issue negative opinions on a beer that isn’t as the brewers intended. But, a twist of the lid produced a hiss and a sniffer placed to the opening was all I really needed to know that things were still in good order. When a head formed on the pour, that was just further assurance.
That little nose poke prior to the pour was incredibly telling of this beer’s quality. I could tell that it was a CDA just by the nose. It was bright in hop aroma with a roasted backbone that’s truly unmistakable. It excites the shit out of me! What a great style!
Once in the glass, some mild disruption of the fluid brings the effervescence back to life, forcing the odors up toward my olfactory receptors. My brain instantly translates and my first thought is of cannabis. The hops are highly herbal here with a strong sweetness. As the brew warms it becomes more and more challenging to properly direct thoughts to any common hop adjectives. The malts come closer and closer to the foreground in that evolution, masking some of the lupulin nuance.
My best attempt to properly convey the hop’s attributes is to call it candy coated pot. It’s all I can think of. I can confidently confide that there is nothing in the air right now that would prompt these notions. There is a little bit of fruitiness, like sweet pink grapefruit in the nose, as well as a pine like notion that opens in time. It has more of a spruce scent. It’s a beautiful thing
The malt profile is roasty, slightly chocolatey, and telling of deeply caramelized barley which implements a stone fruit, datey notion. One of the greatest qualities of the CDA is the added complexity of kilned and roasted grains. IPAs will always sit a bit low on my style superiority totem pole for their lack of overall complexity. This style greatly improves the positioning of uber hopped beers on that pole.
The MF of AF is HF! Translation: The mouth feel of Armored Fist is holy fuck! Yes, holy fuck, how is it possible that this beer is so perfect in my mouth after resting in a growler for 2 and a half weeks? I can’t explain that but I can explain that this beer feels like a rambunctious kitten in my mouth. It’s ever so soft and fluffy but it can’t sit still for a minute. The body is silk but the bubbly prods my taste buds and disallows them to be relaxed by the alcohol. The flavors light up like fireworks and spin and dance like these crazed little devils (thanks Chris Ellis). A true pleasure. Thankfully, no claws on the tiny paws.
Sometimes I think that I should write this section first so that I don’t begin to tire before the “meat and potatoes”, but then I remind myself that flavor really isn’t the meat and potatoes of a beer. I mean, it seems like it should be. We drink craft beer because it tastes superior to all that macro swill. That is surely factual but craft beer is so much in such a small package. If you blind-folded yourself and held your nose while you drank beer, a huge percentage of the enjoyment would be stifled. Realistically, the tongue only perceives the firm standing pillars of flavor – salty, sour, sweet, bitter, etc. I think that about 70% of what we call flavor is detected via smell. Correct me if I’m wrong.
Perhaps I should shift weights in my scoring system to align with this notion. Perhaps.
With that being said, I can, no doubt, discuss bitterness. 80 IBUs is husky. I do not sense an overwhelming bitterness to this beer until it warms significantly. Even then, all of the other exciting things that my senses are contemplating muffle the intensity. That, ladies and gentleman, is called brewing expertise. This beer is world fucking class.
Hops easily dominate the flavor. This is The Hop Brief after all. Citrus notes are really laid on thick here. Some more of that plum like stone fruit can be found in the malt profile, but it’s wholly Cascadian.
Hops may dominate the flavor but malt dominates the aftertaste. How fucking magical is that? Beer is so righteous. Every little element of the experience offers something new. All that roasted grain and chocolatey goodness comes out after the swallow. This is another reason why CDAs are so brilliant.
I know that nearly all of the non-West Coast brewers out there feel that the term Cascadian is a misnomer, or that it’s just historically inaccurate – that the style wasn’t initially a product of the West. Who cares? Call it whatever you want. Let’s just celebrate the style, whomever first conceived of it.
The reason CDA’s are so brilliant lies in the aftertaste. Bitterness, a stalwart characteristic of all things hopped, is innately perceived as drying. Chocolate is also bitter and dry. Roasted and kilned grains, due to the heating process that creates them, have an acrid dryness. These elements all share a common ground. When you swallow an overly bittered IPA, you are dried out and left with a, more often than not, subtle graininess. Here, there is a consistency with added complexity of flavor. Flavor elements that are not at all out of place, but entirely interesting and delicious.
Just like that, after Boneyard beers one and two, I’d put them very near the top of my list of the best hoppy beer producers in the Northwest. I just may put them at the top of my over-all best breweries in the Northwest list after I try all of their beers. I greatly look forward to my next visit to Bend, or Boneyard distributing to Seattle, whichever comes first. Cheers to an exceptional new brewery!
Color/Head/Retention [maximum of 1.00 point possible]: 1.00
Odor [maximum of 2.00 points possible]: 2.00
Carbonation/Mouthfeel [maximum of 1.00 point possible]: 1.00
Hop Flavor [maximum of 3.00 points possible]: 2.91
Malt Flavor/Balance [maximum of 2.00 points possible]: 1.98
Finish/Aftertaste [maximum of 1.00 point possible]: 1.oo
Total [maximum of 10.00 points possible]: 9.89