What do Boulder, Colorado and West Warwick, Rhode Island have in common? Not a lot on the surface. West Warwick is a waning New England mill town, while Boulder is a vibrant college burg at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. They do share one distinction, however: beer made by very small “pico” brewers.
Sadly, in the case of West Warwick, the once proud pico brewer Emerald Isle Brew Works no longer exists. Founded in 1994 by a father-son team and located in an old mill, Emerald Isle cranked out a mere 200 barrels a year of nothing but cask ales. But oh what a glorious 200 barrels they were. Unfortunately, the market was not quite ready for this level of specialty in the 90s, and the brewery closed around 1999. I reflect on my favorite of their beers in my review of Bank Street Ale, and the legendary Red Rooster has a more thorough recounting of Emerald Isle in his excellent article you can read by clicking here.
As for Boulder, I got a bottle of J. Well’s Brewery Hop Haze recently in a beer trade. J. Well’s is another pico brewery, which is what got me waxing nostalgic about Emerald Isle. This is another family owned, tiny operation based out of a garage with a tiny 1.5 barrel brew system. You can even drop by there for a beer if you like. Unlike Emerald Isle, however, J. Well’s bottles, and they’re hitting the market at just the right time.
J. Wells Brewery Hop Haze is an imperial IPA of strength 9% by volume and a whopping 130 IBUs. My bottle is dated as “Bottled on” 4-24 of 2014, so that’s pretty darned fresh my friends. It retails for around $8.99, about average these days and not a bad price to support such a homegrown operation.
J. Wells Brewery Hop Haze pours to a bright orange color with a thick creamy head and an enticing piney, peppery nose. The malt is thick and chewy with caramel up front, the hops really sneak up on you soft and seductively with piney resin and citrusy grapefruit (more and more of this as it warms), and also some permeating tea-like aroma hops as well ala Grants IPA from days long passed. There I go again with the reminiscing….
I really love the way the hops keep building into the long, dry finish, where they become very bitter and linger on the tongue for a long while. This one bites you and screams “Hey! You just drank a beer!” in the aftertaste. Alcohol warmth is discernible too in the finish.
Overall, a very nice beer with nice balance between the malt and the hop, but at different times, though the hops do win in the final analysis. Did I mention the grapefruit in the hop burps? Well done, J. Wells. This is a very nice beer indeed.
And remember, try a new beer today, and drink outside the box.
*Pricing data accurate at time of review or latest update. For reference only, based on actual price paid by reviewer.