Review Date 5/24/2007 Last Updated May 9, 2011
Wine people will tell you that for the best wines, the
older the vintage, the better. Everybody knows that wine improves with age,
after all. For most beers, the reverse is true. The fresher the beer the
better it usually is, though there are exceptions. But knowing fresh beer to
be as good as it is, I pounced upon a six-pack of Redhook Long Hammer
IPA when I saw it on store shelves at my local Kroger recently.
Long Hammer, is of course, just a new name for Redhook IPA, which used to be called Ballard’s Best Bitter. And Ballard, of course, is a section of Seattle which nowadays boasts a few very good brewpubs of its own, though they weren’t there when Ballard got Redhook’s IPA named after it.
In any event, my gleaming fresh bottles were only about three week
off the bottling lines of Redhook’s New Hampshire facility when I purchased them. They had a date of April 27th stamped upon them, meaning they made it here to me in Atlanta in less than a month.
Pouring a bottle into my Redhook pint glass, I got a golden-orange colored liquid topped off nicely by a huge rocky head of foam. That foam sticks to the sides of your glass in the form of a thick coating of Brussels lace, and the clear glass soon becomes coated with wispy traces of white residue.
On popping open my bottle, I got an immediate rush of fresh Cascade hop aroma. You’ll get that from sniffing the glass as well, but make sure you’re at the ready to capture the first whiff rushing to escape when you open yours. Pure hop nirvana.
The body of the beer has a decent amount of chewy caramel malt. No malt behemoth, but the beer remains highly drinkable as a result. The Cascade hops certainly star here in all resiny, piney glory. But in the finish they’re joined by grassy Willamettes and impressively bitter Northern Brewer varietals. The floral aroma and long dry lingering bitter aftertaste is a true hophead’s delight.
As fate would have it, I was in the Seattle area just a few days after buying my Long Hammer. A drop by the original Redhook brewery in nearby Woodinville was on my agenda, so I was able to taste a fresh pint of Long Hammer straight from the Woodinville brewery, too.
One thing that struck me immediately upon entering the brewery was the identical layout to the New Hampshire facility. More correctly, the New Hampshire facility is identical to the Woodinville one, since Woodinville was built first. The pint of Long Hammer I tasted at the brewery’s Forecaster’s Pub was almost identical to the New Hampshire brewed version, too, though surprisingly the east coast version seemed just a bit more hoppy.
Regardless of where it’s brewed, Long Hammer is dry hopped, or aged on whole flower hops for added aroma and flavor. I think the beer has wonderful balance between malt and hops, and both are well represented. This may not be as big and powerful a beer as some domestic IPAs, but it’s no slouch either, and I for one love it.
Update May 9,2011: Enjoyed a 20 ounce mug of draft Longhammer at Taco Mac tonight. Still a wonderfully drinkable, hoppy IPA bursting with resiny, piney flavor and aroma, though the beer seemed just a tad lighter than I recall from past tasting. I've rated down a half mug to four tankards, but this is still a delightful beer indeed that is well worth your time.
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.