Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Hale's Red Menace Big Amber Ale

The next beer that I purchased while up in the Pacific Northwest was a Hale's Red Menace Big Amber Ale in a Tacoma grocery store. The bottle stood out for me because I'm interested in Cold War history, especially between the Soviet Union and the United States. I also liked it because it had a statue of Lenin from the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle on the bottle, which brings back some memories of wandering around Fremont with my fraternity (Free...mon-t! Free...mon-t!), where this beer was brewed. I had to have it.

Hale's Ales Brewery wasn't always situated in the quirky artistic Freemont district, but was founded in 1983 by Mike Hale in Colville, Washington State, a city about 70 miles north of Spokane (for those of you not into geography, it's over on the other side of the state). On July 4th, they released their flagship, Hale's Pale American Ale, the Northwest's first microbrewed pale ale in the Northwest, which quickly became a regional bestseller. Two years later, they released Hale's Irish Ale & Wee Heavy, which introduced the concept of seasonal beers. In 1986, a second brewery in Kirkland, near Seattle, was opened to keep up with demand. In 1992, the Colville brewery moved to Spokane, and in 1995 the Kirkland brewery moved to its current Fremont location, increasing production from 20 barrel brew length to 50 barrel brew length. The Fremont location boasts a brewpub and is now the only location that actually brews Hale's beers. It is unknown (by me) if they still own their Spokane location.

Here are the stats:

Hale's Red Menace Big Amber Ale
BREWERY: Hale's Ales Brewery, Seattle, WA, USA
CALORIES/SERVING: Never been tested
ABV: 5.4%
ORIGINAL GRAVITY: 13.735° Plato (1056)
MALTS: Caramel, Carastan, Black
HOPS: Centennial
FOODS TO PAIR WITH: Shredded pork sandwiches, rich meats
AWARDS: 2004 Spring Beer Festival (Portland, OR) Winner, 2005 North American Beer Awards Silver Medal, 2006 North American Beer Awards Gold Medal, 2007 North American Beer Awards Bronze Medal

I got some information from Hale's Red Menace page, and the rest from a phone call to the brewery placed on June 29th, 2007 at 3:30pm PDT. Thank you very much Jay!

The beer had a nice aroma from the first pour, and its color was a reddish-amber that was unusually cloudy for a filtered beer. The head was nice and white, and it lingered for a long time. When I first tasted the beer, I was blown away by its intense hoppiness. It was incredibly strong, much stronger than other ambers I've tried before. It had a big bite that I personally did not enjoy, but it finished clean with a slight grainy-nutty undertone. Subsequent bites became more enjoyable, but still had that bite. It also did not leave a strong aftertaste.

Now, just because I don't enjoy a beer does not mean that it's a bad beer. Everyone is different, and this beer was just too hoppy for my personal taste. I always try a beer once, and I never bad-mouth a beer, but I still may not enjoy it. However, if you enjoy big hoppy flavor crammed into an amber beer, then this beer is perfect. Pick one up the next time you're in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, or Alaska. It certainly is a Red Menace.


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