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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Executive Meeting at the Iron Hill

Greetings Citizens!  Today El Presidente and his trusty V.P. had an executive meeting in an undisclosed loca... aw CRAP.   Okay, so we were at the Iron Hill Brewery and Restaurant in Maple Shade, NJ.  Of the eight operating locations, it is my understanding that the South Jersey location is the busiest of the bunch.  That's no child's play considering Iron Hill has never had to close a location and is in fact opening a new restaurant in Chestnut Hill, PA later this year.  Over the years I've had the opportunity to dine and imbibe at many of the locations and I must say that I enjoy the beers more and more every time I go.  Iron Hill focuses on solid sessionable beers like their Ironbound Ale and the impeccable Pig Iron Porter.  Adventure awaits, however.  A rather impressive list of rotating seasonals will challenge your tastebuds if you give them a chance.  We did.
A quick rundown and some first impressions:
Rising Sun IPA: Floral meets bitter as Sorachi Ace hops are featured here.  Not a big fan of Sorachi Ace hops, but if you're into them then don't miss this one.  About 7% abv.
Second Rising: Rising Sun's big brother at about 8.5%.  More hops and a ton of specialty malts.  This brew is very full of body and flavor.  Sweetness from the malt carries the hops through the swallow and the bitterness lingers.  A bit much for me, but well-crafted just the same.
Unassisted Tripel: Belgian style ale made with candi sugar.  It's a big boy at about 9.4%.  Reminds me of Victory's Golden Monkey (one will be sufficient!).
Hopfenweizen: Wheaty and hoppy and very bright.  Nice offering and one of the most drinkable.
Belgian Witbier: Brewed with orange and coriander like a good little wit.  Pretty spicy for a wit.  I enjoyed it  but my fave has yet to be revealed.
Caprice golden American-Belgian ale:  Sweetness and bitterness blend nicely here.  I liked it better than the Rising Sun.
German Pilsner: Representative of the style and very well-made. Clean all the way through 'til the end where the hoppy bitterness lingers.  Wait, it gets better:
Keller Pils:  Unfiltered, cellared version of the German Pils.  Supremely drinkable!  I like it even better than the regular Pilsner, which is pretty darn good.  But check this out:
Scottish Ale:  Rolling in under the radar at less than 4% abv, this ale has roasted flavors, caramel notes, a  medium body and a super-clean finish.  Really, what more could you ask for?  I get into adventurous moods sometimes and like to explore the more extreme and experimental brews that a brewery might have to offer (which is why we opted for the seasonal flight as opposed to the house flight) but this session ale has a lot to offer for pretty much any beer drinker you know.  If you're near the Maple Shade location or if any other Iron Hill has this brew on tap, I'd run out and get it before its season changes.

Speaking of experimental brews:
Iron Hill has collaborated with another South Jersey brewery whose name you probably already know.  Flying Fish of Cherry Hill, NJ has teamed up with Iron Hill to get a little crazy: Iron Fish Imperial Black Belgian IPA (whew! That's a mouthful) is due to be released this coming Saturday, August 27th, 2011.  HOWEVER... The Executive Branch of Ferment Nation was lucky enough to meet Chris LaPierre, Head Brewer of Iron Hill Maple Shade today and ask him a few questions about the upcoming Iron Fish.  Chris was nice enough to grant us a little sneak peak at the brew.  He warned us that the kitchen sink might appear at the bottom of the glass (okay, I made that up) since there was so much going on in the brew.  Chris, along with Casey from Flying Fish, decided to laugh in the face of Belgian-style IPAs and Cascadian Dark Ales by basically knocking their heads together.  The resulting brew was, I must say, pretty darn good.  Iron Fish was supremely interesting and gloriously complicated.  It's still sitting on whole leaf hops and will undoubtedly mellow out before its official outing on Saturday.  The Belgian sweetness and the roasted malts come at you first, but the whole flower hops wrap themselves around your face from the aroma 'til the aftertaste.   It didn't have a huge body, nor did it have a boozy warmth.  I suggested that it would be unbelievable on cask.  Chris agreed, and even thought aloud that it may end up on nitro.  I'm hoping to be around on Saturday to give it a shot in all its glory.  Thanks very much, Chris, for the preview!!

By the way, the food at Iron Hill is pretty delicious.  We had pizza(s) today but I've never had a bad meal at Iron Hill, so feel free to explore the menu to its fullest extent.  The staff at Iron Hill is also very well informed about the brews, especially the bartenders.  Brittany (not sure of the spelling) did a great job of explaining the beers to us and even introduced us to Chris.  Thanks to everyone at Iron Hill for your hospitality!

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