Back in September, I made a trip to beer Mecca, Asheville, NC, to visit friends. During my stop, I made sure to check out one of North Carolina’s newer breweries, Hi-Wire Brewing, which opened up over the summer.
As you’d expect from any Asheville business, the place was cozy and friendly … but what about their beers?
Well, it just so happens that Hi-Wire recently began distributing three of their year-round beers to the eastern side of North Carolina. After finding them in my local bottle shop – an IPA, pale ale and brown ale – I decided to do a retroactive taste test.
What I’ve done is taken my initial impressions, as captured on Untappd, and separately taken notes on the bottle versions I bought last week. I was curious to compare and contrast my thoughts.
As I’m sure you know, getting beer straight from the source is always the best way to do things – a la my great Beergrimage of 2013 – but I figured this would be a fun way to offer up a few new NC beers in case you happen to pass through the state.
First up, Hi-Wire’s IPA, appropriately named “Hi-Pitch.” Here’s what I had to say on Untappd:
Simple and to the point. If I remember correctly, I decided on two-and-a-half stars because while the beer tasted fine, I didn’t feel it distinguished itself from most other West Coast IPAs.
This time around, things seemed turned up a notch. The hops come strong on the smell with tons of citrus zest. I noted pungent lemon. I also smelled a little onion as well.
The taste was resiny sweet with more big citrus flavor. Perhaps orange or grapefruit. It’s almost sugary sweet up front with the hop freshness and would finish very bitter if not for lingering hop flavor after each sip.
If I had to do it over again, I’d up that rating at least a star to 3.5. The bottled version was much more “fresh” in hop flavor than before, perhaps thanks to recipe tweaking.
The Pale Ale
Things were noticeably different this time, however, but not in the same way. For starters, my note on Untappd from my original tasting of this beer pointed out the great use of (perhaps) my favorite hop – Simcoe:
However, my experience with the bottled version was very different. While the smell and taste were most certainly hop-forward, both came off as muddled when trying to narrow down specific smells or tastes. The bottled beer came off more balanced then what I had on tap, but a touch of bitterness in the beer made it a distinctly American pale ale.
I was curious about the difference, so I turned to the bottle for explanation and got this:
Now, I know hop profiles can swing slightly from year-to-year, but my palate has always focused on the citrus aspect of Simcoe. Perhaps it’s just me, but I’m thrown off by the idea that this one hop should give off every single characteristic of all hops at one time – “floral to earthy, citrus to pine.”
Is Prime Time an easy drinker? Yes. But my tongue has always told me Simcoe hops don’t offer every single characteristic of hop aroma or taste. Or maybe it’s just me.
The Brown Ale
During my original trip to Hi-Wire, this came away as my favorite beer I tried, hands down. I enjoy a brown ale from time-to-time, but my palate is just geared toward big flavors no matter what I eat or drink. Here’s why Bed of Nails stood out to me:
So yeah, it was good. But the bottled version left me really disappointed. Mostly because I was hoping for this same experience.
Unlike my tasting from the tap, I couldn’t find any “candy caramel” to speak of. There was a slight nuttiness to the beer, but it was almost all just straight malt taste. It didn’t come off terribly sweet, but well balanced.
Unfortunately, I found both the smell and taste to be more bland than I had experienced before, but there are all sorts of different variables that could have impacted this beer on its way from Asheville to a bottle to my kitchen counter.
As expected, there were some changes in my perception of flavor with each of these beers. I wouldn’t assume something from the tap to hold the exact same experience into bottle form, if only for the idea of freshness.
That said, it’s always great to visit the brewery itself to get the full treatment, from friendly faces to fresh beer. Would these brews crack my North Carolina Six-Pack Project? No, but I’d recommend visitors give them a shot to form their own opinions, too. You can even grab bottles of these to do your own taste test.
All this leads me to wonder – are there any bottled beers out there that taste as good (or damn close) to the draft version? (Guinness is not an acceptable answer, smart aleck)
“Don’t drink to get drunk. Drink to enjoy life.” — Jack Kerouac