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Beer 101: Microbrewery Review: Ninkasi Brewery (Makers of Total Domination), Eugene Or
Ninkasi, the Beer Goddess
Living for the past 10 years in Colorado and Oregon has afforded me a rare opportunity to experience quite alot of what the Western United States microbrew scene has to offer. For those who don't know, the microbrew scene in the western part of the U.S. is one of the most exciting, creative, and prolific scenes for brewing in the entire world. The enthusiasm, vigor, and vision of microbrewers out here comes through strong and loud in the brews they produce and the awards they win year after year in every conceivable beer competition.
In an effort to produce a sort of "beginner's guide" to these breweries and all they have to offer you, assuming you are of age and drink beer, I will publishing a series of Hubs under the BEER 101 heading. These articles will either be about specific styles, breweries, brewers, traditions, or beers. Basically any and everything that will help you grow in your knowledge, love and appreciation of what I believe is one the foremost art forms in the world: Beer. And if you didn't know brewing beer was an art, you've been drinking the wrong beer!
The first installment is all about one of my personal favorite breweries. Ninkasi Brewery, located at 272 Van Buren St in Eugene, OR, is one of the fastest growing up and coming breweries in the market today. Named after the Sumerian Goddess of brewing and beer, they only opened their doors back in June of 2006 and already in less than three years they have made their mark on the Oregon beer landscape. Brewing bold beers with full bodied flavors the brewers there have won over the Oregon beer snobs. Beers like Sasquatch and Tricerahops push the limits even in a beer town like Portland. A more detailed review of their flagship brews, including Total Domination, follows.
Tricerahops: Goddess amoung Beers
The Beers & The Brewing Process
- Total Domination IPA: This is Ninkasi's flagship ale. It can be found in more places than any of their beers. The style is IPA and Total Domination is an intense, volumously hopped beer. Traditionally IPAs are known for the abundance of Hops used in the brewing of the beer. Hops add floral and bitter flavors to the brew. The earlier the hops are added to the brew the more bite (or bitterness, though that term is discouraged because of its pejorative nature) the beer presents to the back of the tongue. The later in the brew the hops are introduced the more citrus or floral notes can be detected by the nose and the sides of the tongue. Total Domination is not shy of either types of hops, and the lightly roasted malt presents a nice mild beginning to the front of the tongue that prepares the way for the intense hop flavor as the beer moves towards the back of the mouth. This is not a beginner beer, and it will, as its name suggests, dominate your taste buds in a way that makes fully tasting other beers impossible, at least temporarily. The brew is best enjoyed cold on a warm day where lighter bodied and malted beers can refresh you from the heat. At an ABV of 6.7% it is strong enough to warm you, but not so intense as to make having two or three out of the question.
- Believer Double Red: Another one of Ninkasi's flagship ales, the Double Red is named for those who believe in the Goddess Ninkasi. This is a deep red beer with a darker roast than the Total Domination. While it is still generously hopped, you will notice caramel notes and a pleasing smoothness as the beer crosses the mouth. This is remarkable in a red ale because Ninkasi somehow boosted the hop bite at the end without sacrificing the balance of a smooth transition of flavor across the tongue that reds are known for. This balance makes it an ideal beer to first time drinkers of Ninkasi. Much more flavorful than say, New Belgium's Fat Tire, the beer still contains a smoothness that makes it marketable in far wider circles than most of Ninkasi's intense and specialized brews. At an ABV of 6.9% it is slightly more alcoholic than Total Domination, but not so much as to scare off us lightweights who like to enjoy beer more than hangover.
- Quantum Pale Ale: This is the little brother of Total Domination. While in the same vein, a lighter roast and generous hops makes this brew's drinkability is easier to accustom to for those not used to the intensity of Ninkasi beer. It is noticably crisp and bright for a pale and offers a great starting point from which to develop a taste for Ninkasi's more intensely flavored ales. It is great for drinking anytime, summer or winter, and is a great session beer for friends or any occasion. At 5.6% ABV it can be enjoyed for longer periods than some of the more alcoholic ales so it is great for social events and nights on the town.
- Oatis Oatmeal Stout: This is Ninkasi's darkest year round offering. The roast on this malt is intensely dark compared to a red or IPA. The beer also uses oatmeal as one of the grains in the malt which adds a delicious, creamy smoothness to balance the sometimes harsh coffee-like notes that are indicative of such darkly roasted malts. True to the northwest brewing tradition, a large volume of hops have been added, which gives Oatis more of a bite than European counterparts like Sam Smith's Oatmeal stout. Overall, Oatis' full body, dark roast, and strong flavor make it ideal for drinking anytime you feel like something dark, but especially during winter months where the high 7.5% ABV can help to keep you warm. Like the Total Domination, this beer is an acquired taste, but one well worth the effort it takes to acquire.
- Tricerahops Double IPA: Much like Quantum is the little brother to Total Domination, this beer is the big brother. What you will find here is hops, hops, and more hops. Early hops in extreme abundance make this beer finish with a bang. Late hopping techniques, like dry-hopping after the brewing process is basically completed, give it a unique and refreshing almost floral or citrus aroma and flavor which compliment the heavy bite and make the descent into the hops more gentle on the tongue. The malt is just dark enough to stand up on its own in the presence of a hop assault, but not too dark to muddy the flavors the delicate balance of hops creates here. This is an extremely alcoholic brew, it is a double like the red, weighing in at 8.8% alcohol. Beware, two pints or a bomber are all you need to enjoy this brew responsibly, so sip it, don't chug!
- Seasonals: I know there are a few other seasonal brews by Ninkasi, but I've not had the chance to try them thoroughly. I will update this HUB and when I do so you can learn about their unique beers they offer throughout the year in conjunction with seasons and promotions.
Check out a video about Ninkasi Brewery
More about Beer Coming Soon
A forthcoming HUB will discuss and describe the basics of beer brewing and composition to make these reviews more informative and useful.