I am beginning to run out of adjectives to describe fresh hop beers, so I'm going to cut to the chase a bit on these two.
Rogue Independence Ale
Let us stipulate: the hop additions in Rogue's beer are mysterious. They contain either Centennial, Millennium, and Willamette (per the bottle) or Centennial and Cascade (the website) or Willamette and Centennials (Brewers Guild). Probably it's Crystal and Perle. Well, no matter, at 80 IBU, who can tell? Independence is a sticky, resinous beer that holds little evidence that it was made with fresh hops. The nose is grapefruit and ganja (seriously). It's a thick, syrupy beer, which is good, because the body holds up nicely against the gale-force hops. I found none of the "decomposition note" I've complained about, but also none of the soft herbal notes you'd like in a fresh hop. (Well, maybe way down below the bitterness, but I might have been hallucinating.) A pretty traditional Rogue offering, satisfying therefore to traditional rogues.
Interesting trivia: there's a spot of wheat malt in the grain bill. Betcha can't taste it. (The haze in the beer, easily chalked up to hoppy particulate, might be a contributor.)
Laurelwood Hop Bale
I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that this Liberty-hopped ale is a pretty standard, middle-of-the-road fresh hop ale. It is brewed in the (now) traditional pale continuum, and does feature the "decomp note," albeit in a minor, non-fatal way. In this beer I get a cooked squash taste. As Sally noted with a shrug, "it's neither here nor there." Yup.
The good news is that Laurelwood also has an Oktoberfest on tap, and it's wonderful. If beer were cookies, Oktoberfests would be chocolate chip: common but surprisingly tasty and universally-loved. You want your o-fest to have an autumn-maple leaf hue, spiciness in the palate, and a rich, warming, sweetness. Laurelwood's delivers the goods.
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