Brewing All Stars #8: Gordon Biersch Rockville House Red India Red Ale
Date: July 23 , 2019 — Note- this is a tasting note from April. No guarantee you’ll find this now, but it gives an insight into what you can look for at this surprisingly independent chain brewery.
The Story— Until fairly recently Gordon Biersch tried to maintain a great deal of similarity among their dozens of breweries. The idea was that whatever GB you wandered into would pour the GB beers you had enjoyed in your last city. There’s something to be said for that except, wait– big national brands and imports have made that a sure thing for decades. The whole point of a “beer brewed here” was to have a beer that “wasn’t brewed there.”
The truth was, though, for those of us with even mediocre palates, the beers did vary. The equipment wasn’t the same in every place and the brewers seized some breathing space to put their own stamp on the GB products. For a while they had to do that under the radar, but over time, and in part due to the efforts of local Biersch overseer (and now master brewer for Devils Backbone) Jason Oliver, the brewery loosened its grip on some of the country’s best brewers and now you’ll find a dramatically different arrays of beers across the country and even across town.
The chain does have a tendency to play musical chairs with their brewers. Our “local” in Rockville, Md. was one of the chairs in a recent move that brought Scott Lasater from DC to the the suburbs. He’s settled in long enough now so that we’ve had a chance to taste most of his beers. His predecessor, Nassim Sultan, was a talented brewer and we’ll miss the beers he did particularly well, but Scott has already shown us he’ll be bringing us some treats as well.
The staff tells us Scott tries to avoid the “name game” and just calls beers for what they are. Good for him. This “House Red” Red IPA is flashier in the glass than on the menu. It’s just at the IPA threshold of 6.0% abv and the 30 IBUs shove it just down from New England but barely take a baby step towards the west coast. What those hard working 30 IBUs do is balance red ale malts that can get leathery and sugary without their help. There must have been a good dose of late hops and/or whirlpool, or dry hopping to make the hops sing so strongly with “only” 30 IBUs. So many IPAs these days taste so much like so many other IPAs these days. This one stands on its own. It’s the best we’ve had from Scott so far… but we’re looking forward to continuing to try more.
The Beer– Full malt foundation with just barely leashed dark crystal. Husky and some dankness to the hops along with leaf and herbs and grass and lots more.
Value —Excellent if you get to the brewery between 4 and 7 PM for their $4/half liter (oh so very) happy hour. It’s still a very good value @ $6 a half liter at other times.
Values: “fair” is a good beer at an above market price, “good” is worth the money, “very good” is a bargain, and “excellent” is a steal.
It’s All-Star season. MLB has finished theirs, but it seems like a new sport is showcasing exceptional talent almost every day. So we’ll be presenting our own all-star brewing line up. We don’t claim to present– or even know– what the best beers in America are, but out of the hundred or so that we taste every month, some are indeed special. For the second couple of weeks in July, we’ll share some recent standouts in a very crowded craft beer field. .
We’re often asked to share our tasting notes on over 33,000 beers; this blog is in answer to those requests. Not all our notes, though. The great beer writer Michael Jackson admirably followed the Thumper Rule, and we’ll try to do the same. (“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nuthin’ at all.”) All the beers we post are from the top half of our ratings and most are from the top quarter. Of greater value, we think, are the stories behind the beers, and we try to give you enough about the brewery, the style and the places to find great beer to help you on your own beer journeys. At CulturAle Press we try to write books and publish posts that will help you “Drink Well and Travel Safely.”