As I wrote in my post, “Received: McMenamins cans are here!,” that I would, I did a taste-off between the canned versions of Ruby and Hammerhead from the Edgefield production brewery and those from my local McMenamins Old Saint Francis School brewer, Mike “Curly” White. On the 23rd of August I stopped by OSF and got a growlette (32 oz glass “bottle”) of each.
On 24 August I compared the two Hammerheads and on 25 August I compared the two Rubys. [First 2 under this link]
A classic Northwest Pale Ale and McMenamins Standard. This rich chestnut colored gem is a model of harmony between hops and malted barley. Hammerhead’s signature Cascade Hop nose and intense hopped flavor blend nicely with the caramel tones from the Crystal Malt. This beer has a vocal following; to run out is an unforgivable sin.
Malts: Premium 2-Row, Bairds Crystal 70/80
Original Gravity: 1.056
Terminal Gravity: 1.010
Alcohol by Volume: 6.0%
Calories: 241 per pint”
Old Saint Francis School Hammerhead
Aroma: lightly floral and light melon; caramel and toasted bread crumb.
Color: Slightly opaque golden orange. Light tan head of extra fine bubbles and a couple small fisheyes; decent persistence.
Flavor: “English.” Soft. Fairly complex malt of bread, toast and light caramel for a pale ale. Medium hop flavor which was lightly floral and very light citrus. Medium bitterness.
Mouthfeel: Light chalkiness in finish; finishes semi-dry and then dries out a bit more.
Aroma: very light cattiness when cold; disappeared but then came back, so fleeting cattiness. After warming some: very light tobacco/ashtray and a very light dankness.
Color: Almost clear medium-dark orange. Light tan head of extra fine bubbles and a couple small fisheyes; decent persistence [same head as OSF].
Flavor: almost smoky. Medium hop flavor of very light citrus, pine and some earthiness. Medium bitterness.
Mouthfeel: creamier. Slightly more attenuated. Finishes semi-dry.
More “polished” overall but I think the scales [for me, in this instance] tip to Curly’s version. I like the chalkiness and the malt was more complex. His also did not have some of the odder aromas coming from the canned version.
One of our most popular standards, we still make Ruby with the same aims we had when brewing the first batch back in March of 1986: To create an ale light, crisp and refreshingly fruity. Great Western Premium 2-Row and 42 pounds of Oregon-grown and processed raspberry puree is used to craft every colorful batch. Simple but delicious.
Malts: Premium 2-row, Maltodextrin
Original Gravity: 1.039
Terminal Gravity: 1.005
Alcohol by Volume: 4.0%
Calories: 170 per pint”
Old Saint Francis School Ruby
Aroma: high fresh raspberry. Lightly bready malt almost hidden under the fruit. No discernible hop aroma. Light corn as warms. Once warm got some ashtray on intake.
Color: opaque pink grapefruit with a just off-white head of extra fine bubbles and varied fisheyes and medium persistence.
Flavor: Light corn with a light corn slickness. Raspberry present more in finish than across palate but still low.
Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied. Finishes medium-dry with a medium-low hp bitterness but no discernible hop flavor. Softer than the canned version.
Aroma: raspberry but more artificial. Very light bread crust. Very light corn in inhale just before sipping.
Color: much clearer than OSF version; almost clear orange-peach with the same head as OSF version.
Flavor: Almost raspberry up front and then a lot in the back.
Mouthfeel: Slightly less body than OSF version. Finishes in middle: kind of semi-dry and semi-sweet at same time.
Raspberry is not my favorite ingredient in beer but I preferred Curly’s version with its much fresher-seeming raspberry aroma and a bit less raspberry flavor. Again, the OSF version was also missing the weird (mostly) phenolic aroma showing up. Those can be fine in an imperial stout, barleywine, old ale, etc. but not in these styles of beer. All in all, it was fairly close but not as close at the Hammerheads were.
After I was done making my notes on the individual Rubys I combined them in a 50/50 mix. The aroma was closer to be fresh raspberry (OSF) than artificial raspberry (can). Color and clarity were in between, of course, and the head was much longer lasting than either version alone (although the mix did get a slightly more vigorous pour). It also had a softer mouthfeel than either. For me, it was the best of both worlds.
These cans are gorgeous, although I am a bit biased as I adore McMenamins in-house art style. I would say it is fairly close still between Edgefield and Curly here in Bend, although I think Curly’s still got a slight edge where my taste buds are concerned. I do not pretend this is any sort of objective standard or measure. ‘Tis just me.
Thanks again, McMenamins for sending me these beauties!
[Disclaimer: These beers came to me free and unbidden [but appreciated] from McMenamins.]