Sud Savant: Samuel Adams – Latitude Series (Part II)

Well, judging from the popularity of the first part of this two part series there are a fair number of you waiting to hear about the last three varieties of hops involved in making Samuel Adams’ Latitude 48 Deconstructed Series. I’ll just get right down to brass tacks, then. Let’s pour!

The fourth hop: Simco

Aroma 11/12: This is so nice I wish brewers would make an IPA out of this hop alone. Brewers: please consider that a challenge. The aroma was abundant the second I opened the bottle, not even waiting for the pour. It is almost champagne-like with a wood/nut aroma in close contention. There is a light pine and grass note in the background that seems to be an afterthought, but as the beer warms it blends superbly with the champagne and citrus smells.

Appearance 3/3: Color is the same reddish-copper as the others, but the head is (forgive me) “head” and shoulders above the rest. It is thick, frothy, stiff, becomes lumpy, and leaves an almost solid lace on my glass. Excellent!
Flavor 19/20: An immediate bitter splash is the bold introduction for this brew and dives immediately into its backbone. On the tongue this beer has just as much molasses as the color would have us believe, but with some woody tones, and a sharp, sour citrus note than shines through it all. After being held in the mouth a bit, a sugar sweetness also develops. The finish is a fantastic IPA bitter finish. It is exactly what one should expect from an IPA. It builds off the prior sour flavors and really uses them to beautifully transition into a resinous bitter. The fade from one to the other is very tasty and very cool. The aftertaste is surprisingly clean, given the bitter finish, and also leaves the mouth dry.

Mouthfeel 5/5: Did you notice I didn’t start the flavor section “Again with the distracting carbonation,” like all the others in this series? That’s because it didn’t have it. I’m not sure how. I stored them the same way, opened them the same way, handled them the same way, etc. Its mouthfeel is definitely different and I shall describe it as a certain well-copyrighted Disney character: “Practically perfect in every way.”

Overall Impression 9/10: I am very impressed with this offering. Excellent, unique aroma, superior appearance, distinct flavor transitions, and a perfect stylistic mouthfeel are definitely ingredients for this beer’s success. What else can I say? Wow.

Total 47/50: Yeah, I’m surprised by the score too, but I stand by it. This is an amazing hop! After re-reading all the flavor sensations it gave me (molasses, sharp citrus, the crazy fade to bitter/pine), I thought to myself, “How can anyone not like beer?” This is a fun beer to drink a glass of and since you receive two, almost worth the price of the 12 pack itself. Seriously. I haven’t even had the last beer of the bunch yet, but unless it tastes like unicorn tears and plays the theme from the ORIGINAL Transformers Movie (1986!) when it opens I think that is a safe claim to make.

The fifth variety: ZEUS

Aroma 9/12: Starting with rich molasses-laden malt, this beer quickly gets to work showing its hop profile as it warms. It starts with a faint grassy aroma, but gradually transitions into a rich pine log sent.

Appearance 3/3: Head retention average, lacing is just as superb as the Simcoe hop. Color is similar to prior varieties.

Flavor 15/20: Again with the carbonation. This beer starts out with a creamy malt, but switches almost immediately to a pepper and bitter resin. Those two flavors grab hold and never really let go. OK, there is a slight, dark, caramel undertone, but it is very faint in contrast to the other larger, more abrasive flavors and is not as large of a contributor to the overall flavor profile. The caramel seems to grow stronger as the beer warms, either that or I am becoming more accustomed to the bitter hops as I go. Either way, it’s providing more balance even if it is a secondary flavor. The pine notes also increase with warmth. The finish has a sharp bitter that earns this the title “Bitterst of the Series,” and also shows off more of the pine flavor. The aftertaste is ink-like in its bitterness and nothing more.

Mouthfeel 4/5: The early, crazy carbonation deducts points, but the head earns some. Also, this beer seems to fill the mouth more than any of the other varieties, despite its similar body. It foams up in an interesting way.

Overall Impression 6/10: Not bad, but not thrilling either. Simpler aroma and flavor than the others, though. Definitely the bitterest hop of the varieties. I see its potential in conjunction with other hops, but it offers little on its own.

Total 37/50: I partially believe that this score is based on having all of the essentials of an American IPA, but none of the finer things. Sure, it’s bitter, tastes like pine, has some malt, etc. However, it misses out on some of the characteristics that truly set apart an excellent IPA like citrus, floral, complexity. As the score would indicate, this does not make it a bad beer, but there are definitely better our there.

The last is the combination of all 5: Latitude 48

Aroma 9/12: Again starting of with caramel and molasses malts, but slowly evolving into a grass/funk aroma. This is short lived and evolves again into a more citrusy version (light orange, canteloupe) with an overshadowed pine note. The final evolution stays (thankfully) and smells very crisp and light.

Appearance 3/3: A repeat of the prior two beer’s über-lacing.

Flavor 16/20: Creamy up front and peppery (not the first time we’ve seen that combination), it moves quickly to a lightly grassy/pronounced pine backbone with plenty of malt sweetness and a touch of citrus. This is a very nice combination of a lot of things that are all going on at once. The finish provides more pepper and bitter, but follows it with a brief, creamy, sweet wave that never overcomes the two despite is distinct appearance. The malt is also more present in the finish that one would expect in an IPA, but not necessarily a terrible thing. The aftertaste allows a fading, sharp bitter to take hold, but it must be truly waited out before it makes its appearance. As the beer warms it takes on a very nice blend of malt and citrus hop.

Mouthfeel 4/5

Overall Impression 7/10: A caramelly version of the style, but a solid one nonetheless. Extremely high technical prowess in the brewing process is evident in every aspect of this beer. A bit more of the citrus to keep things more refreshing perhaps would have been appreciated. This seems dark, especially for a summer seasonal.

Total 39/50: Obviously more complex than some of the other varieties, but that doesn’t necessarily allow the best of each hop to show. There are characteristics of each present and it’s really fun to pick each one out after drinking the whole series. Perhaps, its biggest fault is to not focus on one or two defining characteristics and instead going for all the the characteristics inherent in five different varieties of hops. Who is to say which is better, the single flower or the bouquet?

And that’s the game!! It has been a lot of fun going through the different varieties of hops and really isolating flavors, but eventually there had to be winners and there had to be losers. Here is the final roundup.

Simcoe: 47/50
Ahtanum: 39/50
Latitude 48: 39/50
Hallertau: 38/50
Zeus: 37/50
East Kent Goldings: 27/50

Hopefully, this helps some of you homebrewers as well! I know it will certainly aid me as I continue to try new and amazing beers and try to really pick individual flavors out of the beer. Once again, cheers to Samuel Adams for a great idea that caters to homebrewers and the craft beer community!!

Joel R. Kolander is the Cheif Blogger for Sud Savant, a beer-savoring blog for the rest of us. We’re not here to get plowed. We’re not here because we are world-famous beer critics. We’re here because we enjoy savoring a great beer with even better friends. Sharing great beer is just as amazing as finding it in the first place. Lets share!