Three new brews from this innovative brewery have recently arrived in town. Nestled on a bank overlooking the Columbia River Gorge, Full Sail's name was inspired by the windsurfers that skirt the waters there. Practicing true economic democracy, the brewery became an employee-owned enterprise in 1999. And while I've always enjoyed their efforts, especially the IPA and the Pale Ale, there have never really been many standouts. But these new offerings are easily the best lineup I've tasted from Full Sail—truly unique stylistically and absolutely delicious.
LTD Limited Edition Series Lager, Bottling No. 01
Billed as a lager (albeit a wickedly awesome one), to my thinking, this brew is suffering from an identity crisis. It's the first in a series of limited-edition offerings bottled to celebrate Full Sail's 21st anniversary. The dark tan pour is deeper in color than you'd expect from a lager. On the palate, it has uncharacteristically rich malt flavors with sweet caramel. It finishes something like a pilsner with its smooth and persistent hops. My advice? Don't try to over-analyze this one—just drink up. It does a flavorful job of shaking off the winter doldrums.
Slipknot, Brewmaster Reserve 2008
The emphasis here is on the hops, and they are a bit overwhelming on first sniff and sip. With a little time in the glass, things begin to settle down, and pine-scented aromas of citrus zest reveal themselves. At 80 International Bitterness Units, the hops are ever-present but not unpleasantly so. There's enough bright citrus and smooth malt to balance things out before that hop bite kicks in again on the finish. Pair this one with food. Lime-laced fish tacos would make a good match.
Old Boardhead Barleywine Ale, Reserve 2007
Released last October, the Boardhead has finally made its way to Boise. A few months in the bottle were probably beneficial. At 91 IBU you'd expect a more aggressive hop profile than the Slip Knot, but the higher alcohol (9 percent) and rich malt camouflage the bitterness. This is an exceptionally well-balanced barley wine with smooth, fruity flavors and creamy malt highlights. A robust ale that drinks great now, but set aside few bottles for future enjoyment