Good morning, evening or next Tuesday, fellow Commentists! Low Commander is here to man the Beer Barrel this week, as make it snow embarks on his yearly tradition of being a big quitter and thinking that he’s better than you. Never fear, for there are a whole host of guests lined up for the next 4 weeks ready to
sample taste enjoy overindulge on your behalf! We do this not for ourselves, but solely for you and your reading pleasure alone, and anyone who thinks otherwise can probably see through the many bold faced lies I tell. Anyway, lets do this thing!
As many of your know, I live in San Diego county, which is arguably the beer capital of these United States, and home to more craft breweries than the states of neighboring Oregon and Washington combined. So, naturally, I will be reviewing a beer from Ninkasi Brewing in Eugene, home to the Mother Duck and Chip Kelly’s favorite segregated bed and breakfast. Ninkasi Brewing was founded back in 2006, and is named for the Sumerian goddess of fermentation. Their major sellers and most commonly found brews include: Dawn of the Red (Red IPA), Tricerahops (Double IPA) and my favorite, Vanilla Oatis (Oatmeal Stout). Today’s review focuses on the first specialty brew from their so-called “Goddess Collection:” Ground Control.
Ground Control is a Imperial Stout, brewed with hazelnuts, star anise and cocoa nibs, which alone is not terribly uncommon. However, the big selling point/gimmick that interested me in this beer in the first place was that the yeast had been sent… INTO SPAAAAACE! That’s right, Ninkasi got together with a group of self-described “amatuer rocketeers” and launched this yeast into orbit, with the intention of retrieving and brewing with it. Why? Why the hell not?! Would the short period of no gravity have an affect on the taste of the yeast? What about the massive amount of G’s from the exodus and reentry? Will solar radiation mutate them into super-sided beings of hyper-intelligence, hell bent on returning to Earth and using humans to ferment their drinks of choice? Who knows, but it’s happening!
This actually took 2 attempts, as the first, while successfully leaving Earth’s atmosphere, landed 9 miles off target from the retrieval site. The team expected the yeast to survive for 10 hours on it’s own in the rocket, and it took them 27 days to find the damn thing.
4 months later, in October of 2014, the team tried again and apparently learned from their mistakes, as they quickly found the payload and retreated back to the lab for testing. A shortened version of the actual flight of the rocket is available for viewing here, lasting a rather impressive 18 minutes in total (ladies!?). In May of last year, I found this bottle of Ground Control at a local bottle shop in Ocean Beach for the low, low price of twenty freakin’ bucks! This was, somewhat embarrassingly, not the most that I had spent on a single beer before, but I decided this would be an investment to throw into my beer aging fridge and forget about for a year, much to the chagrin of Lady Commander.
I’m not sure if this was the first major commercial test on the effects of SPAAACE on alcoholic beverages, but I do know that shortly after Ground Control was released, the Japanese Booze Conglomerate Suntory sent 5 whiskey samples to the International Space Station to be stored and eventually returned to earth for testing. I can see this whole thing getting out of hand quickly, so unless there is some serious proof or exceptional/distinct change in taste, I hope this doesn’t become much of a fad.
I poured 11-ish ounces of Ground Control into my frosty stein, Steve, The beer smells slightly sweet, but I am also getting a lot of soy sauce. Uh-oh. Maybe I aged it longer than I should have.
Lady Commander: It smells kind of like a Belgian to me. I feel like there is some fig in there.
Whoa. On first taste, chocolate and soy are the big flavors here. There is definitely a kind of wood, which I think is oak, and something else I can’t quite put my finger on. Could it be the SPACE?! More likely, it is the star anise, which I’ve only had once, and it apparently wasn’t very memorable. For lack of a better term, the taste is very clean, as if it just kind of roll off your tongue after a moment. It is also more carbonated than most beers out of the bottle, but that was also likely a result of the aging process. I don’t really find the beer to be very distinct, but yet I really like it.
Lady Commander: It’s rather sryupy, like most Imperial Stouts, but I don’t feel like there is anything to really associate the heaviness with. It is not boozy tasting at all, which is surprising, considering the 10% ABV.
As it warms up, the chocolate fades a bit and the oak takes its place along side the soy. I also get a lot of caramel on the back end, which I would have to say is the hazelnuts finally getting through. It is still very clean and easy drinking. I don’t know if it was worth $20, but I definitely enjoyed it.
Low Commander was an a lot of beer last night when visiting Lost Abbey/Port Brewing, but very soberly wrote this piece during the week entirely on company time. He split a 22 of Ground Control with Lady Commander to celebrate their 1 year anniversary last Saturday while watching The Venture Bros. His weekend will be spent playing Uncharted 4, as should yours, since it is really, really fun. This version of Ground Control has since sold out, but there is a new 2016 release that has been bourbon barrel aged. This can hopefully help you find one if you are so inclined.