Bare Hands is a micro-brewery in every sense of the word. Their taproom, which opened a little over a year ago, is located in a tiny industrial park next door to a veterinary hospital and behind a KOA Campground. It’s capacity is about 40, and the tables and chairs look like they were claimed from various relatives’ basements—nothing matches, but it doesn’t really matter. If you want ambiance, go to Bell’s Eccentric Café—they’ve got ambiance in spades. Their beers aren’t available outside the taproom, either. If you want to sample them, you have to go directly to the source. However, if you have a taste for, as they call them on their website, beers that are “Handcrafted in small batches with the highest quality ingredients” and are willing to go the extra mile to get them. you owe it to yourself to check out Bare Hands Brewery.
On a recent trip to the taproom, I sampled three beers from their tap list. Unfortunately, their signature beer Thai.p.a. was not on tap. I have had the Thai.p.a. on previous trips to the brewery and it’s wonderful. The unexpected ginger and lemongrass notes at the heart of the beer make it almost seem like the Tootsie Pop of IPAs. There’s the hoppy outside layer, but there’s a lovely almost chai tea center to it that’s unlike anything I’ve ever had before. They did have their Double Thai.p.a. on tap during my last visit, which I sampled along with a special dry-hopped version of their 574 DIPA and their Scottish Strong Ale.
Pour: Draft into a 10oz. snifter.
Appearance: Golden-brown and cloudy, with a thin head that dissipated somewhat quickly and did not leave much lacing. No evidence of effervescence when exposed to direct light.
Aroma: Lots of spices—vanilla, cinnamon, ginger. Somewhere between a chai tea and a pumpkin pie.
Flavor: Sweet all through the palate, but bitter notes appear in the mid-mouth. Slight pumpkin flavor that I don’t recall from the regular Thai.p.a. There’s a slightly bitter/astringent aftertaste that isn’t entirely pleasant at first, but becomes less unpleasant the more of the beer one drinks, probably because of the way the beer kind coats the tongue.
Mouthfeel: Medium-light. Drinks fairly easily for a higher gravity beer.
Overall: Ultimately, it reminded me a bit too much of a pumpkin ale and, as has been documented before on this site, I really dislike pumpkin ales. There was just too much of something (lemongrass? wheatgrass?) in the beer that threw the flavor profile off for me. It was a shame, really, because I quite enjoy the regular version of the beer.
Final Grade: C+
Dry-Hopped 574 DIPA
A quick not about this beer: it was a special brew they had on for a few hours the day I was there. 574 DIPA is one of their regular stable of beers. This batch was thrown into a pin cask with additional dry hops and left to age for a few weeks.
Pour: Pin cask into pint glass.
Appearance: A dark golden, cloudy color. Very thin head with no effervescence or real lacing. This is most likely because it was a cask pour and not from a regular tap.
Aroma: Loaded with hops. A very piney scent overall, with hints of resin and grapefruit.
Flavor: This beer, unsurprisingly, is a hop bomb. There are pine and floral notes all through the palate. It’s bitter up front with more of a citrus finish. Strong, hoppy aftertaste. It also tastes incredibly fresh—almost like chewing hop cones—possibly simcoe, but I don’t know for certain–directly from the vine.
Mouthfeel: Light, with hardly any carbonation as one would expect from a cask ale.
Overall: It compares to a Zombie Dust, but finishes far better. I really liked this beer and hope this dry-hopped experiment wasn’t just a one-off thing.
Final Grade: B+
Scottish Strong Ale
Pour: Draft into a 10oz snifter.
Appearance: A dark red, but not so dark that light didn’t show through. About a one-inch tan head that lasted for quite a while, but left less lacing that expected.
Aroma: A faint aroma overall, with hints of caramel, biscuits, and dried plums/cherries.
Flavor: A burnt cherry flavor, mellowing out to a malty/caramel flavor in the mid-mouth, and a surprising amount of alcohol flavor in the finish. A bittersweet aftertaste not unlike unsweetened chocolate and fresh cherries.
Mouthfeel: Full, kind of like a cough syrup, but in the best possible way.
Overall: I generally don’t like Scottish Ales, but this was the unquestionable highlight of the trip to Bare Hands. The beer was akin to a fruity doppelbock, and I would gladly have another snifter of it right this second. Highly recommended.
Final Grade: A