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Beer of the Week: Drakes Brewing Company Jolly Rodger Imperial Red Ale

I’m back in California this week and wanted to get back to Christmas beers, since ’tis almost the season after all. As I was back in California, I also wanted some more hops. If there’s one brewery who wouldn’t disappoint, it would be Drake’s Brewing. This week’s Beer of the Week is Drake’s Jolly Rodger.

We brew a different beer style for our Jolly Rodger every year. For the 21st addition of our winter seasonal, we have made it an Imperial Red Ale. Be prepared for a big, malty, red ale, with a huge hop aroma. We mashed in with plenty of two-row barley, CaraRed and Chocolate malt for body and flavor. Then we hopped it up with Columbus for bittering, then for flavor and aroma – lots of Chinook and Cascade. Finally we dry-hopped in the fermenter with loads more Chinook and Cascade.

Wow, the aroma is pure hops. The malt body washes over your tongue but is simply a vehicle for more hops. They’re riding shotgun with three in the back and sneaking their buddy in the trunk. Lots of hop flavors and aromas but not a very bitter beer. Intense malt body required to carry such a big beer balances a resinous, piney finish. Reminds me of Prohibition Ale in the overall balance and softness of the beer but definitely carries the force of an imperial red.

With a little warmth, the nuttiness of the beer comes to life but struggles to peek through vs versus the assault of hops. Still easy to drink, which says a lot for such a hoppy beer. Definitely a treat. I want more!

I’ve always loved Drake’s Brewing. Back when Rodger Davis was brewing there in relative obscurity. Bottles of Drakes would make it to up north from time to time, and if they bottle was anything other than a standard 12 ounce bottle, you knew you were in for a treat. Today, you can find Drakes at a few more places and Rodger has moved on to Triple Rock and back again to oversee the Drake’s lineup. Bottles are making their way around the Bay Area and even such treats as Denogginizer are now available. Hopefully, Santa brings better Drake’s distribution to Sonoma County for Christmas. In case he doesn’t be sure to harass the brewery on Twitter and Facebook until it happens.