Tag Archives: American pale ale

Revolution Brewing A Little Crazy Ale

What is an American Pale Ale? Better yet, what is a Belgian American Pale Ale? When will this insanity stop? We should just start calling beers with crazy varietal names by something completely arbitrary so that it no one is any more confused by sign posts like pale ale or porter or stout or pumpkin peach ale.

Revolution Brewing brews a so-called Belgian American Pale Ale called A Little Crazy Ale:

A Little Crazy Ale

This beer will surprise you at a somewhat boozy 6.8% ABV. Even more surprising is that it drinks a lot more balanced than its middling 35 IBU would lead you to believe. Dry hopped with Citra and Cascade hops there is the presence of hop resins and aromas that do not contribute to the bitterness and help in balancing out the beer’s alcohol.

A Little Crazy is definitely “malt forward,” which accounts for the Belgian in its name. The brewery says that it is golden in color, but I would aim for a little darker hue like copper or amber when describing this particular brew. It is also carbonated a little lighter than more common American Pale Ales, which again I think contributes to its Belgian character. There is definitely some old world influence on this hybrid.

Be careful with this beer because it can sneak up on you. After a few you realize that this is not a session ale and you will find yourself wishing you had ordered a water that last round to clear your head a little bit. Grab a six pack and enjoy on a cool summer evening by the fire:

Purchase 3 Mug Rating

See what others are saying about Revolution Brewing A Little Crazy at Beeradvocate.

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Indeed Brewing Company Day Tripper Pale Ale

One of the best things about my brother coming down to visit about every two months is that contained within his family’s minivan is a box or two with lots of Minneapolis beers unavailable to us in the great state of Iowa.

Indeed Brewing Company is a Minneapolis based brewery located in a hot spot of the fermentation arts with Dangerous Man Brewing Company being located just to the west and 612Brew a chip shot toward the University of Minnesota’s East Bank campus. Not too far away as well is Surly’s new flagship brewery, taproom, and event center. Founded in 2011, Indeed has a good local following for a series of different beers. Today we are going to talk about their Day Tripper Pale Ale.

Depending upon who you talk to Day Tripper is one of the brewery’s mainstay offerings and accounts for a great portion of the company’s sales. This is understandable since people want beers they can drink with their friends after work or in the fading light of a glorious Minnesota summer evening without getting blotto. Trust me, it’s easy to spend an hour or two on a patio in Minneapolis in July and forget that you have a thrown down three or four beers that would equal a half dozen or more Bud Lights.

At 5.4% ABV and only 45 IBU this is not a beer that is going to bowl over any hop heads or pale ale purists. Day Tripper is representative of two trends: session beers and American pale ales. I am a fan of more drinkable beers that have elements of a pale ale without hewing to the stylistic mannerisms of the IPA crowd.

It pours fairly light and also drinks fairly light. Like some other attempts at session IPAs Day Tripper Pale Ale does not really have a lot of interest in the body of the beer. In this case it reminds me a lot of New Belgium’s Slow Ride IPA. As a matter of fact, the two beers could almost be interchanged with little risk of offending the person being served:

Two Mug Purchase

See what others are saying about Indeed Brewing Company Day Tripper Pale Ale at Beeradvocate.

Note: Sorry for the lack of a picture, but I somehow managed to drink all of the Day Tripper Pale Ale without saving a single photo.  My bad.

Backpocket Brewing Jackknife APA

The Iowa beer trail stops in Coralville, about a half hour south of my domicile in Cedar Rapids, where Backpocket Brewing makes it home in the rapidly developing Iowa River Landing. Today’s offering is Jackknife APA:

BackPocket JackKnife

Clocking in at a modest 5.8% ABV and definitely non-intrusive 40 IBU—using Centennial and Cascade hops as the backbone for that bitterness—Jackknife is the kind of pale ale, American or otherwise, that would be quite welcome at a fall tailgate.

This is the kind of beer that you hope your favorite bar keeps on tap all the time because it hits a number of notes in an unassuming fashion that makes it an everyday beer:

Purchase 3 Mug Rating

The term “American pale ale” is at the same time foreign and familiar to me. If someone offers an IPA, I have a conception of what that beer should be in my head. Light of body, high in hop character, and enough alcohol to cut through the flavor. Offer me an American pale ale and I will hesitate. What does that mean exactly?

As I see the term get used to describe more and more beers—much in the same way that session is getting applied to beer types of all kinds—my mind coalesces around these salient adjectives or characteristics:

  • Heavier in body compared to a mainstream IPA; Uses toasted or roasted malts to impart a deeper reservoir of flavor to offset hoppy bitterness
  • Fairly mainstream and one-note hop profile; These are not beers that incorporate a half dozen novel hop varieties because that would create a flavor traffic jam with the increase in body
  • Middle of the road alcohol; You may call it session-able because the beer is clocking in below 7% or so in alcohol, but most people would just call it drinkable
  • It should not be gimmicky in any way; These beers are the spiritual ancestors to such crowd pleasers as Budweiser in the red can or Coors banquet just better in every conceivable way

Maybe I am making too much a marketing ploy to get me to pay attention to a beer when the shelves are full of IPAs to the point of confusion. Sometimes the paradox of choice comes into play when I wander the craft beer case.

Too bad this beer is not in cans. It’s the kind of beer you would find in a cooler being passed around after a hike or a bike ride or the aforementioned tailgate. Trust me, tailgating in Iowa City needs a serious upgrade from the generally insipid swill that inhabits the hands of the Hawkeye faithful in the fall.

See what others are saying about Backpocket Brewing Jackknife APA at Beeradvocate.

If you get a chance Backpocket Brewing has a nice taproom and restaurant in the Iowa River Landing area that can be quite lively when the weather turns pleasant and Iowans stream to outdoor drinking venues. By May 1st most of us have thrown off the shackles of winter and early spring in order to enjoy the great outdoors, usually on our bicycles, before the cold creep of winter threatens. This is also known as Big Ten football season.

Iowa Beer Trail Stops in Okoboji

Spend enough time in the state of Iowa and you will begin to wonder about this place called Lake Okoboji.  You will see people with stickers on their car proclaiming their allegiance to such a place and people will wear sweatshirts telling you that they are a proud alumnus of the University of Okoboji.  Too bad there is no university bearing such a moniker.

Lake Okoboji and the town of Spirit Lake have given us beer.  From Okoboji Brewing in particular.  On a recent trip to Des Moines to enjoy some back to school shopping and the horror that is Adventureland, I picked up three different varieties of beer from Okoboji Brewing at a HyVee in West Des Moines.  I was actually looking to procure some of the recently available canned beer from Confluence Brewing, but that was a no go.  I was hoping for a pleasant surprise from a brewery I had not known about prior.

Things were looking good with Boji Blue:

Boji Blue

Boji Blue is described as an American Pale Ale.  I am starting to have a hard time telling the difference between American pale ale and IPA anymore.

Using a combination of Cascade and Centennial hops to provide a middling bitterness (45 IBU) there is a definite “hoppiness” to Boji Blue.  It almost comes across like it was a dry hopped beer when the aroma hits your nose.  No mention of dry hopping was to be found.

Overall, a pretty solid effort that made me excited to crack the next two cans.  I should have stopped when I was ahead, but I opened a can of The Hole in Hadrian’s Wall:

The Hole in Hadrians Wall

It’s described as a Scottish ale.  It’s a pretty heavy beer (9.5% ABV) with a mild bitterness (19 IBU) and it is brewed with heather tips to provide an interesting accent.  None of this matters because the dominant flavor of the beer is an extreme sourness that just bulldozes anything else.  It’s not the cloying, multi-layered sour profile of actual sour ale.  No, it’s just sour like the beer went bad.  I actually thought I had a bad can of beer so I cracked another.  Guess what?  Equally as sour.  Ugh!

Ironically, the can’s label describes the style of beer, known in Scotland as “wee heavy,” having been served in smallish 6 ounce packages.  Here it comes in a 16 ounce can.  I challenge anyone to finish a full pint of this liquid.

I was hoping for redemption with 33 Select Brown Ale:

33 Select Brown Ale

This beer seemed a little gimmicky with the inclusion of maple syrup, cinnamon, and vanilla.  I have had some beers that really pull off using maple syrup, particularly porters or stouts, and many beers include cinnamon to good effect.  Vanilla?  I cannot think of one example that I have tried where vanilla was a conscious inclusion.

What’s the verdict?  The beer comes across a little flat and thin.  It’s sweet, which is easy to understand given the inclusion of maple syrup, but the vanilla flavors just dominate to a point where the beer comes across surprisingly one note.  It sort of felt like I was sucking on a vanilla candle at one of those horrid “olde tyme candle shoppes.”  Unlike The Hole in Hadrian’s Wall, which went down the drain, I was able to repurpose 33 Select Brown Ale as brat boiling liquid for a weekend get together of friends where we cracked open quite a few homebrews.  If a beer gets relegated to brat duty—like the cans of Coors Light I keep in the refrigerator for my father—it should be considered a failure of brewing.

The sad thing is that I had hope that Okoboji Brewing would be a surprise.  They seemed interested in pushing some stylistic boundaries and they were saying all the right things, especially about putting beer in cans.  Alas, the results speak for themselves.  Nothing to see here.

All is not lost in the area, however, as I have high hopes for the good folks at West O Beer which opened in May of this year.

A Visit to the Tallgrass

The siren song of the sampler pack got me again.  I am lazy and did not bottle my latest batch of homebrew—an Australian sparkling ale—until this weekend, so I have found myself lacking in the liquid refreshment department.  A trip downtown to Benz Beverage Depot is always dangerous because the plethora of bottles and cans is overload for my brain.  In a good way, of course.

On an endcap was an eight can sampler from the Tallgrass Brewing Company out of Manhattan, Kansas.  At the time I was relatively unfamiliar with Tallgrass having only sampled a small glass of their Velvet Rooster at a beer tasting event over five years ago.  The sampler pack contained two 16-ounce cans of Buffalo Sweat, Oasis ESB, 8-Bit, and IPA.

8-Bit already won a place in my heart with its label art:

8 Bit Ale

I know that for a lot of people the term “8-bit” has little or no meaning.  For someone who grew up with a Nintendo controller the term brings back fond memories of marathon sessions of Contra—yes, I remember the sequence of inputs to get 30 lives—and RC Pro-Am.  I wonder if anyone will mythologize the later video game systems like individuals of my age bracket get misty when thinking about the original Nintendo Entertainment System?

The beer utilizes something called a hop rocket in its production.  The hop rocket is an in-line hop infuser that really puts hop aromas at the fore of a beer.  8-Bit uses the Galaxy strain in the hop rocket which gives it a distinct aroma over beers that use more common Cascade, Centennial, or Willamette varieties.  Normally, I am not a fan of dry hopped beers but 8-Bit was surprising.  Anyone up for a game of Super Mario Brothers?

Oasis is a big beer:

Oasis ESB

At 7.2% ABV and 93 IBU, this about as big a beer as you get without starting to enter into the “extreme” category.  By the way, who would have though a decade ago that a beer approaching 100 IBU would not be considered outrageous or extreme?  Bueller?  Bueller?

Even though Oasis is big, it manages to be a beer you can drink without feeling like you’re fighting each drink down in some exercise akin to self-flagellation.  I attribute this to a heavy malt profile that compensates for the beer’s bigness in other areas.  Too many “extreme” beers are thin on the malt and the attempt comes across as a carnival ride.  You know, cheap thrill that leaves you wondering why you spent $5 to risk your life on something held together by a cotter pin placed by a Joe Dirt extra.

The originally named IPA gets a little lost:

Tallgrass IPA

Why?  After the experience of the first two beers there is something that just seems so standard about IPA.  Sure, it’s hopped pretty well (60 IBU), but after a can of Oasis that seems like a cool down following a marathon.  It’s decently heavy at 6.3% ABV, but again after a can of Oasis you are coming down a little bit.

In the end, IPA is a well-crafted India Pale Ale.  The problem is that this style has flooded the craft beer market and, increasingly, it is hard to tell one brewer’s well-crafted IPA from another well-crafted IPA.  It’s an embarrassment of riches for beer drinkers, to be sure, but it has to be killing the marketing directors of these companies as they look for ways to stand out.

When something is referred to as sweat, buffalo or otherwise, the first drink is always a leap of faith:

Buffalo Sweat

At only 20 IBU, Buffalo Sweat is a very mild beer for a style that almost demands a little more bittering.  The result is that the primary flavor you get is not of alcohol or hops, but of the roasted barley.  It is almost like a smoked beer.  As a matter of fact, I would have sworn this beer used smoked malt if I had not read the description that was devoid of any mention of smoked malt.  Interesting.

On the same endcap was a four-pack of Halycon unfiltered wheat.  With the weather getting warmer it seems like such a perfect time for wheat beers to make a comeback into the refrigerator.  I picked up the cans as well:

Halcyon Wheat

Amazingly, at just 20 IBU this beer felt and tasted a little more “beer like” than Buffalo Sweat which also came in at 20 IBU.  Unlike some other wheat beers, hops are brought forward via the aromas rather than bitterness.  It works to make the beer seem bigger than it is without overpowering the delicate wheat base.

Thank you Tallgrass for spreading the good word about cans in you “Canifesto.”  If there is a downside to cans for craft beer, I cannot find it.  Small-scale canning equipment has been improved and brought down in price to such a level that it is within reach of almost any craft brewer packaging beer for retail distribution.  I realize that 22 ounce bottles and six-packs of longnecks are the calling cards of the American craft beer vanguard, but cans are the future.  Of all the craft beers that I have had in cans not a single one has had the distinctive “skunk” aroma or flavors associated with UV penetration.  Plus, the cans are just a more environmentally sensible choice.  Can all that you can!