Tag Archives: IPA

Drinking Local in the Second Quarter of 2019

Here is what my beer purchasing looked like in the second quarter of the year:

second quarter beer.png

I want to apologize to the brewers at Barn Town Brewing for forgetting exactly which of their beers I drank following a spring bike ride in April.  It was an IPA and it was hazy.  After that my  memory has completely failed me.

A couple of things stand out.  First, I went a little overboard with the cans I brought home from Summit County.  There is no way to get Outer Range Brewing or Broken Compass Brewing beers except in the high country.  Plus, I wanted to share the experience with some people back home so I loaded up the cooler and acted like an old school bootlegger.  Twenty four cans of beer does not exactly make me a bootlegger, but let me have my moment.

Second, I bought a lot of so-called “middle craft” beers from brewers like New Belgium Brewery, Sierra Nevada, Firestone Walker, and Lagunitas among others.  Normally I would have little reason to choose a national craft brewer over something more local but a combination of grocery store sale pricing and rebates via the iBotta app changed my behavior.  The combination of the two often meant that I was buying a twelve pack of Sierra Nevada Hazy Little thing for less than $14.  That would compare with a local beer selling for $18-20 for the equivalent number of cans.

Once the summer rebates and pricing go away so does my interest.  Plus, Big Grove Brewery is carpet bombing the retail beer landscape here in eastern Iowa with twelve packs now.

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The Death of “Middle Craft” Beer

American craft brewing legend Dogfish Head Brewery, the mad geniuses from Delaware, sold to Boston Beer, the parent company that brews Sam Adams Boston Lager among many other beers.  Neither brewery should be considered a micro-brewery, but neither is a macro-brewery.  They both exist in some kind of middle ground.  Being in that middle ground may mean death or consolidation going forward.

Apparently, the top 50 craft brewers are having trouble with many posting severe year-over-year declines.  These are the craft brewers that I would define as “middle craft.”  The challenge for these breweries is giving you the beer drinker a reason to try them over, say, a handful of hyper local breweries that may only sell products from their own taproom or a few commercial accounts.

In the past—okay, the 1990s—middle craft was the place to be as beer drinkers sought out different beers and the quality control at a lot of craft breweries was just bad.  I cannot tell you how many small breweries were making beer that would make most semi-skilled home brewers spit out their stout.  You sought out a New Belgium Fat Tire or Boulevard Wheat because those were well made beers from breweries you trusted.  You knew you were not going to waste $8 on a six pack.  Heck, you might even pick up something a little unusual from the same brewery when you were in the mood for a change.

That dynamic is long gone.  Award winning breweries are scattered across this nation.  Between Cedar Rapids and Iowa City I can patronize a half dozen breweries putting out good and sometimes great beer.  Those same breweries have won medals at prestigious beer festivals and have reputations well beyond the borders of the state.  Expanding my field of view to the entire state opens up a whole host of small, innovative, and well regarded breweries making all sorts of different beers.  If you do not believe me just spend a minute perusing the tap list at the Iowa Taproom in Des Moines.

All things being equal, why would I buy a New Belgium Citradelic over a Lion Bridge Brewing Tag?  Or, why would I buy a Dale’s Pale Ale over a Big Grover Brewery Arms Race?  I like all four of the aforementioned beers.  I choose to buy the local products almost every time.

This is the reality for the beer business in 2019.

Outer Range Brewing Co. is the Best New Brewery in America

Forget what the open poll from USA Today determined.  Despite what the voters said, I am crying “fake news!”  Outer Range Brewing Co. in Frisco, Colorado is the best new brewery in America.

High praise for sure, but I task you with finding someone who has actually sampled the beers in their small tap room or yurt that would disagree.  I will wait here for a few minutes while you try and find someone.  Bueller…Bueller…

The focus at Outer Range is on Belgian and IPA styles.  If you came looking for stouts or pilsners or marzens…you are out of luck.  That is okay because the beers being made by Outer Range are all excellent because of this particular focus.  Not every brewery should have a back catalog of thirty different beers and Outer Range shows just why this is true.

On my visit I had one glass each of In the Steeps, Quiet Depths, and Water Colors.  All three beers showed similar stylistic traits but was unique in subtle ways that get lost when a brewery is focused on a lot of beers.

If you get a chance to visit the taproom, do it.  If you see their beers on a tap list at a bar, order quickly because I have been sitting in more than one establishment in the high country when kegs have been cashed.

The only downside, if it is such a thing, is that the beers are usually clocking in above 6% ABV and do not drink as such.  If this is your first day or two at altitude and you are hitting the slopes after your visit be careful.  Moderation is your friend, but the guys at Outer Range can help you out by selling you a four pack of cans to take home.

I am such a homer that I bought the t-shirt:

IMG_1401

One of the best deals in the mountains happens at Outer Range’s taproom.  If you are a skier or boarder hop on the opportunity to get a “Wax + Beer” when the Ski Doctor is parked out front.  For $25 I got my Icelantic’s waxed and drank a glass of In the Steeps.  Rarely does something seem like a steal in the mountains, but this has to be the one time that it happened.

 

 

Deschutes Brewery Pinedrops IPA

The second beer that I ended up with because of HyVee’s evil Fuel Saver program was Deschutes Brewery’s Pinedrops IPA:

Pinedrops

This beer pours a lot lighter than Fresh Squeezed IPA. Therefore, I would classify this as a more traditional IPA versus the emerging American Pale Ale style of beer.

However, the light body does not provide a good sounding board for either the alcohol (6.5% ABV) or bitterness (70 IBU). Perhaps it is from the wide variety of hops used— Nugget, Northern Brewer, Chinook, Centennial, and Equinox hops—or the general level of bitterness, but this beer leaves a lingering after taste that is not particularly pleasant.

It reminds me, unfortunately, of a lot of early craft beer IPAs that left you with the feeling of having drank some bong water with your beer. Those brewers were trying to mask deficiencies in skill by piling on flavors and aromas. Having drank well done beers from Deschutes Brewery before I know there is no need for these brewers to be hiding because the talent is present in the brewhouse.

Also, with a name like Pinedrops I was expecting a heavy, resinous profile that almost made you think you were breathing in the air of a temperate coniferous rain forest. Was that too much to ask?

At this stage of the craft brewing industry in America we expect more from our IPAs:

One Mug Homebrew

See what others are saying about Deschutes Brewery Pinedrops IPA at Beeradvocate.

Deschutes Brewery Fresh Squeezed IPA

HyVee’s Fuel Saver program is the devil. You walk into the liquor store thinking you are going to pick up a fifteen pack of All Day IPA and instead you end up with something completely different because you saved $0.25 off per gallon of gas. This is how I ended up with two six-packs of different beers from Deschutes Brewery. In my defense, a total of $0.50 off per gallon of gas ends up saving me $10 when I fill up with the maximum of twenty gallons. Easy to do when road trip summers are here.

When Deschutes Brewery first came into the Iowa market I tried several of their beers and came away liking them in general. It’s been a while and I have not been tempted since for various reasons. The first beer I cracked open was Fresh Squeezed IPA:

Fresh SqueezedI had passed this beer on numerous occasions, read the label, and thought that with a name like Fresh Squeezed it should have been a fresh hopped beer. Damn marketing.

The beer pours a darker amber color than most IPAs, which makes me consider this more of an American Pale Ale. What does that mean? Whatever marketing wants it to mean, but in general I think it means more malt and body than a traditional IPA.

All of this extra body means that the beer drinks a lot easier than its 6.4% ABV and 60 IBU would suggest. Being near the golden ratio—in my opinion—of ABV to IBU the extra body of the beer hides some of the downsides of having more bitterness and bite. It essentially mellows out the more extreme elements of the alcohol and hops.  Fresh Squeezed is brewed with a combination of Citra, Mosaic, and Nugget hops. None of these really stand out as the driving element leaving the profile a little muddled or muted. Again, I was kind of bummed that this was not a fresh hopped beer.

In summary, you can do a lot worse in terms of mainstream pale ales and you ought to give Fresh Squeezed a try if you are looking to broaden your pale ale palate:

Two Mug PurchaseSee what others are saying about Deschutes Brewery Fresh Squeezed IPA at Beeradvocate.

Revolution Brewing Anti-Hero IPA

Revolution Brewing should be familiar to anyone who saw the movie Drinking Buddies with Olivia Wilde and Anna Kendrick. The movie was an unfortunate mumblecore mess for a lot of reasons, most notably that it did not really have an overarching story, but how would the beer taste coming from such a brewery.

Chicago is interesting compared to some of the other big cities in the region because it got a somewhat late start in the whole craft beer scene. Goose Island was a long time player, but it was about the only game in town until recently with the opening of Revolution Brewing and some others like Pipeworks Brewing Company. I guess people really did like throwing down cans of Old Style. Why, dear god, why?

On a recent trip to the Field Museum with my daughter I was able to make a side trip and pick up several six-packs of different beers from Revolution Brewing. First up is Anti-Hero IPA:

Revolution AntiHero

The beer is pretty balanced coming in at 6.5% ABV and 70 IBU. There is no single noticeable or overpowering hop notes, so this is not a beer that tries to grab you by the scruff of your neck and stick your nose in a bouquet of citrus. Smell the grapefruit, hipsters! I digress.

It’s an enjoyable beer, but it is not a memorable beer. It is my contention that to truly be a memorable IPA anyone you have to do something out of the ordinary. It says something about the evolution of beer in the U.S. when a slightly boozy and bitter IPA is nothing to write home to mom about. Then again, it’s not that you have to do something good to be memorable. Sometimes you just have to be colorful.

On the other hand this would be a beer that would be happy to have as your “go to” local six pack. Maybe this is the future of craft beer where regional brewers produce good beers for a limited geographical range and knock out some seasonal or special brews to coincide with local flavors or events.

In the end, it’s a beer you can be confident ordering in place of a freakin’ Old Style while you wait for the Cubs game to start:

Two Mug Purchase

See what others are saying about Revolution Brewing Anti-Hero IPA at Beeradvocate.

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.