New Belgium Ranger IPA

New Belgium's Ranger IPA
New Belgium’s Ranger IPA

These New Belgium beers started showing up in force, massive force, in local stores early in 2016. Apparently there is a well-funded marketing campaign going on here, but i have held back for two reasons: first, NB prices are damned high. Second, the label says they’re made in Colorado and North Carolina, which immediately makes me think that New Belgium is a schill for the Coors Empire, and thus not a “craft” beer at all. Weird that they hit the shelves with conspicuous display space devoted on day-1, with a half-dozen varieties all at once.

OK… i stand entirely corrected and blushingly sheepish. Wiki tells me that NB is not only independent, but employee-owned by the nearly 600 people who work there. They’re just a huge indy: the 8th largest brewery in the US. Wow, well done, fat tire guys and girls! The location in NorCaro is an expansion, not a shadow arm of a megabrewery. But the prices, once the stuff gets here, are still quite high.

But i did find a pack-your-own display which has the NB IPA, so couldn’t pass up a chance to try just one bottle of the IPA, then since i’m getting good at tasting IPA’s, if this one pans out then maybe i’d try the other 7 flavors New Belgium has out.

According to the label they use Simcoe, Chinook and Cascade hops, and after this many IPA’s, i’m starting to get an inkling that Cascade is the one which matches my tastes the best. And on the label there’s a best-by date which is in a font so small that it is a moot point. Mostly, the label says 6.5% alk inside.

Color is not so pale, a tad past golden, and the smell holds up a flag of hops as a welcome/warning, depending on your inclination. The color doesn’t lie here, and there is a decent beer body underpinning everything. But it’s not so burly as to deter the hops from taking and shaking your tongue. Said of which, the combo of hops plays nicely together, and the strength is solid puckerboi.

It’s a little bit sweet too, which really helps the multihopping reach out into new flavors. I taste peach and some kind of berry, and celery, oddly enough. The after-aftertaste is almost tomato. On the beer side, it nearly tastes like rye, because of all the odd things the hops are doing with that bit-o-honey sweetness. Towards the end of the glass, it gathers the creamy element which so many top IPA’s have. Why couldn’t that aspect jump out at first? Perhaps that’s why my Top Five are who they are?

Applause to NB for going all renewablish at their brewery, they even catch escaping methane from the process and use that for more green energy. They’re spreading the love even to the grunts in Shipping, and growing fast. If the stuff wasn’t expensive, i’d buy it just to support what that company’s doing. Or if i was rich, i’d buy more.

Wrap it up, this is a high level IPA. It won’t break into the Five because the balance between beer and hops is a touch off, but let’s call it 8.8 for Effort. It does a good enough job that i’m open to trying their Fat Tire Amber, but naturally that’ll be a bottle or two from the pick-a-six rack, since i’m not rich.

Uinta Hop Nosh IPA

Uinta's Hop Nosh IPA
Uinta’s Hop Nosh IPA

An IPA from Utah! I didn’t think they were allowed to do sinful things like make beer in the nation of Deseret, home of the beehive, and last bastion of beehives on women’s heads. Actually, when that nutty ultra-Mormon guy, Jeffers or something, was being hunted by the FBI because god apparently told him to stockpile weapons and little girls, all his other wives had something on their heads that looked rather like a trilobite, not a beehive.

But the problems of Utah aside, here’s an actual Salt Lake beer, from Uinta Brewery, which is as difficult to pronounce as it looks. Not much info on the bottle other than it’s 7.3% alk, whew, but the picture on the label is great, like those old postcards before photoshop with captions like “Just another day on the farm in Calhoun County!” with a farmer standing next to an 8-foot tall tomato.

The color is a pleasing orange, halfway from pale and amber, and there’s no effervescing bubbles here at all, and a light head… and sure enough, this beer is virtually uncarbonated. Which kinda creeps me out. It’s like beer-ade, a hop flavored juice drink. The taste is all right, decent beer body and the hops be noshing their green teeth indeed in this pint.

Hops are strong, the beer body is solid below them, in fact the body is pretty sexy under there. Lemony notes, almost apricot if you concentrate on it. But it’s 99.9% flat, which ruins a whole lot of the good tastes here. If this was carbonated, like at all, it’d probably rate somewhere in the 7-8 range. But being flat as a jilted prom date, i have to rate this as highly unrecommended.

Maybe i got a defective bottle. The cap seemed sealed tight, i don’t know. Or maybe Utah doesn’t forbid brewing beer, only lawfully allowing beer so nasty to taste that Mormons won’t be tempted? All i can rate is what comes out of the bottle, and without carbonation, this is truly horrid. A 0.8 is all i can realistically give this beer. It’s a total shame, because i had my eye on this one on the grocery shelf for months and was really looking forward to finally trying it. Bleh.

Red Hook Long Hammer IPA

Red Hook Long Hammer IPA
Red Hook’s Long Hammer IPA

A dry-hopped IPA from the Westernlands, says so right on the bottle, where it also says that they make this stuff in Memphis Tennessee, which is not even on the West Coast of the Mississippi River. At any rate, they also make it (or have it made for them) in Washington State and Portland Oregon, so that’s more towards the West Coast.

“Dry hopped” means they use hops when making the wort, but then use dry hops after it’s finished brewing to get some fresh vegetable influences in there. Not certain, but i suspect that’s what people mean when they say “West Coast style IPA.”

The color on this one is quite pale, the effervescence light, the aroma in and out of the bottle is like the label says: piney and citrusy. 6.2% alk completes the particulars, now how does it taste? Pretty light, that’s how. The beer body is not very aggressive in the whole taste, it’s barely there behind two hop flavors: the sharp pine late-taste and tongue-tip bitter orange.

Not a terrible beer at all, but it seems like what Red Hook is trying to do… someone else figured it out better since then. I prefer heavy body, and a sweeter body brings out weird fruits from the hops. This one doesn’t have enough body to begin, let alone be sweet. On the other side of the equation, the hops are strong but without a body to cradle them, they’re just out there, bittering in the wind.

Tasty but there are betterments to be had at this price point. Rating 5.4 for being hoppy but not show-stoppy.