Belt and Suspenders India Pale Ale

Image courtesy of beer syndicate.com

Image courtesy of beer syndicate.com

Good packaging design sells.  It attracts attention and stirs interest.  Buckledown Brewing of Lyons, IL knows that, and when good packaging design and great beer get together, you get Belt and Suspenderts India Pale Ale.  I was attracted by the label, saw that a local brewery was responsible for it and I was sold.  Belt & Suspenders is a beauty;  amber with a generous, frothy head and super-sticky lacing.  This 7% ABV (you can smell it) IPA has low carbonation but that doesn’t stop it from being bright and lively on the tongue.  The bouquet is piney and malty, and the alcohol again makes it presence known.  There’s a little hint of earthiness and maybe rust, too.  In a good way.  Belt and Suspenders is full-bodied but not heavy, with a smooth round mouthfeel.  It’s a substantial beer, but don’t be intimidated.  The sweetness of the malt helps balance the hoppiness, but let’s face it, the hops should and do win here.  The finish is gut-warming and a bit dry, and there’s a vibe, something I can’t quite put my finger on, that reminds me of long-defunct Chicago Brewing Company’s Legacy Lager, the beer that made me fall in love with local craft brew.

Well done Buckledown, I look forward to visiting your taproom  soon.  Who’s in?

Ypsi Gypsi

Ypsi Gypsi (Arbor Brewing Company, Ypsilanti, MI) has a huge, fluffy, white head, is hazy but not particulate and wafts great whiffs of pine and orange blossom.  Brussels lace coats the glass in great, sticky globs.  The presentation is really nice, as it could be a photo in an advert due to its perfect beauty.  There’s a noticeably good malt presence right off the bat, and not as much pine in the taste as you have been led to believe.  It’s a little more floral with a mild sweetness and a hint of dryness.  The sweetness lingers long enough to counteract the bitterness, which eventually subsides.  Crisp and clean.  The label is interesting, bordering on creepy, having a gypsy woman with an illustrative body and a photoshopped face (I think).  Almost like the artist has a weird obsession with a girl he can never have, and he has put her face in any number of fantasy settings (Princess Leia the slave girl, Lt. Uhuru, sexy Helen Keller, Oktoberfest waitress minotaur, you name it) to help stave off the hunger that can never be satisfied.  I’ve never done anything like this.  Nope.  Not me.

poster-ypsi-gypsi

Image courtesy of Arbor Brewing Company

Technically this is an American Pale Ale, but the high hop content made the brewers think of it as a session IPA.  I think it’s a bit understated as an IPA, by today’s standards.  At 4.9% ABV you can certainly enjoy a few without feeling too loopy. However, the Gypsy girl will become more attractive with each successive bottle.

Dragonfly IPA

Image courtesy of Upland Brewing Company.

Image courtesy of Upland Brewing Company.

Dragonfly IPA (Upland Brewing Company, Bloomington, IN, Midwest) pours a lovely honey gold, has carbonation galore, a generous head, and oodles of residual lace that looks like strata of the earth as the level of beer drops one mouthful at a time.  The bouquet is on the floral side of hoppy with some pine and an earthy yeastiness.  Wow, taste that caramel malt!  Dragonfly is full-bodied and when that mouthful is gone there remains a bitterness (65 IBUs) that harkens back to the hops vibe in the bouquet.  This IPA really sets off the salivary glands, too.  There’s a touch of grapefruit rind in the flavor profile that is refreshing.  Dragonfly is 6.7% ABV, and to me that is about the perfect strength for just about any beer.  Yay Upland, yay drinking regional!

My cousin Martha introduced me to Upland, and for that I’m truly grateful!  (Her husband Mike drinks Zima)

91/100 IPA

Flipside Red IPA

Image courtesy of Sierra Nevada Brewing Company

Image courtesy of Sierra Nevada Brewing Company

This one is appropriately named, being very red in color with a healthy dose of carbonation.  Flipside Red IPA (Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, Chico, CA and Mills River, NC) presents a foamy beige head on initial pour and whiffs of a soapy, floral, fruity bouquet waft your way.  At first 6.2% ABV Flipside is dry and bitter on the tongue, but soon some fruit sweetness makes its presence known.  There are Simcoe, Centennial and Citra hops used here, so the interesting bouquet is no surprise.  What is a surprise is that Flipside is a bit thin-bodied and there’s really not a lot to it.  I’ve read some sparkling reviews about Flipside, but I just didn’t feel the earth move the way I like.

And I had such high hopes.

65/100 IPA

Diabolical India Pale Ale

Image courtesy of North Peak Brewing Company

Image courtesy of North Peak Brewing Company

OK, more IPA.  I feel all Brokeback “I wish I could quit you” when it comes to IPAs, but I guess I should admit it.  I like IPAs.  And pretty much everything else but Bud.  Diabolical India Pale Ale from North Peak Brewing Company in Traverse City, MI is honey-orange in color with a peachy cast to it, and it makes a nice gooey head and tons of lace in your glass.  The bouquet is piney, perfumey and citrusy with a deep-down earthy malt foundation.  It’s medium bodied, rich, sweet and leaves you with a bitter reminder in the back of your throat.  (your Brokeback joke goes here)  It’s a 6.66% ABV and 66.6 IBUs (now that’s diabolical!) and it really tastes like a small batch craft brew.  I had one at their tap room and also bought some in Ludington, MI at a Meijer’s, and I’m not sure I’ve seen it in the Chicago area.  The bottle shape and label also really appeals to me.  Reminds me of post-Mounty Drewery’s bottles in some way I guess.  All in all a pretty decent IPA.

82/100 IPA

Lexical Gap

Image courtesy of Pollyanna Brewing Company

Image courtesy of Pollyanna Brewing Company

I thought my interest in IPAs was waning until I opened a can of Lexical Gap (Pollyana Brewing Company, Lemont, IL).  My interest in our wonderful language and its correct usage will never wane, so I had to find out what a lexical gap was.  Anyway, the can (yes, canned beer, how retro!) of Lexical Gap pished a hoppy/malty whiff right into my nose.  Lexical Gap pours a hazy gold with a frothy white head and a goodly amount of carbonation, and that head collapses into a lovely, lacy tangle.  Perfect so far.  The bouquet is piney with a touch of sulphur.  Sounds “interesting” but I assure you it’s nice.  It’s “brewed with massive amounts of Citra, Centennial, Simcoe, and Columbus hops” so your hops jones will surely be satisfied by Lexical Gap.  Lexical Gap is dry and hoppy, but a rich, saliva-thickening maltiness does a good job of deflecting some of the attention from the hops.  The mouthfeel is smooth and the 7.3% ABV is well concealed, but you start to feel it after half the pint is gone.  If you enjoy a long, dry finish Lexical Gap will not disappoint.

The fact that canned craft beer is become more popular is interesting too.  Glass bottle snobbery, of which I was guilty of, is becoming less of a thing.  Paradigm shifts are good.  Cans are good.  I pour my beer and let it breathe and warm for a few minutes anyway, so some of my snobbery will always remain.

An excellent IPA, and it’s brewed a mere 3 miles from my home, so I feel good about drinking local.

90/100 IPA

Grapefruit Sculpin

Image courtesy of Ballast Point Brewing Company

Image courtesy of Ballast Point Brewing Company

IPAs often have a grapefruity essence, so why not add actual grapefruit juice to an IPA recipe to make it legit?  That’s what Ballast Point Brewing Company has done with their Grapefruit Sculpin, an IPA that’s worth a try.  Grapefruit Sculpin sure is a beautiful beer.  Orange-gold with a creamy, merengue-like head and lacing to spare.  The bouquet off the head hints at the grapefruit within, but taste and see.  It doesn’t overwhelm but remains an important aspect of the taste profile, getting equal billing with the full malt sweetness and the hops after-dryness.  It’s much more subdued than a grapefruit radler, thank God, and seems like a very natural marriage of disparate ingredients.  You may notice some of the grapefruit notes becoming a bit sharper as it warms, but that may well be a bit of alcohol tang, being 7% ABV.  That’s a good thing though.  Grapefruit Sculpin is well-crafted, well-balanced and not overdone.  Perfect for a warm evening in the screenhouse.  Despite being a year-round offering you should get yours soon, because it’s getting to be the time to start thinking about maltier Oktoberfest beers and put the summer beers up for the season.  Mmmm…Oktoberfest…..

85/100 IPA