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New PoP Feature: Judging Beers by Sam Fitz – Vol. 1 Ranger IPA

by Prince Of Petworth August 23, 2011 at 12:30 pm 32 Comments

Ed. Note: After we spoke about Fat Tire last week a reader wrote in suggesting a regular feature on beers. As a lover of beer I thought it was a great idea. As a drinker of Budweiser I knew I needed an expert. Welcome Sam Fitz from Meridian Pint who will (along with other guest posters) tackle a beer every week. If you have a specific beer you’d like reviewed let us know in the comments or send me an email at princeofpetworth(at)gmail.

New Belgium 22-ounce bottles are being sent to bars, restaurants and stores across Washington today, but they’re not just distributing Fat Tire. Yes, it is exciting that one of the country’s most sought-after beers will finally be regularly available here in DC, but New Belgium makes a range of other beers well worth drinking. Three of their staples–Ranger IPA, Trippel, and Hoptober Golden Ale (seasonal)–also hit shelves today.

Lips of Faith, New Belgium’s highly prized experimental line of beers, is coming too in the form of two new brews, Clutch and Kick. The first is a dark sour ale and the second a cranberry pumpkin beer that also resides on the sour side.

As exciting an addition as both of these beers are to the already exploding DC beer culture, Ranger IPA, which should be available year-round, is worth a closer look. At 6.5%, Ranger IPA isn’t too boozy but, at a very high 70 International Bitterness Units, it’s a bit of a beast that will leave your palate stripped of the capacity to taste anything else–other than another sip of Ranger, of course. This beer is not for the light-hearted, but it does offer a big bouquet of tastes and aromas that reward those who are brave. Ranger pours a very clear, deep golden color with a moderate amount of off-white head that dissipates fairly quickly. The aromatics of this beer are vibrant and are perhaps its greatest feature. Pleasant but almost abrasive resinous piney smells from Simcoe hops fade into a softer tropical fruit sensation. Cascade (the hop that made Sierra Nevada famous) and Chinook hops impart this grapefruit/pineapple presence that is enhanced by additional dry-hopping with Cascade.

The first sip is surprising. Initially, the beer is light on the palate, Pale and Dark Caramel malts make themselves known but don’t overwhelm, but then the dry, grapefruit pith-like bitterness explodes and lingers long after swallowing. This definitely is a West Coast-style IPA, and it’s certainly not for everyone but, like the rest of the New Belgium line, it’s undeniably worth a try.

Sam Fitz is a Certified Cicerone® and the Beer Director at Meridian Pint and soon to open Smoke & Barrel.

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