Monday, February 28, 2011

New Belgium Ranger IPA

This month I take a stab at one of the larger craft breweries and their hoppy hoptastic hoppiness - Ranger IPA, a beer I've had before but only here and there, never in a concentrated effort to understand and analyze the tastes, scents, and effects that this beer may have on me.  Due to the fact that this beer was part of New Belgium's "Spring Folly Pack", I was only able to consume the minimum 36oz since there were only 3 bottles of Ranger in the multipack itself. Would 3 be enough? Or would I crave more? Read on astute...uhh...readers.
The Beer:
Ranger IPA is something that I've been familiar with for a little over a year. I first tasted it up in Big Sur at an outdoor wedding under the mighty and majestic Redwoods. There couldn't have been a more perfect setting to notice and acknowledge the superior hops added to this beer. It was bitter but pleasant. It had bite yet was smooth. I got drunk but didn't care. Fast forward to almost a year later and I once again found myself face-to-face with this beer that I had fond memories of. This time however, there wouldn't be shots of whiskey, flutes of champagne, or massive amounts of wedding cake to cloud my thoughts about this brew. Similar to last month's Port Brewing Wipeout IPA, the focus of this beer was the hops. Unlike that beer however, New Belgium limited the variety to three different kinds -  Cascade (citrus), Chinook (floral/citrus), and Simcoe (fruity). Personally, I felt the balance was better than the Wipeout IPA. The bitterness was there for sure, but it wasn't cloyingly so. It defined the beer without overwhelming it. It is exactly the heavy-hop blend that I would give to someone to display the American IPA style without worrying about scaring them off. I suppose that's a huge compliment for New Belgium. That said, however, this isn't the beer that'd I'd choose time and time when I'm in the mood for something hop-heavy. It was good, bordering on great. But not phenomenal.
The Buzz:
There isn't too much to delve into here regarding my buzz. Drinking only three 12oz beers that had an abv of 6.5%, I wasn't expecting to be floored the way Barely Wines or Imperial Stouts might do to me at similar quantities. But I did feel that nice low-level buzz during and after the third beer. It's that perfect buzz that I relate to summertime Sunday's on vacation. The type of buzz that is perfectly acceptable for the middle of the afternoon while starting the grill or smoker and hanging out with your dogs enjoying the warm sun and crisp breeze. It's the buzz that extends for hours on end culminating in an early evening power nap to the sounds of live recordings of Pearl Jam or Springsteen. It's that buzz that perfectly sets up an epic night of partying and/or good times with good friends. How ironic then, that I had this buzz mid-February in 40 degree California rain on the couch alone while I watched a UFC event that featured a man knocking out another man by kicking him square in the face and then thanking Steven Segal for showing him that move (the previous sentence is all entirely true...go research it). So while Ranger IPA provided a good buzz, this was one of those instances where I wish I had had a fourth beer to extend that good-time feeling just a little longer.
The Hangover:
After a few days and even weeks passed, I can say for certainty that I had no hangover whatsoever from Ranger IPA. However, at the time - the immediate day after - it was not as easy to assess. You see, during the day of the test, I had a two-hour Muay Thai Kickboxing class that completely destroyed me. My coach for some reason or another decided to turn it up to 11 and beat us into the ground. Imagine one of those Bootcamp Fitness classes but with boxing gloves and full contact combat. Now imagine that for 120 minutes non-stop, culminating in a one-on-one with the coach himself (a seasoned professional fighter). Well, needless to say, my body was bruised and battered inside and out. And while a night of nursing 3 beers helped soothe those pains, the following morning only highlighted all those ailments the beer was covering the night before. Walking, talking, and interacting with anything outside of a couch were all too taxing for my body. My wife even questioned if I was hungover or not, but the pains were strictly external and certainly equated to the intensity of my exercise and not the severity of my consumption.

The Verdict:
So New Belgium's Ranger IPA seems to harbor all the qualities and complexities of a stereotypical Mendoza brew. Its perfectly acceptable for any time you need a quality hop-heavy beer and would even do well in the summer when you want something heavier than session beer to drink throughout the day. And furthermore, it's a perfect beer for New Belgium to pack inside their new Folly Pack. Alongside their other offerings, it's easy to see why New Belgium is now behind only Sierra Nevada & Sam Adams in terms of craft brewery size. I'd be interested in revisiting Ranger IPA in the future for many different occasions, but I don't know how often I'd choose it over another brew when walking the aisles or picking from tap lists.
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