"I was a bit surprised by how hazy the beers were overall, even taking into consideration the dry hopping. In fact, we’ve seen plenty of hazy beers in Oregon (not just the ones made with wheat). I guess there is a pun in there about 'partly cloudy...'"I was reminded of this observation by Stan Hieronymus--made after he passed through Portland last year--when I poured out a bottle of the new Ranger IPA from New Belgium. Because, man, is it clear. Light lager clear. Hawaiian water clear. Cascade Mountain--well, just look:
This contrasts the partly-cloudy pours of our own IPAs, as Stan noted. But I was trying to think--isn't this at the very least a West Coast proclivity? I don't recall being suprised at the clarity of California IPAs. I did a bit of looking about to see if there were regional differences, but photographs are never conclusive. One thing I did notice was how much less interest in IPAs Coloradans seem to evince. In the NW, it's almost a sure bet that a brewery has one IPA (unless they're quirky and offbeat), and many have two, three, or more.
Not so in Colorado. Ranger is New Belgium's debut (not surprising for a brewery devoted to Belgian-style ales). But Breckenridge also recently introduced their first. Oskar Blues has none. Wynkoop, nada. The one really high-profile IPA from Colorado I can think of is Great Divide's Titan. I'm not exactly an expert on Colorado, but my sense is that folks there prefer cleaner, smaller, and less-hoppy beers. They like a good lager, and they like balance. As a consequence, IPAs just aren't that big a deal.
So when we consider Ranger, even though it will be a nationally-distributed beer, we must recognize that it's a Colorado IPA. They're not getting into any arms races over IBUs, funk, or haziness. It is a very clean, crisp beer, with less body and resinous stickiness than we've come to expect. Some of the cues are missing, so NW beer drinkers may not recognize that it tops out at 6.5% and 70 IBUs--but it does. Ranger's different in other ways, too. Even though New Belgium has employed three very common, NW hops--Simcoe, Cascase, and Chinook--they seem to rely on the spicy woodiness of the Chinooks to distinguish the beer. It doesn't have that deeply tangy citrus many local IPAs have. Rather, it's so spicy I got a kind of mustard greens crackle.
It's not going to be for everyone, but I predict Coloradans will love it. It probably won't make a major dent in IPA sales in Beervana, though. We likes our skies and our beer cloudy.
PHOTOS: BRIDGEPORT IPA BY RELZ, RANGER BY LIFE IS GOOD (PETE)