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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Assorted Thoughts Provoked by Ranger IPA

"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.


  1. I vastly prefer Avery's IPA offerings - their IPA and their imperial, Majaraja are quite good. Their Dugana IPA is a notch above those two though, and pretty clear. Other than that, Stone IPA is pretty darn clear and very hoppy as well. If I'm not mistaken, Breckenridge's small batch double IPA has been made 07 or maybe a bit earlier. The Lucky U is their first regular IPA I think.

  2. I don't think Colorado's breweries are well-represented in Oregon. They seem to be more interested in distributing to points east than west, probably because the West Coast market is so saturated.

    One thing about New Belgium: they have never had a typical lineup of English-style ales. Check it out: Fat Tire (a red), Sunshine Wheat, Blue Paddle Pilsener and 1554, a Belgian-inspired dark lager. No brown ale, no ESB, no porter, no stout, etc. It's just not what they do.

    Second, to too many Oregon craft-beer drinkers, New Belgium is Colorado. As Fowl Birdwatcher says, Avery's IPAs are quite good. Especially the standard IPA, I think. One of my local breweries, Ska Brewing, is finding a widening audience for its Modus Hoperandi IPA and Decadent Imperial IPA.

    There are good IPAs to be had in Colorado, but many of them are not
    distributed in Oregon.

  3. Whats the deal with 1554? I can't figure out what it's trying to be.

  4. I have a simple thought too! WHY?

  5. Foxy... read the bottle...

  6. Ska Brewing out of Durango has a GREAT IPA called Modus Hoperandi. Also, Oskar Blues Gordon is a stellar imperial IPA. Those are probably the two best examples I can think of. Unfortunately the Modus Hoperandi isn't available in Oregon.

  7. I think Colorado breweries have a decent number of IPAs. Maybe not the 1.5 IPA per brewery ration that we enjoy here on the west coast, but still a good deal more than states further east.

    Besides some of the ones already listed, I've tried Boulder's Mojo (IPA) and Mojo Risin' (IIPA), Odell's IPA and Left Hand's fresh-hopped Warrior (seasonally).

    I'll also second Matt the Ska's IPA is pretty good. And if the bottles haven't changed, they are adorned with some cool pop-art labels.


  8. I don't want to oversell the idea that Colorado doesn't like IPAs, but you should take a spin through a few of the high-profile breweries there and see the beer lines. They're quite a bit different from our own. The emphasis on hops is definitely constrained. Where IPAs do exist, I still maintain they differ from ours in the main.

    I should add that I celebrate this. It's fantastic that we have regional beer preferences. It represents the maturation of the US as a beer drinking nation.

  9. Yeah, they certainly are different. I really love Oskar Blues Gordon, but it is far from a Northwest, even West Coast, IPA. The Ska Modus Hoperandi is more of a NW example. It has that citrus, pine, astringent alpha-like bitterness that the hop heads in the NW crave.

    @ Kevin, I haven't seen the bottles. A six pack of cans was brought to me during the fall. It was a pleasure drinking them. If there's anywhere that is into canning as much as Oregon, it's Colorado. Ska, New Belgium, Oskar Blues, and I even think Steamworks (is that the brewery I'm thinking of?) all can.

  10. I just want to point out that Breck has had a stellar IPA available for at least a couple years: Small Batch #471. The name doesn't scream IPA, but it will turn the head of any NW IPA fan.

    - ASG

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  12. @Matthew - I believe Gordon is an Imperial Red.