Tonight’s beer is one that I’ve been daring myself to try for many weeks. On my last visit to the beloved Morris Beer Store I resolved myself to delve deeper into the realm of the pale ales, those hoppy beers wearing wifebeater tanktops. I had one beer in mind and that beer was brewed by the those great folks at Three Floyds Brewing out of Munster, Indiana, a strones thow* just down I-80. Their Robert the Bruce Scottish Ale and Gumballhead wheat beer still sit in my memories alongside the plans to visit their brewery in the near future.
The beer I chose to review and also to challenge myself was their Alpha King Pale Ale. This beer was always there on the shelf. I looked at it maybe 20 times on 20 previous visits. Now was the time to buy it and try it. Hell, just above the hole in the sixpack carton was the phrase, It’s not NormaI. Finding some sort of identity with the statement, I grabbed the sixer of Alpha King and proceeded to the checkout. Minus 11 (yes, eleven) Illini-bucks, I ambled out the door, ruminating about the state of the Illinois government, the cost of beer and the bitterness of hops.
Upon further review, the bottle labels state:
ALPHA KING IS AN AMERICAN PALE ALE WITH A BOLD CITRUS HOP CHARACTER. WE BREW ALL OUR BEERS FOR OUR OWN DEMANDING TASTES. IF YOU’RE UNWILLING TO COMPROMISE ON YOUR BEER, WE URGE YOU TO TRY IT.
(The caps is all theirs. It’s a font thing.)
Hmm. How does one compromise on one’s beer? Perhaps I should ask the Bud/Miller/Coors guys. Perhaps not.
Friday night arrived late for me a little later than usual, having had a previous engagement, but I was more than ready to dig into the world of beer from the hopside of town. The first Alpha King left its carton and made its way to my glass.
The beer poured up a nice orange color and the head was rather sparse but there were plenty of ascending bubbles. The liquid itself was a bit cloudy but the gang of bubbles could easily be seen. The aroma was slight but I’m sure the taste will have a surprise waiting on the other side of the first sip.
That sip yielded a massive explosion of flavors, predominantly the hops which were disguised as a grapefruit. That breakfast fruit flavor is probably its best feature. To dissect the sip, the front has a nice sweetness to it, not overbearing at all. The middle had the grapefruit flavor and added to the overall enjoyment of the taste. The swallow, surprisingly, was just a swallow. It seems that the hop bang was brewed into the middle of the sip, wearing a grapefruit mask.
Of course I had my qualms about buying and reviewing this beer, knowing that pale ales are a akin to the extremely hoppy IPAs, but I had it in my mind to get my taste buds used to the extra bitterness and try this pale ale, believing that pale ales were slightly less hoppy than their IPA cousins. This beer just threw my thinking way out of kilter.
No matter how I tried to warp my brain into recognizing the hoppiness of this beer, there it was, on my tongue, tasting like grapefruit. All beer. And fruit, without the pulp and the traditional squirting in the eye. The malt flavors are there, the sweetness is there and the hops are there. But what a nice way to blend them together. As the sixpack carton handle stated, “It’s not normal.” I agree totally.
The more I sipped on this beer the more I liked it and the more I appreciated the guys who rave over these hoppy beers. Thrown into that mix, add the brewers at Three Floyds for making a beer which is tasty and flavorful and doesn’t destroy your tonsils on the way down. At 66 IBUs, this is rated high in bitterness in my head. But when I taste how the hops blend in with the rest of the ingredients in this beer, I must give proper credit to the 3F’s brewmasters. This is a helluva good tasting beer.
If you’re tired of, or not in the mood for a lager, porter or stout, try this pale ale. It will awaken your taste buds and give you new appreciation into the ingredients used and the art of the microbrew. It’s a blast of different air to your well-being and will give you a renewed appreciation for the beverage you like to drink. Alpha King is not a hop bootcamp for your tongue, but rather an Albert in Wonderland experience. I might even add that this beer is fun to drink. It certainly surprised the hell out of me.
Taste: A- > Fruity tickles in a bottle.
Smoothness: B > Primered fender freshly sanded.
Drinkability: B- > May get old after 5 or 6.
Bang for the buck: C+ > Almost 2 bucks each; still cheaper than drinking gasoline.
* Firesign Theater.
About Three Floyds
(All audio. Sit back. Enjoy the rest of your beer. Then find part 2 somewhere below.)