Saturday Night Blue Collar Brew Review –
New Belgium Ranger India Pale Ale

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Friday morning came with sunshine and warmth. The thermometer on the Manly Garage read 108° but it had the sun shining on it all morning. I guessed it to be about 74° with mild breezes. A good man knows his garage thermometer. For my weekly beer run, I’d throw on a lightweight hoodie just in case the world was lying. By the time I hit the Four Seasons Beer Store, the hoodie was a bad idea. Off it came.

As I perused the craft beer shelf, I had the same thoughts I have every week: what’s in season? what’s new? and what am I in the mood for? I asked Barry’s cousin who was behind the counter if they got anything new in. He said a couple of new seasonals will be coming around Wednesday. Crap. Back to the cooler.

I found myself at the end of the bomber section on the warm beer shelf. I glanced up at the top shelf and on display were two entries from New Belgium. One was called just Trippel, the other, Ranger. Hmm. these cartons looked a lot plainer than their Fat Tire and 2 Below full color cartons. My subconscious was probably thinking generic. But I also remembered how eco-conscious New Belgium was and this was probably something perhaps more recyclable or biodegradable in a carton design.

I pulled a bottle of Ranger and read the label. Ranger India Pale Ale. Not much there, but enough to form an opinion. Bottled on date (27Mar11,) ALC. 6.5% BY VOL. and this terse snippet:

Are you a hopinista? Thank our Beer Rangers for inspiring (and begging for) this well-balanced Simcoe, Cascade and Chinook hopped IPA. 70 IBUs.

Hopinista? Beer Rangers? Pfft!

But hell, I could do for a little hoppiness this weekend and the beer was probably in season as well. But who cares? It’s beer! I hoped that this selection would be nicely drinkable and I’d compare how the malts blend their tastes with the hops. That coupled with the fact that New Belgium makes some damn good beers across their entire line clinched it. I checked to see if FS had a sixer already chilled in the cooler. Bingo! There it was. I snatched it and paid the damages of 9 bucks plus tax at the register. No bag, please.

Saturday evening rolled around dragging beer time along with it. It was the perfect evening for a few cold ones out in the garage. At 8:30 it was still a nice 76° and I grabbed the first Ranger and beheaded the cap.

Pouring the beer brought up a nice two-finger head of a slightly yellowish-white color. The tint of the beer itself was a dull drab sort of rusty orange. The liquid was rather translucent and the carbonation was vigorous. The aroma held a nice noseful of hoppiness. A lot of hoppiness.

The first sip was all about the hops. That familiar bitterness permeated throughout the mouth. The liquid had a medium body to it and first tastings brought about a giant slug of bitterness. But it’s still early into the first beer.

I would imagine that this beer was brewed purely as a hop vehicle; nothing fancy and no mixing or complementing of hops and malts and no obvious citrus characteristics. A very slight bit of sweetness crept in deeper into the glass, but there were no obvious tastes of grapefruit, orange or other fruitiness. This beer is one that they call hop-forward.

Now at the bottom of the first glass, the taste of the beer finally woke up my tongue. By this time the beer was a few degrees warmer and that was reflected in the taste. The bitterness calmed down and more of the sweetness came forward. The beer became downright delightful. When I poured the second glassful, I brought out another bottle to let it warm up a bit hoping I’d get all the great aromas and sweet bitterness ratcheted up a bit.

I found this blurb on the New Belgium website for their Ranger IPa:

So, here it finally is, New Belgium’s foray into the true American India Pale Ales. Bring out the hops! This clear amber beauty bursts at the starting gate with an abundance of hops: Cascade (citrus), Chinook (floral/citrus), and Simcoe (fruity) lead off the beer, with Cascade added again for an intense dry hop flavor. Brewed with pale and dark caramel malts that harmonize the hop flavor from start to finish, Ranger is a sessionable splendor for all you hopinistas.

I agree with their description of bursting out of the gates, but not being an expert on hop varieties leaves me staring at their description of citrus and floral and fruity when talking about their choices. The ratio of their pale and dark malts contributes to the overall color and taste of the base beer. Be that as it may but the hops really spice it up. But sitting at 6.5% ABV, the beer could not really be considered sessionable, although slurping down three or four of these IPAs in a sitting on a warm summer night is not out of the question. Sipping on these all afternoon until the sun went down could lead to trouble.

The warmed-up bottle was finally poured and what I believed would happen to the taste did. It was milder and mellower from the git-go. The hops were not so in-your-face bold. Oh, they were still there though, only a little more subdued.

I’d compare this beer to some of the staples in the IPA style, such as Sierra Nevada’s Torpedo or their Celebration Ale. The taste blending of the hops together with the malts is not of the caliber of say, Hopslam or Dreadnaught, and I’m sure it wasn’t intended to be, but it’s an excellent example of the style.

This is great beer for this time of year. Refreshing with a blast at the swallow. If you have misgivings about the color of this beer, just give it a whiff. You’ll be sold.

The SixPackTech ratings for New Belgium Ranger India Pale Ale are:

Taste: B+ > Enlightenment for your mouth.
Smoothness: B+ > A playground slide with a sandpaper bottom.
Drinkability: B+ > Yeah, I could do with another one.
Bang for the buck: B > Right around that 9 dollar price that they’re all going for.
ABV: 6.5%
Wife’s all-encompassing opinion: Smells grapefruity. (sip)… (sip) It’s got a flavor I can’t put my finger on. (sip) What is that? Smells like grapefruit… I can’t place… (sip) A little dry but not bad. The flavor is a citrusy one. (sip) It’s not bad. (The flavor is Mysterium and it’s in every bottle of IPA.)

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