Beer: Now That’s What I Call Juice (New England Juicy IPA with Guava Added)
Brewery: Southern Range Brewing Company (Monroe, NC)
The purple can with hot pink lettering was an instant eye-catcher. The mail order compact disc homage of the name and design made this can an easy, “Why the hell not?” The courteous new staffers at the Quik Shop popped the pull tap, handed me a glass and I shot back outside, taking no care at all to reduce the risk of skunking. It was Sunday Funday and I was off to see the drizzard. You’ll learn the lingo later, just go with me for now.
If you’re a craft beer veteran, then you’ll be an old friend of the luscious pine and citrus rind bitterness of the amber-hued and crystal clear American IPA, a subcategory that came to define the IPA. Like many a-friend, IPA went through a rough patch, where our palates were wrecked and hops tore down whole city blocks during epic battles with fictional komodo dragons. Only the most waxed of our beards stayed. Only the most flannel clad survived.
If you haven’t heard already, the New England Style IPA is none of that stuff. Despite a megadose of hops, these beers don’t fit the casual descriptor “hoppy”. Throw your lumberjack porn IPA away and enter the JUICE BOMB. The style is a great gateway for the craft novice because of the refreshing and juice–like quality, but also because of the lesson it teaches about craft beer: give it a chance. Sometimes styles change meanings in a span of just a few years. The Brits like to blame it on those experimental Americans. Everything comes full circle and craft beer is both a steadfast friend and fickle lover.
The New England Style IPA can sometimes feel soft on the tongue due to the generous dosing of hops, the clumping together of yeast at the bottom of a bottle (known as flocculation), and, in some cases, the addition of oats. Be prepared. The NE IPAs are NOT going to stroke your “crisp” spot. Brewers are going for adjectives like “fluffy”, “soft” and “juicy”. As for Southern Range’s Now That’s What I Call Juice in particular, it hits the spot for a hot day, where you want a glass of the tropics and a buzz. The guava notes are more of a hint than a driver of the beer, which, I think, makes it more refreshing. Guava tends to the thick cloying side of fruits and can sometimes overpower a mimosa, a cocktail or an OJ. Southern Range did a great job with nuance and sleight of hand to allow guava to play, but not bully. It had a bright fruity aroma and the price was more than approachable in a market where some 16oz cans are upward of $5.99, or $15.99 for a four pack. Even better, I got it pretty darned fresh. I will warn: be wary of this style in low volume shops as they don’t hold up well. I would avoid any New England style IPA after eight weeks of packaging unless you get a great deal.
All in all, if this is what Southern Range has to offer, then Monroe, NC should be very proud.