I’ve been on a pale ale kick of late; it’s a seasonal thing, mostly. But I’m digging the hop more and more these days, so I’m sure that factors in as well. And the 90+ degree weather so far this week has me salivating for cold, fresh, bitter beer. Today I went back to a brewery that’s becoming a regular for me. Southern Tier just makes quality beer in my book; it’s as simple as that.

Their IPA is what I’d call a good cross between an American and traditional British style. A generous helping of American citrus hops, but with a nice caramel-honey malt character in the back to balance it all out. Smells fairly mild as IPAs go…looks absolutely awesome. There’s a definite sweetness in the taste that gathers as it warms, so the malts hold their own. It’s refreshing to say the least, and delicious with spicier food, which today happened to be some curried fish my mom picked up from Whole Foods. At 6.9% ABV, it also bites a little bit at the end, making it slightly less sessionable but enhancing the bitterness. Solid craftsmanship.

Still…I get the sense that this IPA exists in the Southern Tier lineup more so because it has to, not because it’s an incredibly unique interpretation of the style. Certainly I’m not accusing Southern Tier founders Phin and Skip of brewing an IPA just to appease the masses. This is a tasty, well-crafted beer. It’s just not jaw-dropping. And Southern Tier’s website recounts that despite the huge success of the IPA at the brewery’s beginning, the other two of their first three beers (a Pilsner and a Mild Ale) were the ones they initially dubbed the “flagship” brews. As an IPA, it just lacks…passion. Do I still recommend it? For sure. But when all’s said and done, I don’t think they’re going to be hanging their hats on this one. With so many other great beers…they don’t really need to.

ABV: 6.9%

Grade: B