And so it must seem strange that, for the longest time, American beer was among the blandest in the entire planet (and a lot of it still is).
It's not really America's fault - the same thing happened in Canada, and to a lesser extent the UK - but then again, its Americans who drank the damn stuff, so they can still bear the blame. Following the disastrous experiment with Prohibition (1919-1933) and coinciding with the rise of mass-market consumerism, America's breweries became fewer in number and offered products that were essentially indiscernible from one another. Brewhouses became more concerned with image, advertising and "branding" of their product, regardless of how the beer tasted. And boy, was it bland. Based on market research, brewers determined that consumers wanted a beer that was lighter, easier to drink and, thanks to the fitness-crazed 1970s, lower in calories. Though "light beer" has been around for millennia (the ancient Sumerians had a beer designed to "reduce the waist" as much as five thousand years ago), the Americans brought it to its current pre-eminence, starting with Miller Lite in 1973. Thanks to an ingenious advertising campaign, what should have been derided as being "diet" beers have now become intrinsically connected to American 'masculinity' (by which I mean masculinity as defined by Maxim Magazine and Spike TV). The non-light stuff wasn't much better; pale lagers like Budweiser, Old Milwaukee and Schlitz, made with adjunct hops and cheaper ingredients all pretty much taste like grainy fizz.
|American hops, ready for brewing!|
American-style IPAs and Double IPAs are a bit hard to come by in this province; the first beer of the review was a gift from a friend of mine in Minnesota, and the second is an LCBO seasonal brew that probably won't be here for too long. Every once in a while you might see Dogfish Head 60 Minute, Southern Tier IPA or other brews like these kicking about, but I can't say I've seen them for a long time. Head down to the States, however, and you'll find beers like these everywhere. (Though its not a style Canadian craft brewers traditionally have worked with, it's cropped up more and more recently; Flying Monkey's Smash Bomb Atomic IPA is an excellent example of the style and should be in the LCBO at some point this year!)
Enough stalling - on with the reviews!
Poured into a nonic. A nice bright copper-amber brew that left a thick, creamy head. Tons of lacing here, while the head survives as a thick ring. Some sediment flakes are suspended throughout the glass. Looks brilliant.
Nose is wonderful hoppy goodness. Grapefruit, earth, tropical fruit, resin, toffee, bread. Could have been a touch stronger, but man was this nice.
A great IPA that delivers a hoppy blast in a big way. Starts with a bitter citrus hoppy blast, mellows for a moment to let the malts and sweet fruits (mango, lychee) get some attention, before another bitter hoppy wave hits you on the way out. The finish is very long and hoppy. Terrific stuff.
Slightly creamy, thinner bodied, mild but potent carbonation. I could sip this all night.
Definitely did not disappoint. I haven't had a good American craft IPA in a while and this was a great brew to break that fast. Surprisingly balanced, fruity, yet of course the hops steal the show. Wish I could have more of this...one will not suffice! Unfortunately, I might have to wait for some time before I can have another of these; near as I can tell, Surly's distribution is pretty well restricted to Minnesota and a few scattered specialty beer shops in nearby states. Yet another reason for a road trip... (Grade: A)
Beer: Southern Tier Imperial Gemini
Brewery: Southern Tier (Lakeport, NY)
Type: Double IPA