New Belgium holds a special place in my beer-soaked heart. The brewery provided my gateway to the craft beer world towards the end of college, when I started having a Fat Tire or a Sunshine Wheat in between ping-pong ball garnished Keystone Lights served in red solo cups.
Today, New Belgium is kind of like a band that got too popular and then all the cool kids stop liking it, or so it would seem around some of my beer geek friends and associates. But this isn’t fair, since it’s the same Fat Tire and the same Sunshine wheat. They didn’t pull a Black Eyed Peas on us or anything. Instead it’s that we started demanding behemoth, monster beers with 10 percent alcohol and hops strong enough to make a lumberjack weep. From this lens it’s easy to forget that a lot of people just want quality, flavorful beers that won’t frighten their relatives from Omaha or make them slobbering drunk at the company picnic. New Belgium does this well and deserves its large following.
That being said, Ranger India Pale Ale is an aggressive step forward for the brewery. Considering that IPAs have become a staple for many craft brewers, it is surprising that New Belgium took so long to come out with its version, but it certainly didn’t disappoint.
I tasted this at home after a busy Sunday. This is a good-looking beer, clear, sparkling and golden, just what you think of for an IPA. It also developed a substantial, white head, which dissipated quickly to a nice quarter-inch or so.
The hop aroma wafting from Ranger is very noticeable from several feet, long be for you put the glass up to your mouth. A pine scent dominated for me at first, made me feel like a ranger out in the woods havin’ a beer. Is that frowned upon for rangers? I also noticed some grapefruit-like fruity citrus. Not much alcohol smell.
As expected, Ranger tastes hoppy. The hops come through on the high side, even for an IPA. Nice initial flavor with some sweet malt in the background to counter the hops. I also get a nice hint of lemon zest. However, Ranger is less balanced on the finish, once the malt goes away. It hits you with a strongly bitter aftertaste that is somewhat earthy and lingers for a while. This isn’t necessarily bad for me, but I imagine that it might be over the top for some folks. At 6.5% this beers is pretty high in alcohol, but I don’t get a strong alcohol flavor from it. It is full-bodied and somewhat high on the carbonation, but it ends up feeling soft as it goes down. It’s crisp, but not as much acid burn going down compared to some IPAs.
This is a decent IPA that I enjoy. Although it doesn’t quite break from the IPA pack for me, it is solid. The nice thing about Ranger is that it goes down easier than some IPAs and is therefore a great choice if you plan to have a few, which is sometimes a great choice. Also, it being that I am a cheap bastard and all, I find it on sale frequently, making it a quality beer that is easier on the wallet than some comparable IPAs.