Sunday, January 10, 2010

IPA Series: Race To The Bottom (of Your Glass) - Racer 5 IPA

"Aw, hell," I exclaimed. It was the first time I'd ever dreaded finding out that one of my favorite beers was on tap. I was at the Map Room with a buddy of mine. After a bender the night before, I had decided that I wouldn't be drinking that day. Intelligently, I decided to meet a couple of friends at a bar, which certainly lent itself to remaining on the wagon. And it wasn't just any bar, but the venerable Map Room with it's chalkboard of selections and varied tap of great craft brews. Oh yes. But, I courageously fought the urge as they downed beers and BBQ - until I was on the way out. After remarking to my buddy that the only thing I craved at that point was a Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA, which wasn't listed as being on tap, my friend happened to ask if they had anything new but unlisted. The bartender informed us that they indeed had - of all things - Racer 5, but they had just gotten a fresh batch and hadn't updated the tap labels. A new bender was on.

Why am I writing about this particular IPA? Racer 5 is not *the* best IPA on the market. It represents no special brewing process, barreling, aging, or flavoring. It's got a solid pedigree - Bear Republic produces some of the most manly, steady, heady beers out there. Their Hop Rod Rye and Big Bear Stout are probably more unusual and limits-pushing than Racer 5. I just have a huge beer crush on the Racer.

Maybe it's the packaging, with that cartoonish, badly-shaped "Racer 5" that shows the brewer is not overly-serious. Compare it to Lost Abbey's heavy-handed saintly packaging. It's probably got more to do with the fact that it's such an unpretentious brew. It has a cloudy, orange-yellow color, like a hazy sun on a humid day. The citrus hop odor is strong and direct. It offers a slightly creamy texture, but has a softer bitterness that finishes with a tempered but incisive hop bite. The hop oils are highly prevalent. It nips at you the way a good whiskey does and gradually smooths things out before the next sip.

HOLY WATER, DRINK, DOWN THE SINK? Drink it, every time you want an enjoyable beer. This would be my version of Miller Lite: a beer that should always be available. Even if it's not the prettiest girl in the room it still thrills. I knocked back a few of these on Thanksgiving and started feeling pretty thankful for the good folks at Bear Republic. Thanks for improving my drinking life, even if you're ruining my liver.

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