It's that time again: free beer has entered my mailbox (or, in this case, Indy IT director/Focus on the Beer
co-founder Ryan Hannigan's mailbox), so I offer the following review.
Fort Collins-based New Belgium Brewing Company
sent us two bottles of their Voodoo Ranger Juicy Haze IPA, an East Coast-style IPA defined less by the bitter alpha acids in hops and more by their aromatic terpene compounds, the result of adding the hops later in the brewing process. It's a new release from the brewery, to be available year-round. It's out in bottles and on draft now, with four-packs of pint cans set to come out in March.
A press release says it's the first of four New Belgium special releases set for 2018. It's also the fourth Voodoo Ranger variant, alongside an IPA, Imperial IPA and 8 Hop Pale Ale.
Right off, this cloudy, golden Juicy Haze IPA sips with a citrus note that reads mandarin oranges and something funky. More of aroma/flavor compounds in the Citra, Cascade, Centennial, Simcoe, and Nugget hops used in this beer have stuck around than one might expect from most beers, leading to a more complicated flavor that tastes more like a hop flower.
There's almost no bitterness to be found until the end of the sip, cleaning off a leading sweetness and leaving a lingering coating on the tongue. It's also impressively fresh — I've had homebrews go into the bottle tasting like this, though there has been some mellowing. Surprisingly, this 7.5 percent ABV beer was brewed with a hefeweizen yeast, which probably bolsters the haziness and the almost-sticky mouthfeel.
Hannigan, when he shared this beer with me, talked about "implied bitterness" from the hops. It's an interesting way to balance out everything else going on in the beer, and I've found it can make hoppy beers accessible to people who would otherwise balk at actual, direct-hop bitterness. For more experienced drinkers, beers like this can give people a new perspective on the flavor profiles of various hops.
But all told, I won't be seeking this out on my own. I dig that bitterness that East Coast IPAs tend to eschew, and this beer cloys my palate a little more than I'd like. But it's definitely an interesting beer, and from a beer nerd standpoint, I respect what they appear to be going for.