This week I have an eclectic match of beers - a Belgian-style saison with ginger and a hopped up IPA. As a fan of IPAs, I’ll start with 450 North and their Citrafest.
450 North comes to us from Columbus, Indiana, which is a little bit southeast of Indianapolis. They’ve been brewing up fresh beer since 2012 and now have 10 different beers and three ciders. You can find their beers across the Hoosier state and, from what I saw, some parts of Kentucky too (if not other places too).
While in Danville, Kentucky I stumbled upon their Citrafest session IPA, which had the very reasonable price of $2.99 per 16 ounce can. Citrafest is brewed with mostly Citra hops but some Amarillo and El Dorado are added as well. It clocks in at just 5% ABV and has 45 IBU.
Citrafest poured golden amber color with more head than I was expecting. My first pour resulted in a nearly an overflowing glass of bubbles, as the dense off-white foam built nearly four fingers high in less than a second. And every time I tried to add more beer to top it off, the bubbles built insanely quick and high. For as rapidly as the head appeared, it sure didn’t want to leave; slowly dissipating down leaving a clump of bubbles stuck to the side of the glass.
On the nose this beer had the citrus smell you’d expect from the name – mostly grapefruit with some lemon rind – but also had a hoppy pine undertone to it all. The malts added a bit of caramel and bready sweetness to it, but overall this was on the hoppier side of things.
When I was finally able to get to the beer through all the foam, my first sip was really nice. This session IPA lived up to its name.
There wasn’t nearly as much carbonation dancing on my tongue as I expected from the massive head, instead it was just a gentle tingle of fizz before the flavors showed up. And those flavors were really nice.
The grapefruit and lemon showed up with a slightly hoppy bitterness before the malts added more sweetness and cut down on that hop punch. The taste didn’t stick around for too long as they faded out after just a brief moment on my tongue.
When all was said and done, initially Citrafest left nearly no aftertaste and no real dryness to speak of. The flavors left as quickly as they came. However, as it warmed up the hoppiness picked up some leaving a bitter twinge on the backend.
As the beer was emptied from my tulip glass, the sticky foam laced the glass incredibly well – leaving large clouds clinging to the side of it.
It certainly lived up to its billing as a session IPA. I could drink these all day. The lighter 5% ABV mixed with the nice citrus flavors and light malt sweetness made this a very nice beer. If you’re in Indiana (or the right parts of Kentucky), check them out. 8/10
Secondly, out of San Diego, I have a bottle from The Lost Abbey, who is Port Brewing’s offshoot for abbey-style ales. They are brewed in the same location as Port’s other beers but just target a different crowd.
Currently, there are six year-round beers from the Lost Abbey (all of which are Belgian style beers). You can find their beers in Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, New Jersey, Washington state, and some larger metro areas (Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh).
Red Barn is a saison brewed with ginger, orange peels, black pepper and Grains of Paradise. It comes with a 6.7% ABV and is meant to be served between 45-55° in a tulip glass. And, while I don’t have a thermometer handy…I do have a tulip glass. The 750 mL (25.9 ounce) bottle has a $9.99 price tag attached to it, so it’s not terribly expensive.
This saison poured a light golden copper color with a huge amount of head building up. At its peak, there was probably close to five fingers of sticky dense foam that slowly fades away. As the bubbles retreated downward, they already left lots of lacing down my glass.
Red Barn has the typical saison aroma to it…nothing too fancy, even with the added ginger. There is the Belgian yeast, some floral notes, and a peppery aspect to it. I was able to pick up some ginger but, for the most part, it was pretty faint in the smell.
Once the foam finally cleared and I could get to the beer, the time for my long awaited first sip was finally here.
It started with some sweet caramel malts and a huge carbonation fizz. Then the ginger kicks in with a nice sting that is almost immediately subdued by the orange peel, some lemon zest, and a few other citrus notes.
The black pepper and Grains of Paradise make their appearance last, cleaning up the other flavors and ending the sip with a tiny peppery/acidic aftertaste that lingers in between each sip.
As I expected, after seeing the solid lacing before I even took a sip, the bubbles trek their way down my glass with some huge cloud formations and a couple of well defined lines across the glass.
Even though Red Barn is available year-round, they brewed it mostly for summer months. But, with the first snow of winter just hitting the ground this week, I needed a nice reminder of what we’re missing out on by living in the Midwest instead of the San Diego area - where it’s basically summer all year.
Overall, this was a pretty good saison…a little average but still good. I wish the ginger showed up for more than just a brief moment each sip; even as the beer warmed and the flavors changed a bit, the ginger was still lacking (for me anyways…but I love ginger). It was just too “typical saison” for me. Good but not amazing. 7.5/10