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Belt's Beer Garden: Midwest is the best

Two brews from America's Heartland

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This week I've got two beers from the Heartland of America. These brews come from states that don't normally get talked about when it comes to craft beer but are proof that you can find good beer all across the nation.

Up first, Kansas' Tallgrass Brewing.

Tallgrass is one of my favorite things from the state of Kansas. I say that because I don’t really know what else that state has to offer (outside of Jayhawk fans and Bill Snyder). They call Manhattan, Kansas home and have been brewing up beers since 2007. Last year they expanded into a new $7 million facility. Currently they are available in 14 states but with this new building they hope to have a nationwide distribution shortly. For now, if you live in the middle of the country you should be able to find their beers.

Top Rope is one of their year-round IPAs and is made with five different hops. Their website points out that this brew has a shelf life of 5 months (150 days) so it’s best to drink it immediately. My bottle tells me I need to consume it by July 17th …but why wait.

The beer pours a cloudy amber color with quite a bit of head building up upon its departure from the can to the glass. Roughly three fingers of off white bubbles sat atop my beer at first. Luckily, it fizzled down pretty quickly and, after about a minute or so, I was able to top off the glass.

On the nose, this IPA certainly has a lot of different qualities. There are loads of tropical citrus fruits – mostly mango, papaya, and grapefruit – but there was also a slightly spicy component to it as well. Bready malts and earthy/piney hops lingered in the background as well. It was quite the plethora of flavors. I was excited to see which would stand out most in the flavor.

Fulfilling my wishes, the citrus fruit came out strongest. The first sip was smooth with a slightly creamy mouthfeel to it followed by a nice mango and grapefruit flavor. On the backend of everything, the bready malts and piney hops kicked in and seemed to be locked in a battle as to which would outshine the other. One sip the malts would cut out the hops and the flavors would end on a sweeter note; then the very next sip would have the hops win and give you a small bitter twang to end it.

Despite all the fizz this beer generated up front, there was not much of a carbonation sting to this beer which, I was surprised by but I liked. The bubbles did, however, spread nicely across my glass as the contents disappeared – leaving a huge web of lacing around the entire thing.

This beer clocks in at 6% ABV and apparently has 80 IBU…but I don’t find it to be that bitter at all. Sure, there were those sips when the hops outdueled the malts but, for the most part, it was a smooth, easy to drink IPA.

Top Rope was quite an enjoyable beer. It has nice flavors, is pretty easy to drink (even with the high IBU rating), and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. A four pack of 16-ounce cans will only run you around $9.99.

Tallgrass is mostly known for their Buffalo Sweat oatmeal stout and their 8-Bit Pale Ale…well 8-Bit used to be my favorite. However, Top Rope is every bit as good as 8-Bit. Check out this beer if you’re a fan of pale ales or IPAs. It’s worth it. 8/10

8 beers

Next up BBG's first beer from the Hawkeye State, Great River's West Coast style IPA.

Great River Brewery is from the Quad Cities - four counties that, ironically, consist of five major cities in Illinois and Iowa that are situated on the Mississippi River. The five cities are, in Illinois Moline, East Moline, and Rock Island and Iowa’s Bettendorf and Davenport. Great River calls Davenport, Iowa home.

Initially Great River began in 2004 and was located in Iowa City. However, in 2008, after a few years all production was moved to Davenport. They brewed their first beer in the new location in February of 2009 and have been packaging and selling beer since early 2010. For now they are only available in a handful of state nearby – Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Wisconsin.

This IPA is loaded with Citra, Magnum, and Amarillo Gold hops to give it a West Coast feel. When I poured the can into my glass, West Coast IPA was a murky dark amber color with just the tiniest amount of head topping it. There was a very thin line of white foam, maybe two centimeters, thick that clung to the edge of my glass nicely. For a West Coast style beer, this one was rather dark, however, I was willing to overlook that because the aroma was amazing.

As soon as I got a whiff I wanted to try this beer…but I was good and decided to write about it all before I imbibed any. There were loads of citrus (grapefruit, mango, tangerine) and piney hops that took over the smell. Behind the hops were some nice bready, and slightly caramel, malts that cut down on the strong hoppiness of the aroma.

My first sip did not disappoint. There was a huge amount of tropical fruits that immediately hit my tongue. Orange, grapefruit, and mango were all there. It was smooth and had just a tiny bit of carbonation to it.

Following the fruit, the malts kicked in to cut out the high hoppiness. Bready malts turned into a caramel malt sweetness that mixed with the orange flavor to end the sip. There was a small hop bitterness that lingered after each sip but for just a tiny moment.

This beer is supposed to be bitter, as it checks in with a huge 96 IBU…however, it was the smoothest 96 IBU I’ve ever had. The 7% ABV is also really well hidden behind all the flavors this brew has to offer.

Great River’s WC IPA has a medium mouthfeel to it but it does end on the drier side of things. There isn’t a ton of lacing as I dispose of the contents, but there are some nice distinct lines across the glass that are left after each sip. Those lines slowly fall down as time passes; but it still is a nice marker to see how much I just drank. And a four pack of 16-ounce cans will only cost you around $8.50, so the price is certainly right! But, for me, so is the taste and aroma.

Overall this beer lives up to its name as a West Coast style IPA. It’s hoppy, it’s heavy on the citrus, and it’s really good. If you’re a hop-head…you need this in your life. 8.5/10

8.5