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Belt’s Beer Garden: Serious Citrus

Lompoc’s Pamplemousse & BuckleDown’s Grapefruit Belt & Suspenders

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Beer with citrus flavors go together like peanut butter and jelly...it’s just a great relationship. This week I have two citrus infused brews that you need to try and get your hands on!

I’ll start out in the Pacific Northwest with Lompoc’s Pamplemousse.

Lompoc began back in 1996 as Old Lompoc Brewery in Portland, Oregon. They have since dropped the “Old” and, in 2006, they moved in with another brewery (Fifth Quadrant), where they have since produced all of their brews. They now have five locations in Portland and are available throughout Oregon and Washington. The rest of us will just have to visit the Pacific Northwest to try their beers. Luckily I did just that and found their Pamplemousse…which they say is a Citrus IPA.

I’m all for IPA and citrus flavors so I grabbed a bottle as soon as I saw it.

This Citrus IPA is brewed with four different hop varieties and some fresh grapefruit juice to add to the overall fruity-ness of it. At 5.8% it has a tad bit more kick than a normal beer but isn’t anything crazy. A six pack of bottles will run you about $9.99 or a 22-ounce bomber will set you back $4.99.

Pamplemousse is one of Lompoc’s eight year-round beers and pours an orangey copper color with just about a finger of foam that dissolves pretty quickly. Even though there isn’t much, the white head is quite airy and sticky, as it marked the sides of my glass even before I had had a sip.

On the nose I was expecting a smell filled with grapefruit, hops, and other bright fruit flavors…but, instead, this was surprisingly malty for a citrus IPA. While there were grapefruit and tangerine notes hidden underneath, the overwhelming aroma was that of caramel malt and some resinous pine.

Perplexed, I decided to test it out. It starts with a mild carbonation that leads into a nice bouquet of flavors. While the aroma might not have been as fruity as anticipated, the taste sure was there.

A sticky grapefruit flavor struck first and lasted throughout the duration of the sip. But Pamplemousse was more complex and balanced than just a grapefruit flavor. The malt and pine came in waves throughout my tasting. First the caramel sweetness cut into the tart grapefruit before a long hoppy pine flavor ended the sip.

There was a light dryness and a slightly sweet bitterness left on my tongue between sips. Nothing overwhelming though. That bitterness is there and persistent throughout the sip but, at 70 IBU, that’s to be expected and it’s really not even that bitter.

As I drank the beer down, the head continued to stick to my tulip glass; leaving a web-work of lacing down every side, culminating in a tiny bubble-ridge pushed up against the side of the glass.

It was a really balanced IPA with neither the malts nor hops winning the flavor battle. And the citrusy qualities, while there, were not present enough for me to call this a “Citrus IPA”…it was more an IPA with some light grapefruit added.

Overall it was a decent IPA but, again, I really am not sure it can be called a Citrus IPA…it was certainly more of a regular IPA with a dash of grapefruit added. Maybe I just got a bad/old bottle (I don’t see a bottle/brewed on date) and that killed some of the fruity qualities, I’m not sure. But otherwise this was a pretty balanced, easy-drinking brew that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. It wasn’t my favorite from the Northwest but I certainly have had a lot worse. 7.5/10

7.5

Next up, I go back to my home state and picked up a new beer from Lyons, Illinois...which isn’t known for a whole lot (outside of being a suburb of Chicago). But, since January of 2013, BuckleDown Brewing has called Lyons home. They were started by a pair of friends and pride themselves on creative brews and make almost exclusively small-batched beers.

Right now you can only find their beers in and around the Chicagoland area. Recently I found a special beer they made. BuckleDown took their normally really good IPA, Belt and Suspenders, and then decided to add grapefruit to it…which is always a good idea in my opinion.

This brew, like the original, was made with Crystal, Nugget, and Sterling hops and balanced nicely with a few different malts. The 22-ounce bomber comes with a 7% ABV and 68 IBU (which is nearly identical to their regular version) and a cost of $6.99…which, sadly, is a really good deal in Chicago for a bomber.

When poured this beer was a cloudy dark copper, nearly amber, color and had massive head! Over three inches of dense, sticky white foam built up. And, when it finally began to dissipate, it had already left a huge amount of lacing down the glass.

This grapefruit version of Belt and Suspenders gave off a pretty sweet aroma; immense grapefruit notes led the way with some lemon, slightly dank hops, and a light yeasty malt following it up on the backend.

It began with some big, solid carbonation and a medium body. Once the bubbles had fizzed out and the flavors were able to assault my taste buds, it was quite similar to what my nose had previously found.

First and foremost the grapefruit played on my taste buds during the entirety of the sip. But it was a bit more complex than just grapefruit because, as that was going on toward the tip of my tongue, the other qualities hit the back of my palate at the same time.

There were sweet, but subtle, flavors like lemon, orange, and light bready malt that came in waves…once again it was the fruit and hops that led the charge though. The malt was just there to make sure the hops didn’t get out of control…it brought the flavors back down to earth with that surgery sweet caramel and slightly yeast-like flavor.

As I made my way through the beer, the sticky head from the top continued to assert its dominance over the glass; lacing nearly every inch of it with a soft foam as the beer was depleted.

Overall, Buckledown has nailed this grapefruit IPA. I know all they had to do was take their regular version of Belt and Suspenders and throw in some grapefruit…but it works. And it works really well.

Even though it’s 7%, this is still a really sessionable IPA and has great flavors with just a hint of bitterness towards the end. This would be a great IPA to start off new craft beers fans to…or anyone looking to get into IPAs really. It’s tasty, easy to drink, and (for my area) pretty cheap…if you can find it. Hopefully you can 8.5/10

8.5