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Belt’s Beer Garden: Haze of our lives

Two hazy IPA: Heretic’s Make America Juicy Again & Sketchbook’s Insufficient Clearance

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Hazy, New England, Northeastern, Juicy...there’s a ton of names for the newest fad in craft beer. And, which ever name you pick, these incredibly hazy, almost orange juice like, brews are going to keep coming from more and more breweries. Today I have two from different sides of the nation...neither of which are actually on the east side of the country.

First up, a new local favorite of mine.

Sketchbook really amazed me with their Orange Door IPA…it was all that I wanted and then some. So, when I found myself a mere five miles from the brewery one day, I made the quick journey to see what else they had to offer.

The Evanston, Illinois brewery is still only available near Chicago (it’s still not even out by me yet and I’m only some 45 miles west of the City) and offers just a few of their brews in four-packs of 16-ounce cans.

One that stood out to me was their Insufficient Clearance…a NE IPA made with Citra, Mosaic, and Simcoe hops. This brew might only have a 5% ABV and come packed with a moderate 65 IBU but it also has another distinguishing feature…just a few months ago Draft Magazine ranked this the 19th best IPA in America! So yeah, shelling out the $13 for the four pints was a no-brainer.

Insufficient Clearance poured a surprisingly translucent light copper color with a finger and a half of white head that very quickly fizzled away into a small coating of bubbles across the top of the beer.

This “East Coast IPA” had an amazingly juicy aroma. It was filled with the usual suspects – orange, lemon, and grapefruit. But there was also a slight tropical scent to it that featured pineapple, mango, and some light melon.

My first taste began with a rush of carbonation that stung my tongue for the duration of the sip. But, atop the carbonated sting, the flavors really pushed forward.

It was filled with bursts of orange and grapefruit flavors. Those really took control of the taste up front. But, behind those, was some lemon and light pineapple tartness along with a slightly bready, slightly caramel malt backing that didn’t do anything to take away from the flavors but, instead, added some sweetness and balanced it out nicely.

At the end of the taste, as the flavors begin to fade, the 65 IBU show themselves some by imparting slight bitterness that sits on my taste buds long after the beer has left. Joining the hoppy bite is a citrus fruit flavor that adds some dryness and some stickiness.

What really stood out to me was the level of lacing the few bubbles that remained were able to accomplish. Instead of clear sip-lines the foam went all out and coated basically the entire glass with stringy bubbles that only had a few broken patches.

Insufficient Clearance is the fourth beer I’ve had from Sketchbook…and none of them have disappointed! Would I say this is one of the top-20 IPAs in America? Probably not…but it was close. It was super delicious and pretty juicy…although, I was hoping for more juice and less bitterness but oh well.

I’m giving this the same rating that I gave Orange Door because they were both so damn good! But…if you forced to choose between the two, I’d say Orange Door wins by a hair. However, that doesn’t mean you should skip this beer…it’s really good too!

Secondly, I have a beer from a lot farther from home - Heretic’s Make America Juicy Again.

Heretic has quickly become one of the most reviewed breweries on BBG this year. This is their third brew since March I’ve reviewed…but they just keep being so good that I want to try more and more of their brews.

The Fairfield, California brewery has increased its distribution since I last wrote about them though! They are now available in Alabama, California, Hawaii, Idaho, all of northern Illinois, Massachusetts, North Carolina, southeastern Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, and the following bigger cities: Indianapolis, Miami area, and Portland, Oregon.

One of their newest beers to hit shelves in by me is their New England-Style IPA, Make America Juicy Again, which of course I needed to try.

Make America Juicy Again is dry-hopped to hell and back and has a modest 6.5% ABV and around 40 IBUs. The six-pack of cans costs just a tad over the norm at $10.99.

This brew poured a light straw color but was not nearly as hazy as I had thought it would be. It did have a nice finger and a half of densely packed pure white foam topping the beer and smelled wonderful.

The aroma, like all NE IPAs, was insanely juicy but what set this apart is that, instead of oranges being the main fruit, this was much more tropical. Huge notes of pineapple, mango, and passion fruit flowed freely from it. Behind the tropical fruits were the usual suspects of orange and lemon but this was a nice departure from the standard NE IPA.

When the beer hit my tongue, it was on the creamier and smooth side but with a tiny rush of carbonation. The flavors slowly built up but, once they hit, they made an impact.

Like the aroma indicated, there was a citrus blend of pineapple, mango, orange, and lemon but with a surprisingly hoppy bite (not really bitter, just hop-forward). The tropical flavors are complimented with some lightly toasted malts that don’t really add much to the taste…just a slight sweetness and a hint of breadiness.

It was less juicy than I imaged it would be (or than the label would indicate) but still tasty none-the-less. There was the hoppy, West Coast IPA bite that I have come to expect and love from Heretic but it was certainly more subdued from the excessive double dry-hopping and, therefore, more palatable.

The thick bubbles remained throughout the entire duration of the beer and, by the time I had finished drinking, my whole covered in splotchy but thick layers of foam.

As far as it goes, it’s a very tasty beer but not your typical NE IPA. There is a little more bitterness to it and the flavors vary some from that of a traditional one. Make America Juicy Again is more like a semi-juicy West Coast IPA…a combination of both styles more than anything.

It’s tropical, sessionable, and for the price you can’t go wrong if you like either or both NE IPAs or West Coast IPAs.