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Belt’s Beer Garden: Getting Some R&R

Rogue’s Straight Outta Newport...Oregon & Ravinia’s Steep Ravine

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For those that don’t know, R&R stands for “rest and recuperation” and what better way to rest up and recuperate than with a few brews...especially from Rouge & Ravinia.

First up, a newcomer, Ravinia.

Ravinia calls Highland Park, Illinois, a northern suburb of Chicago, home and has been brewing for a few years now but their cans have finally hit shelves around Chicagoland so I was able to finally try them.

They have four brews released right now; a porter, saison, lager, and IPA.

The obvious choice for me was their staple IPA, Steep Ravine, which is made with Chinook and Citra hops. The six-pack runs the standard $10 with each can containing a solid 7.25% ABV and just 40 IBU.

Late last year The Hop Review even included this brew in their “Top Beers from BeerHoptacular” list…so I’m going into this review with some high expectations.

Steep Ravine poured a cloudy orangey copper color with more than a finger of off-white foam protecting the liquid below. It quickly fizzled down to a mere dusting but left some moderate lacing on its way out.

This beer was bursting with citrus flavors up front – lemon, grapefruit, tangerine, and other tropical fruits. Behind the citrus was solid malt backing that really seemed to calm the hops down and added some sweet caramel and a dash of breadiness.

My first sip began with a moderate fizzle of carbonation that slowly died out before the flavors really began to pop. And, just like the aroma, this IPA was surprisingly balanced.

A slightly bitter bite did hit up front but quickly gave way to the citrus fruits, allowing for notes of lemon, grapefruit, and orange to flood my taste buds.

Midway through it all the malts were quick to follow with a very nice sweetness, slicing the bitterness from the hops and providing some crackery and caramel undertones that played well with the tropical flavors.

Steep Ravine ends with one final pop from the hops, as a slightly bitter pine flavor pounced before all the flavors began to fade. And, for the most part, this brew ends cleanly with just a dash of dryness and the tiniest bit of bitterness lingering on afterwards.

The 7.25% ABV was hidden entirely and those 40 IBU were only noticeable at the start and end of each swig. For as sticky as the foam was when first poured, it left surprisingly little lacing as the beer was excavated from my cup – the walls were almost completely clean with just a few stringy lines that clung to the glass up top where the beer initially was.

Overall this was a vary easy to drink, very balanced brew. The hops and malts compliment each other well and created some nice, although sweeter, tropical citrus and caramel flavors.

I ended up drinking this beer much faster than I thought I would. The flavors weren’t amazing and nothing blew me away…but it was so easy to drink. This was a very sessionable, very balanced IPA.

Up next, one of Rogue’s newer releases.

Rogue is one of the country’s oldest independent breweries and helped spark this craft beer revolution when they opened in Ashland, Oregon back in 1988. You can find them all across America so there’s no reason to not grab one of their beers.

I picked one of their new specialty releases – Straight Outta Newport…Oregon – a west coast IPA made with Citra, Comet, and Mosaic hops. The beer packs a wallop with an 8.7% ABV and 73 IBU…but it does not come cheap. A four-pack of 16-ounce cans costs $14.99.

The beer poured a light copper color with roughly two fingers of slightly off-white head billowing upwards. The bubbles had some nice staying power and clung to the glass nicely as they slowly fizzled down.

Straight Outta Newport was bursting with citrus aromas and smelled somewhat juicy but with a strong hop presence. Mango, orange, grapefruit, tangerine, and some light zesty lemon led the way but there was a light pine quality, some bitterness, and a sweet caramel malt backing underneath the citrus.

My first swig started with a small amount of carbonation fizzing on my tongue before the citrus exploded across my palate. Grapefruit, mango, papaya, pineapple, and tangerine were the main offenders while a moderate hop bitterness hiding in the background.

The caramel malt added some complimenting sweetness, meshed nicely with the hops, and really cut down on what easily could have been an overly-hoppy brew.

Midway through the hops bring a slightly resinous pine flavor that attempted to combat the tropical fruit flavors. The citrus never wavered though and was able to remain the main offender, with the pine eventually bowing out and taking a backseat.

However, the citrus couldn’t last forever and, towards the backend of it all, a somewhat grassy flavor sprouted up and finished off each taste.

Straight Outta Newport ended rather dry and left a resinous earthy flavor behind as the citrus elements, which had previously controlled the entire flavor, seemed to vanish from the final few moments of it all.

For as high as the ABV and IBU are, they are very well hidden in the flavors. The 8.7% ABV is non-existent while the high bitterness level is calmed nicely by the malt sweetness and massive amount of citrus-ness.

Rogue is one of the country’s best-selling craft breweries…and there’s a reason for that. They create delicious, easy to drink beers…and Straight Outta Newport is just another example of that.

It has great flavors and is very sessionable (especially for being nearly 9%) with the one downfall of this beer being the cost. While it is super tasty…$15 for a four-pack is much harder to swallow than this beer itself.