Red India pale ales are a delicious alternative to the traditional hop-forward IPAs that precipitate out of breweries like so much ticker tape. They typically play with adding specialty grains to give the beer a bit of a kick in the malt department.
Cat 4 clocks in with 85 IBU and 7.7 percent ABV. Cracking open the can, the beer pours a clear burnt reddish-orange color with a frothy khaki head. It's a gorgeous looking beverage, with a deep coloring that you almost want to fall into. Aromas of nutmeg, pithy but dry citrus, and the playfulness of caramel-like malts show their stuff. A mild woody aspect arrives if you let it simmer under your nose. Taking a sip, the flavor is bitter up front, with a spicy rye character to it — pepper. A back-of-the-tongue-coating resinous hop quality comes through toward the end to round out this India pale ale.
4. Hop of the Muffin IPA from Bangin' Banjo Brewery
Hopped generously with Cascade, Columbus, and Summit, and holding a rounded malt body, this beer propelled itself to the top of the "drink it when you see it" list. It pours a clear amber with a shade toward copper-orange, giving off aromas of Jolly Rancher, tangerine, and sweet and tart citrus in fairly big quantities. The initial nose is subdued, and it appears all of the goodness is being held in by the beer itself.
The body is thicker and fuller than a traditional IPA, which gives a big almost chewy malty backbone to the dance of tropical hop flavors that dominate this beer. All of those same citrus-forward notes from the aroma are present in the flavor, with the addition of slightly resinous finish that closes off each sip.
3. Apple Brandy Barrel Aged Caramel Cream Ale from Due South Brewing Company
What's more fun than taking a years-old staple and experimenting with it? Not much, which is why the brewers and cellarmen at Due South Brewing Co. moved gallons of their flagship Caramel Cream Ale into Laird & Company Apple Brandy barrels to age over the course of months, imparting a new and unique second wind to the old standby.
It pours with a reddish-orange hue that glistens in the afternoon sunlight. The beer appears lighter and more boisterous in this new outfit. There is a small border of foam that hangs about as it is sipped. The aromas are a delight with notes of butterscotch, vanilla, and sweet apple butter. There is a determined nose of "spirits" as well, hinting at the traces of brandy that have made their way into the drink.
Flavors again reminisce of butterscotch, fresh apples, and some mild oak. The taste holds itself with a heft that makes one think twice about if this is the standard Caramel Cream or the Imperial version. I am assured it is the former. Some basic drying character imparted from the wood takes hold at the end, showing that every aspect of this familiar beer has been updated.
2. Wheat Wave from Saltwater Brewery
This is one of Saltwater Brewery's best warm weather beers, which usually means every day.
It's poured with a crystal-clear body that showcases a thin white crown of foam. The aromas are crisp and lager-like, verging on corn and white bread. The flavors are redolent of sweet cracker and biscuit, with a grain-forward profile. The hops that are given witness here are subtle and balancing to the pale malts that make up this beer. As should be to style, there is practically no yeast character evident. This is the beer you buy half barrels of for parties. Even as it warms it remains very drinkable.
At only 4.5 percent ABV, it's a
1. B. Rabbit Espresso Stout from Copperpoint Brewing Company
This creamy nitro stout from this Boynton Beach brewery became an instant favorite when it was released this past May. The brewery had just opened its doors and was already creating beers packed full with memorable flavors.
The beer is made with a generous amount of coffee from local Rabbit Coffee Roasting Co. out of Riviera Beach. It clocks in at just about 6.3 percent ABV. The beer pours what appears to be a solid black with a cascading Guinness-like quality to it (thanks, nitro!), providing both a drink and a show. A centimeter thick crown of khaki foam stays put throughout the entirety of a pint, and it leaves a tremendous amount of lacing on the glass. Held up to a strong light source, however, and we're met with a reddish garnet hue. Quite the sight to be had.
Aromas are redolent of nougat, cream-infused coffee, and chopped English chocolate. The mouthfeel, unsurprisingly for a beer off nitro, is quite creamy, with a milky and silky English chocolate character to it. On the back end, there is some lingering fresh creamy coffee flavors, with no strong bitterness nor astringency to be had. It reminds me of a well brewed cup of Aeropress made coffee.
Doug Fairall is a craft beer blogger who focuses on Florida beers. He is a Certified Beer Server and has been a homebrewer since 2010. For beer things in your Twitter feed, follow him @DougFairall and find the latest beer pics on Clean Plate's Instagram.