Grateful Red's release is well-timed for the Badgers' appearance in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. Brewmaster Ashley Kinart says that offering a hoppy red has been the plan for some time; with the Badgers in the NCAA Tournament, the tap release was pushed up. Bottles and cans won't be on shelves until April.
What is it? Grateful Red IPA by Capital Brewery of Middleton.
Style: The India Pale Ale (IPA) emphasizes the bitterness of hops, which give an herbal, citrus and piney character to both aroma and flavor. IPAs are medium-bodied and often golden- to copper-colored. They range from 5.5% to 7.5% ABV. When the dominant hops are American grown, it may be called an American IPA, to distinguish it from the English IPA.
The beer gets much of its reddish-tint from a specialty grain called Best Red X. Its hoppy flavor comes from a combination of Warrior, Apollo, Simcoe and an experimental hop that is so new it only has a number and not an official variety name. "It's fun to play with these hops, especially the experimental ones, and to find a unique direction for the flavor profile," explains Kinart. All of the hops are U.S.-grown.
Grateful Red finishes at 5.3% ABV and 65 IBUs. It's currently available around Madison in taphouses and sports bars, and in the brewery's bier stube, where it's sold in pints for $4 and growlers for $12 (refill). The brewery will be releasing it in 12-ounce bottles and cans beginning in early April.
Appearance: Deep amber color with dark reddish-bronze hues. A medium soft, light tan head.
Texture: Medium bodied, bubbly and round.
Taste: A sharp piney hop forward bitterness that becomes a more complex and spicy-bitterness. Some nice maltiness that offers a bit of balance.
Finish/Aftertaste: The piney bitterness continues with a light dryness.
Glassware: The Willi Becher, with its inward taper near the lip, is a great way to focus the hoppy aroma of an assertive IPA like Grateful Red. However, the brewery has come out with a commemorative (standard bar) pint glass. Such standard bar pints don't do much for the beer, but the Grateful Red logo glass will let everyone know where you stand while watching the Badgers.
Pairs well with: Spicy foods go well with the bitterness of IPAs. Grateful Red has enough hoppiness to make it a nice match for game-time foods like salsa and chips, pizza and wings. I also like blue cheese with an IPA, and for the spicy tone of bitterness in Grateful Red, I like a milder version, such as Roth's Buttermilk Blue.
Rating: Three Bottle Openers.
The Verdict: Grateful Red is solidly hopped. While there is strength to this beer, at 5.3% ABV it's at the lower end of the alcohol spectrum for IPAs, and that makes it much more drinkable than many others. I really like its bitterness, which ends up being layered with pine, woody-grassy notes and hints of citrus. Grateful Red reminds me of hoppy American red/amber ales of the West Coast style, known for their piney spicy-bitterness and malty backbone. At 65 IBUs, however, it's probably not at the level of what some hopheads crave.