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Monday, July 8, 2013

Revolution Brewing's Crystal Hero IPA

  • Style: IPA
  • ABV: 7.2%
  • Season: Late Spring 2013
  • Easy to locate: Illinois and Ohio (yea!  Local kid break free of the Land of Lincoln!  Here's their beer finder. 
  • Color: Golden yellow.  Clear enough to watch the tiny bubbles of carbonation as they rise.
  • Head: One finger head, white and delicate.  Good retention with spotty lacing that leaves a ring.
  • Aroma: Heavy mix of grapefruit and citrus notes.  Some floral and tropical fruit elements as well.  A slight malt backbone rounds the approachable aroma nicely.
  • Mouthfeel: Medium and typical of the style.  Juicy and crisp.
  • Finish: Medium.  The floral note lingers slightly on the tail of the swallow.  
  • Food friendly: Yes.  It's a good example of a easy to drink IPA.  Try it with spicy foods, like Mexican or Thai, but it would go equally well with poultry or shellfish.  Serve this with pungent cheeses, such as Roquefort or with sharp cheeses, like cheddar.

I grew up reading comic books.  Marvel Comics mostly (with a palate cleanser of Archie comics ever so often.  That's the dichotomy of being a girl.  You can like Lambics AND Porters.)  This was back in the 80's when your typical comic book fan was a 15 year old boy who thought that Storm was the ultimate female because she wore black leather and who secretly wished that he could grow up to be Wolverine even if he was just a Canadian drifter with really bad hair who needed a manicure.  Let's just say that during my weekly pilgrimage to our local comic book store, I stuck out like a bourbon barreled vanilla stout on a shelf of Yuenglings.  Between my brothers and myself, we pretty much collected everything Marvel released, except for Conan the Barbarian (I'll never understand the appeal of this guy.  He was like Tarzan, but with slightly less social skills.)  You can imagine my excitement when this summer Revolution Brewing released a set of theme hopped IPAs to coincide with an annual comic convention held here in Chicago.    The eleven year old girl in me who idolized Spiderman and Kitty Pryde  may have squeeled.  Just a bit.

                                                                                                                            I will never, ever be able to  look at Stan Lee the same way again. 

Crystal Hero IPA is predominantly hopped using Crystal hops (obviously.)  Crystal hops are an American developed strain, created in 1983 in an effort to replace Nobel hops here in the States.  It's related to Mt. Hood and Liberty hops, but with a low alpha acidity rate.  Crystal is used mainly for aroma in IPAs and Pale Ales (although they have been known to be used in some stouts too), giving them notes of woody, floral and citrus characteristics.  I can't find any definitive information on what other hop was used in brewing Crystal Hero, but my best guess is that since Crystal hops are low in acidity, a secondary hop (possibly Centennial or maybe Simcoe?) was used to push the bitterness up while Crystal was used for the aroma. 

When brewing with Crystal hops, with great power comes great responsibility. 
 My Crystal Hero poured a clear, golden yellow.  I could watch the billions of tiny bubbles float to the surface as the beer settled.  A gentle, white head of foam formed and eventually settled into a thin layer for a majority the drink.  A ring of delicate, spotty lacing left it's mark around the edges of the pint glass.  The aroma of citrus hit me before I even brought the glass to my nose.  Lots of grapefruit, orange and a bit of lemon whaffed up from the brew.  A bit of floral and fruit was also evident on the nose, but I really had to search to find them.  A hint of sweetness from the malt helped to balance out all the citrus goodness.  It was a wonderful to beer to sit and sniff (although, honestly,I have to wonder what the neighbors must think as I sit in my backyard sticking my nose into the glass over and over.  I have a feeling that this year's block party might be an intervention in disguise.)  I could taste the citrus elements immediately.  It was a bright mouthful of bitter grapefruit, zesty orange and a bit (and only a bit) of puckering lemon notes.  Crystal Hero IPA has a IBU of 80, which is actually right in my (bitter)sweet spot for IPAs.  I could also detect a bit of tropical fruits (mango and pineapple  possibly) and a slight floral taste.  Just as on the nose, the malt kept all the bitterness in check.  This was an excellent tasting IPA, juicy and mouthwatering.  The mouthfeel was moderate and well carbonated.  A medium finish rounded out what was an enormously successful IPA.

'Nuff said.

Revolution Brewing's Crystal Hero was an terrifically well done IPA.   Summery and crisp with a well rounded flavor profile and a gorgeous nose.   As I understand it, Crystal hops are a rather under utilized hop variety.  If the other breweries' results are anything like Revolution's, I would be more than happy (hoppy) to drink a ton of Crystal forward hopped brews.  While this is a perfect beer to sip by itself on a warm summer day, it'll also go perfectly with a wide variety of food.  Serve it with simple fish tacos prepared with a squeeze of lime and a kick of jalapenos.  Or drink it with a heaping plate of barbeque shrimp and a bit of a green salad on the side.   Pick a sunny day, break out a stack of vintage X-Men or Alpha Force (for our friends to the way North) and enjoy a pint.