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Monday, October 7, 2013

Spiteful Brewing's Messenger IPA

  • Style: IIPA
  • ABV: 10.4%
  • Ease to locate: Chicagoland only (for now).  Here's a link to their twitter page, but I'd try beer menus first.  My batch # was 48.
  • Color: Slightly hazy amber with gold edging
  • Head: 1 finger white foam.  Minimal, delicate lacing
  • Aroma: Not a huge nose.  Orange zest and grapefruit mainly.  Some tropical fruit (pineapple mostly).  Slight caramel malt sweetness.
  • Mouthfeel: Medium body.  Smooth.  Decent amount of carbonation giving it a needed crispness.
  • Finish: Moderate with a Citra hop forward tail. 
  • Food friendly?:  As much as a IIPA can be.  The citrus & tropical fruit notes would work well with a sweet barbeque sauce.  Or try it with mild white fish or a simple crab salad to give the meal a bit of oomph.  Pair it with a creamy cheese, like brie, or with a peppery selection, such as Pepper Jack.

Sometimes it takes a bit of time in order for someone to hit their stride.  I try not to judge most things, good or bad, right away.  Unless you cut me off in traffic.  Then you are a one strike, worthless waste of space,  who deserves to get stuck behind the 93 year old woman in the Volvo going 13 MPH on a long, one lane street.  But for everything else in life, I'm probably going to cut you some slack and let you get a bit of  experience under your belt before making a final decision about you one way or the other.  With so many new breweries opening here in Chicago (I'm pretty sure that at least three alone have opened just while I wrote this sentence) it's very easy to drink one beer from a young brewery and rashly categorize them.  But you see, I think that the good ones grow beyond just breaking ground for a retail store/tap room/place for geeks to hang when Kuma's Corner is packed to the gills.  The good ones learn from each beer that they brew and use that knowledge to make the next one in the pipeline better.

Apple user link Why I don't cycle
                                                                                                                                 Not easy to watch.  But after the 3rd or 10th viewing, it's not so bad.

Spiteful Brewing is just beginning to hit their stride.  I've tried quite a few of their earlier efforts (check here and here for other Spitetful posts from me.  Go on.  I know you want to.) I liked some of their younger work, but none of them blew me away.  There was an aggressiveness to their hop profile that, at times, made me put them into the category of "I'm glad I tried it, but I don't necessarily need another bomber for later."  But I've noticed that their releases in the last few months have become, well, for lack of a better word, thoughtful.  Their latest Imperial IPA, Messenger IPA, has a sophistication that their brown ale, Burning Bridges (you did read the linked post I mentioned up above, right?) lacked.  Could Spiteful just have continued to pump out super hopped beers, one mouth puckering IBU bombfest after another?  Sure.  Other breweries do.  Some even do it quite successfully.  Why not then our favorite cycling enthusiasts (who may or may not be a bitter sort of group to begin with.  I mean, if my job involved exercising outside all day in bumper to bumper traffic, I doubt that I'd be Little Miss Mary Sunshine either.)  But Spiteful Brewing seems to want to be more than a one trick pony.
The juiciness of this almost jumps out of the glass

My Messenger IPA poured a slightly hazy and solid looking liquid.  The amber glowed as it was held to the light, with golden edging creeping around the sides of the glass.  A finger's worth of head formed, very white and tight in appearence.  There was minimal lacing clinging to the pint with  traces of delicate, petite foam rimming the top of the beer.  The head settled to a uniformly shallow layer after a few minutes and hung out for most of the drink.  It was a rather pretty beer; juicy & gorgeous.  The nose left me a bit disappointed.  I was hoping for a nose that matched the attractiveness of the IIPA's appearance.  Unfortunately, the bottle that I poured had a less than exciting aroma.  I would smell the Citra hops with all of their grapefruit and orange zest glory.  But even those notes were shallow.  I made out some tropical fruit scents, mostly pineapple but maybe a smidge of mango as well.  A little caramel malt sweetness could be detected under it all.  Honestly, I wasn't expecting much taste-wise after the uninspiring nose.  Thankfully I was dead wrong.  As slight as the aroma was, the taste made  up for it in spades.  There was an abundance of juicy citrus flavors, with the grapefruit, orange zest and lemon spritz springing to life on the tongue.  Just the right amount of the pineapple and mango flavors emerged under the citrus notes, helping to bring a fruitiness to the palate.  Caramel malts rounded out the dominant flavors with a well thought out temperance.  Over all, it proved to be wonderfully balanced Imperial IPA.  The mouthfeel was medium, not syrupy or thick like other IIPAs I've tried. There was also a lovely crispness form the carbonation.  A moderate, Citra hop forward finish rounded out the sip, making it easy to take another.  IIPAs are known for sneaking the heat of alchohal into their beers and this one did it almost masterfully.  I never noticed the taste of the booze (I certainly felt it after a quickly  qwafted pint though.)

Not much lacing-wise, but a tenaciously tight foam
I'm OK with little lacing if the head is so well crafted.  You can't have everything.
Big beers like IIPAs can be a challenge to serve with a meal and not have them over power what's on the plate.  But no matter what the style, if a beer is well made and beautifully balanced, it can be paired with the right food.  For your next tailgate, try a simple & slightly sweet honey barbecue sauce slopped on a platter of wings or a rack of ribs and paired with Messenger IPA.  The hoppiness will help to even out the sticky sweetness of most sauces.  Alternatively, this brew would be stunning with a plate of crab cakes and a simple salad of greens and cranberries.  Use the citrus notes to brighten the entire meal in place of a heavy vinaigrette.   Honestly, I can think of a dozen meals that this IIPA would be delicious drunk along side of.  I suggest that you grab a bomber and experiment.  But if the video above has taught us anything, don't try it when riding on a bicycle.  That's not the sort of stride you should aim to hit.