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Monday, November 4, 2013

Revolution Brewing's Red Skull Imperial Red Ale

  • Style: Imperial Red Ale
  • ABV: 8.30%
  • Season: Fall
  • Ease to locate: Sold where ever Revolution bombers are stocked.  Revolution distributes to a good portion of IL and some parts of OH.  Here's their beer finder
  • Color: Clear amber with reddish copper tints.  
  • Head: Solid light beige 1 & 1/2 finger foam.  Decent patches of lacing clung to the pint
  • Aroma: Grapefruit, lemon zest, a bit of pine.  Some sweetness from caramel malts. 
  • Mouthfeel:  Medium with the expected slickness of an imperial.  OK amount of carbonation  
  • Finish: Moderate with no trace of heat from the alcohol.  Lots of residual hops on the tail (pine & citrus)
  • Food friendly:  Not really.  Imperials can be tricky.  I'd keep it simple with a juicy cheese burger or a homemade bowl of chili.  Serve it with sharp cheese, like extra sharp cheddar. 

Apple users' YouTube link: Nick Cave can pretty much make anything creepier 

                                                                                            Great.  Now I want chocolate chip cookies.  And beer.

I have seen the future and it is malty.  A new grocery store moved down the street from me about a year ago.  The area it now occupies had been vacant for quite a few years, teasing us with the promise of early morning donut runs and late night milk sprints (for some reason, we always discover that we are out of milk for the next day after 10PM.  Some day, some one from my family will learn the great art of estimating the level of milk in a near empty container and he/ she will be declared the Chosen One.  And the Cummins' will weep tears of joy.)  I will be the first one to admit, I was a bit trepidatious regarding the increased traffic and non neighborhood clientele that this place might bring to my front door.    I will also be the first to admit that having a place steps from my house where I can buy breakfast cereal, fresh pretzel rolls and hot pressed Cuban sandwiches negates every annoyance in the world.  I mean, this place will even cook your steak for you right there if you ask nicely (possibly if you ask not nicely too, but my first rule of Down the Hatch living is to always be respectful of anyone who handles anything I ingest.)  A nice bonus is that this little slice of heaven has a decently stocked craft beer section.  My only gripe is that they only carry a very small portion of popular local beers.  You want an AntiHero?  Got it.  Daisy Cutter?  Yeppers.  5 Rabbits six pack? You're covered.  Pipeworks?  Begyle?  Lake Effects?  Nanda nunca.  But luckily for me, I was able to pick up a bomber of Revolution's answer to a mid Autumn seasonal beer without even breaking a sweat.

Imperial Red Ales are exactly what they sound like.  A souped up, higher ABV, hopped to the brink version of a classic Red Ale.  And what's most important is that Revolution's version is available now and it's not another Oktober fest or (shudder) pumpkin beer.    My Red Skull Imperial Red Ale poured an amber color with heavy tints of coppery red.  It was clear enough to look straight through. A light beige, a little darker than off white, one and a half finger head formed.  The foam was solidly packed and resulted in small patches of lace clinging to the sides of the pint.  It wasn't spectacular lacing by any means, but decent enough for a red ale.  The nose was rather delicious, however.  I could immediately smell loads of sweet caramel malts, bitter grapefruit,  citrusy lemon zest and a bit of refreshing pine.  The taste followed suit, with grapefruit and pine being tempered by the malt flavors.  In fact, I found a lot more of the pine notes in the taste than on the nose.  As the beer warmed, the hop flavors began to meld and it became harder to differentiate between them.  As the ale warmed, the sweetness from the malts became more dominate, making the beer feel better balanced than at first sip.  There was a sort of slickness to the moderate mouthfeeel, not syrupy like other imperials that I've tried, but heavier than your average red ale.    I wasn't overwhelmed by the amount of carbonation.  It was there, but I didn't feel like it really benefited the beer one way or the other.  The finish was medium in length with lots of pine and grapefruit notes on the tail.  I didn't notice any heat from the alcohol, but with a relatively low (for an imperial ale) ABV, I wasn't really expecting any harshness.  

I'd pair Revolution's Red Skull with a really juicy cheeseburger with applewood bacon, letting the sweetness of the malts and the bitterness of the hops temper the burger's smoky, meaty profile.  The recipe linked here uses a smidge of cayenne pepper and curry powder.  Any more spice would not compliment the beer at all.   I can also see serving this imperial red ale with a steaming bowl of mild three bean beef chili as long as you keep those spices under control.  Of course, you can always crack open a bomber of Red Skull and worry about dinner later.  Better yet, grab a bottle to share and hope that some one else worries about dinner for you.