Brewery: Captain Lawrence (NY)
Captain Lawrence has long been known for their excellent imperial IPA, but until this year, has never had just a regular old IPA — a hole in their lineup that's almost inconceivable. Sure, there are plenty of breweries that leave the hop-bursting to others; not everyone enjoys hoppy beers. (Weirdos). But it's a little more unusual for a brewery that's made a name for themselves partly on an imperial IPA to not have a little brother in its lineup.
Anyway, now that's changed, and here we are. While the bottle doesn't list the bottling date, this was only released for the first time a few weeks before I drank this bottle, so I know it's fresh. (The bottle also doesn't mention an ABV anywhere, which is odd). The beer pours just the right color for an IPA — a pale orangey-gold — with medium carbonation. The aroma is slightly subdued, but gives a nice hint of what's to come.
Where Captain Lawrence's Imperial digs deep into dank, piney, herbal hops, I'm pleased to see that Captain Lawrence has gone in a different direction with this one. As this is a more balanced beer, so too is the hop character, with an extremely pleasant, soft fruitiness. If I had to guess, I would guess that Citra and/or Simcoe are providing the bulk of the character; a mellow fruitiness that's part citrus, part melon, part tropical fruit, and very mango. Funky, dank mango. The aroma, while subtle compared to some IPAs, suggests something like old fruit that's been sitting in your fridge (in the best way possible). The flavor is a nice, complex combination of those bright tropical flavors with something more funky and oddball. It's not totally committing itself to any one direction, but the character is strong, hoppy, and yet unique enough to stand out from the crowd.
The East Coast — particularly New York — can still use more above-average IPAs, and the Captain delivers with this one. With this appearing on shelves in sixpacks, it's poised to become one of the best regional options for a fruity, refreshing IPA. They may have waited a while to make it, but it doesn't fall into the trap of "obligatory" IPA flavor, when you can just tell the brewer half-heartedly decided: "Well, we'll just do whatever everyone else is doing, since we have to." Sure, it's got most of the classic West Coast characteristics, done well — but it's got personality too.
Availability: 12 ounce bottles / sixpacks.