A few weeks back I had a chance to attend the Columbus Winter Beer Festival downtown in the convention center. For me big beer festivals are at best a mixed bag. It’s a good chance to sample a wide variety of beers, but the flavors and memories inevitably run together into an indistinct blur. The sensory equivalent of eating grocery store fruit cocktail (in heavy sauce) straight from the can. That’s before we consider the hazards of visiting the bathrooms toward the end of the night, or the potential for waking up on a COTA bus as it crosses I-270 heading to Westerville (when you live in Clintonville). Despite my misgivings all went well this year. I made it home safe and sound, with no traces of vomit on my shoes, and when Saturday morning dawned a few beers had managed to leave an impression. Columbus Brewing Company’s dark, sessionable saison was a welcome surprise, MadTree’s Gin Barrel aged Joon is always a treat, it was my first chance to try beers from Nocterra and Mother Stewarts, but the beer that made the biggest impression was Land Grant’s Concentrate. I vowed to revisit it later in a more controlled setting, a promise I followed through on last night.
Much has been written about the decline of flagship beers. In today’s market novelty trumps perfection, bold flavors grab headlines while subtlety and balance are pushed to the margins. Land Grant’s response to this shift in consumer demand is to introduce two rotating seasonal beers—Quadrahopic and Concentrate. The former is a straightforward but tasty American IPA featuring a blend of four hops, the latter a Hazy IPA brewed with a mix of conventional and cryo-hops. While both beers are slated to be available year-round, they hope to please those always in search of the next untappd check-in by changing up the hops every three months.
- Brewery: Land Grant (Columbus, OH)
- Style: Hazy IPA
- ABV: 7.5%
- IBUs: 28
- Price: $11.99 per 6 pack of 12 oz cans
For the inaugural batch of Concentrate the brewers at LG aren’t taking any chances, loading the beer up with a trio of cheater hops: Mosaic, Citra and Simcoe, the latter two in cryo form. Cryo-hops are a relatively new weapon in the brewers arsenal. Liquid nitrogen is used to separate the lupulin powder, the substance that contains the oils and resins responsible for hop flavor and aroma, from the vegetal matter (stems, leaves, etc.) that mostly winds up as trub in the bottom of the fermenter. Oats and wheat augment the pale base malts, to boost the haze factor and smooth out the mouthfeel. The label is a catchy, Andy Warhol-inspired piece of pop art.
As I decant the beer into my glass enticing fruit flavors diffuse through the room, triggering a response in my olfactory system in a matter of seconds. As I bring the glass closer to my face, a blast of mangoes, oranges, and tangerines fills my nostrils. A dank note, reminiscent of freshly picked hops drying in an oast house, lurks just below the surface. The liquid that fills the glass is golden, hazy without being murky, topped with an impressive three fingers of thick, mousy, snow white head. While I wait for the head to slowly settle, I’m content to enjoy the potpourri of fruity aromas emanating from the glass. Upon taking a sip, waves of tropical and citrus fruit flavors wash over my tongue, with mangoes and oranges leading the way. Malts add a bit of sweetness to the hop jamboree but for the most part stay the hell out of the way. The 28 IBUs (all of which come from whirlpool hop additions) do their best to dry out the finish and keep you coming back for the next sip. The mouthfeel is smooth rather than prickly, with a touch of slickness from the hop oils and resins.
Concentrate is an ode to the fruity aroma and flavor of the most popular pacific northwest hops. By starting with three of America’s favorite hops the crew down at LG have set a high bar when the time comes to change up the hop bill. The volume and pure white color of the head is impressive, and just like Nigel Tufnel’s amps, the aroma goes to 11. Juicy is an overused term in beer reviews, but I can’t think of a more apt descriptor of the taste. As a personal preference I’d like to see a bit more bitterness, maybe bump the IBUs up to 40 to balance the sweetness from the concentrated hop oils. I recognize that’s just a personal preference, an unwelcome tweak to many haze enthusiasts out there, but my apetite for this style usually wanes after drinking one or two. While it might not satisfy those who drink heavily from the fountain of exclusivity, if you enjoy ultra-juicy hazy IPAs, and are not put off by widespread availability, you owe it to yourself to give Concentrate a try.
Rating scale: 10 = perfection, 9 = excellent, one of the top beers in the category, 8 = very good, 7 = good, a solid beer I’m happy to be drinking, 6 = not bad but not something I’m likely to buy again, 5 = well below average, 3-4 = poor, should be avoided, 1-2 drainpour.