I’m always happy with blind tasting events when the beers that rise above the field are a mix of tried and true favorites and surprising newcomers. That’s exactly what happened a few weeks ago at the King of Ohio IPA competition. Fat Head’s Strange Magic took top honors, while Seventh Son’s Miracle finished in the runner up position. While Fat Head’s victory might be a reassuring affirmation of the validity of the judging process, the “news” value of that outcome is not terribly high. Is it really worth the trouble of collecting nearly a hundred beers from across Ohio, and recruiting 30+ volunteers to tell you that Fat Head’s makes a killer IPA? On the other hand, Miracle—a low calorie, hazy, session IPA—is a new entry to the market, one that against all odds (one might say miraculously) manages to breathe fresh life into the saturated IPA arena.
Since Seventh Son was kind enough to provide a full six pack, 2-3 cans more than was needed for the contest I took the liberty of setting a can aside for a full review. The fact that Miracle has the stats—115 calories, 5 carbs, 4.5% abv—to appeal to the carb conscious seltzer crowd piqued my curiosity. That it made such an impressive showing at the King of Ohio, makes me wonder if it might be the next big thing. There’s only one way to find out.
- Brewery: Seventh Son (Columbus, OH)
- Style: Session IPA
- ABV: 4.5%
- Price: $11.99 for a 6 pack of 12 oz cans
Aside from the fact that it’s double dry hopped the can doesn’t offer much information about the beer that I haven’t already told you, so I asked Colin Vent, head brewer at Seventh Son, if he could shed a little more light on the origins, ingredients or process behind Miracle. He told me that the beer started out as a pilot batch called Microgenre, released on draft during the first week of April. The beer sold so well that they decided to brew it on a bigger scale (with some tweaks to the recipe) and put it in cans. The second iteration of the beer, rechristened Miracle, surfaced in August in limited quantities of both cans and kegs.
You may be wondering how do you keep the calorie and carbohydrate count of a beer this low? Low abv is one inescapable key to a low calorie beer. If you take a 1.5 oz shot of 80 proof vodka and dilute it with 10.5 oz water, you end up with a concoction that is 5% abv, contains approximately 96 calories, all from the ethanol, and tastes like a diluted version of something you might put on an open wound. So, for a 12 oz alcoholic beverage 100 calories is the floor, you can’t get fewer calories without diluting the alcohol further. To prove this point consider the “nutritional content” of a 12 oz can of White Claw Hard Seltzer: 5.0% abv, 100 calories and 2 g carbohydrates.
To keep the abv down is simple, you simply use less malts while brewing. If you want to get the calories in the ballpark of vodka water/seltzer you need to make sure that the yeast converts nearly all of the sugars from the grains into alcohol and carbon dioxide. To do this the team at Seventh Son augmented their house yeast with enzymes that help to break down longer chain sugars that yeast can’t normally eat. To quote Colin:
It’s basically a session-brut-hazy IPA. That’s why the first one was called Microgenre, because that’s absurd. Brut IPAs were born from the “technology” for making light macro beer. We just took that to the logical conclusion, so instead of a 7% brut IPA we’re looking at a 4.5% that just so happens to be very low in carbs and calories as a result.
Miracle pours a pale golden color; hazy, but not murky, topped with 2-3 cm of white head. While perhaps not entirely opaque; you’re not going to be reading any books through a glass of this beer, not even your grandma’s large print sudoku puzzles. Before too long the ephemeral head has settled down to a scrim that tops the beer. The aroma is all about the hops, with a mix of tropical fruits accented by some dank notes around the edges. If I had to guess I’d say there were Mosaic hops in the mix, but I could easily be wrong. The taste starts off with a grainy, but soft pale malt canvas, nicely balanced by tropical and citrus fruit flavors (oranges, mangoes?) from the hops. There is minimal bitterness, which is a good thing given the lack of residual sugars from the malts. The mouthfeel is where the beer really shines. Instead of being thin and watery, it almost comes across as creamy, surprising for a brut session beer. Almost certainly there are some adjunct grains in here, like oats and/or wheat. The finish is clean and keeps you coming back for another sip.
This is an impressive beer on many fronts. Getting a lot of hop aroma and flavor into a session IPA isn’t hard, but keeping some balance so it doesn’t taste like a glass of hop tea is tricky. When you ferment out almost all of the residual sugar (the final gravity is in the neighborhood of 1.002) that task becomes even harder. It’s hard not to like the fruity hop aroma and flavor, and the almost creamy mouthfeel is a big plus. It’s the kind of beer that could help stem the non-negligible portion of the population who have inexplicably come to think it’s a good idea to drink fermented cane sugar with a splash of fruit juice. Selling a session beer at a somewhat elevated price point might put a few people off, but making a tasty session IPA is no mean feat in my book. I think Miracle has everything it takes to be a winner for Seventh Son, possibly even a trendsetter.
Seventh Son is planning on making Miracle year-round, but in more limited quantities than their core beers. So, expect intermittent availability.
Rating scale: 10 = perfection, 9 = excellent, one of the top beers in the world, 8 = very good, one of the top beers in its style category, 7 = good, a solid beer I’m happy to be drinking, 6 = average, not bad but not something I’m likely to buy again, 5 = below average, 3-4 = poor, should be avoided, 1-2 drainpour.
I’ve read that alcohol is processed in the liver and much of it excreted as acetic acid. So the 7 calories figure is a little misleading since the body doesn’t get all of the 7 calories as energy. It’s rather like if you ate 2,500 calories in bran every day. You can’t digest it so would die of starvation! Sounds like a good reason for another drink.
I’m not familiar with the exact metabolic pathways that our body uses to process ethanol. I can say that the calorie count for ethanol (and most other foods) is calculated as the amount of energy released assuming it is broken down into CO2 and H2O. If the body stops at acetic acid that would be only part of the way to full oxidation to CO2 and H2O, so the amount of calories generated would be less, but not zero.