There’s a lot of flavored beer on the market these days, and I must forewarn you that I shy away from it. I’m OK with flavoring at times (coffee stouts are a big yes), but at times it seems breweries are running out of ideas and adding random extracts and fruits to beers just to give them a selling angle.
As such, I was skeptical when I approached New Belgium’s new specialty brew in the Voodoo Ranger line: Juicy Mandarina IPA.
My first thought was, “OK, so they added mandarin orange to an IPA. So what?” Well, I was wrong. This wheat IPA is actually hopped in part with German Mandarina Bavaria hops, which is what gives it its strong citrus quality. Hey, when flavors come from the hops, we all win.
Anyway, I opened my 22-ounce bomber and poured a pint glass of the hazy, golden beer, which carried an ample, white head. The aroma was immediate. Fresh oranges pop out immediately, but there are other citrusy notes too, such as pineapple and lemon. But the piney hop aroma sneaks in as well, making it an inviting beer from the start.
The flavor follows suit, with plenty of tropical notes, a light tartness, and only a trace amount of bitterness. In fact, the beer is surprisingly mild from a bitterness standpoint, making it a uniquely accessible IPA.
In fact, the creamy body harkens more to the wheat base, making this one of those beers that even those averse to IPAs might happen to enjoy. And while Calypso, Galaxy, and Cascade hops all join in on this brew, none of them takes the beer over the top into bitterness.
Now, it should be noted that many beer lovers (myself included) often choose IPAs specifically because we enjoy that bitterness and all the other qualities hops bring to the style, but this one isn’t necessarily intended for those palates. This comes across as more of an accessible, summer brew, something that can be enjoyed by a wide variety of palates. That’s the American hefeweizen yeast and wheat malts at work.
And while it’s no session beer at 6.5 percent ABV, it’s also not an over-the-top booze bomb either – it’s easily moderated in that respect. Cap it with a slightly dry finish and plenty of lingering tropical flavors, and you’ve got a great summer sipper on your hands. It’s even got a trace of coriander spice to it, which takes it in an interesting direction.
All in all, this one’s a pretty solid entry into the Voodoo Ranger collection from New Belgium.
Summer sipper being the case, it will be a limited release in 22-ounce bombers and on draft. If you want to find this beer, check out New Belgium’s beer finder.
Kevin Gibson is a Louisville, Ky.-based free-lance writer who writes about everything from food to music to beer to bourbon to professional football. He loves bacon, loathes cucumbers and once interviewed Yoko Ono (pissed her off a little, too). He is author of "Louisville Beer: Derby City History on Draft" (2014, History Press). He published his first novel, "The Liberation of Crystal Hill" (Bearhead Publishing), in 2011; he also published "Crohn's Disease: A Memoir from the Toilet" in January 2015 and his currently working on two more book projects. He co-hosts a weekly local radio show, and also plays in a couple of bands, the Uncommon Houseflies and the Nick Peay Band. Not surprisingly, he doesn't sleep much. But when he isn't running around town chasing stories or poised at his trusty laptop writing, you can often find him at one of the local breweries and being thankful for the life he lives. That, or he'll be sitting on his couch with his trusty sidekick Darby. Check out his beer blog, 502Brews.com, or his website, KevinGibsonWriter.com, to find out more about his books and why he does what he does. Or feel free to call him names on Twitter: @kgramone.