It's easy to take things right in your backyard for granted. Just a short trip west on the Mass. Pike, Jack's Abby Brewing is quietly reinventing craft beer. Eschewing hop bombs, barley wines, and ales altogether, the brewery specializes in German lagers with an American twist. Fermentation during the lagering process takes place at at or near freezing temperatures and is labor intensive. It's not an easy path.
Jack's Abby's reinvention efforts focus on one style in particular. Their first IPL (India Pale Lager), a year-round offering, was Hoponius Union, a delightful, subtle twist on the traditional IPA (India Pale Ale). The brewery's two latest IPLs, Kiwi Rishing and Lashes Hopbock Lager, turn the dial even further. They redefine what you should expect from a lager and from the brewery down the street.
Kiwi Rising is a double-IPL of 8.5 percent alcohol by volume and 105 IBUs (international bitterness units). Over four pounds of hops per barrel of New Zealand hops (Kiwi Hops) are used in the brew. It's Jack's Abby's answer to the double-IPA, possibly the most popular craft beer style in the market today.
Kiwi Rising pours golden yellow with a fluffy white head. Intense citrus aromas waft up from the glass. Upon sipping, grapefruit and orange flavors dominate the light mouthfeel. There's not a ton of malt here, and that absence is welcome.
I had my first sip of Kiwi Rising just a few minutes after drinking my first-ever Pliny the Elder from Russian River Brewing Company. Pliny is consistently rated as one of the best beers in the world, and it scored highly with me (review coming later). But the lines that separate the best beers in the world from other very good beers are blurring.
Is one beer better than the other? Probably. If you held a gun to my head I'd choose the Pliny. But is the difference drastic enough to warrant me sending away for a Pliny from California vs. walking to my local for a comparatively affordable offering from Jack's Abby? Heck no. Do I feel better about supporting a local brewer than one all the way across the country? Heck, yes.
Lashes Hopbock Lager dials it down from its sister beer in terms of the hop profile and alcohol content. At 7.2 percent ABV and 50 IBUs, this one is more approachable.
It pours a more of an amber color with an off-white head. There's more caramel in the nose from the Munich malt, but Super Styrian, Columbus, Palisades and Centennial hops also make their presence known. It's less citrus and more resin-y pine.
The mouthfeel is a bit heavier, but you'll appreciate the balance. The finish is crisp instead of smooth. Jack's Abbey continues to reinvent the India Pale Lager, and this is another great take.
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