Recently I reviewed Stone IPA, a beer that is revered by many but sadly the particular bottle I had fell short of my lofty expectations. It’s now time to turn my attention to another very highly regarded beer of the same genre, the elusive Bear Republic Racer 5. I say elusive because Racer 5 isn’t a beer that’s readily available in the UK, I was lucky enough to grab a couple of bottles last month when Ales by Mail had some in stock along with a selection of other transatlantic treats for my beer cupboard. I’ve been lucky enough to have tried Racer 5 on tap whilst on a couple of my visits to the US and I loved it each and every time but this will be the first time I’ve tasted it from the bottle and the first time I’ve sat down and spent some time analysing what makes it one of my favourite beers in this style.
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Back when this blog was in its early infancy I wrote an article about how I thought that with the rise of the UK craft beer scene that many US brewers would cease their export operations, instead choosing to invest in their home market as this would prove to be much more lucrative. With a few months more experience under my belt I can say that for the most part I was wrong, in fact I would say that superb US craft beer is getting easier to find on these shores with each passing month. Thanks to a network of great online beer vendors such as the aforementioned Ales by Mail, Beer Ritz and My Brewery Tap along with savvy importers such as James Clay the supply of American craft beer is positively booming. Of course the popular stuff sells out fast but there is such a wide range available that if you miss out on your first choice then there are plenty of other options available to appease your taste buds.
Some breweries are taking it a step further with Sam Adams Boston Lager now being brewed under license in the UK by Shepard Neame. I can see the argument for not drinking beer that has been brewed under license, beer enthusiasts want to drink it from the source as it was originally intended. However imagine if Bear Republic started brewing Racer 5 in the UK and a trusted craft brewer was given the recipe. The beer might not be from the point of origin but if it tastes just as good you surely wouldn't complain about paying £4.00 for a pint instead of having to fork out £3.00 for a half. Considering how much some people moan about the price of imported craft beer this can surely only be a good thing.
I think that we’ll see a handful of the larger American Craft Breweries set up UK based operations over the next few years but for now we’ll have to be content with paying through the nose for imported bottles and kegs. In my opinion, when the beer is as good as the one I’m about to review it’s totally worth every penny.
Racer 5 pours with a lovely straw coloured, golden tinged hue and produces a nice off-white head that doesn’t linger but leaves a few bubbles around the edge of the glass that produces some nice lacing as you sup. The aroma is of melon and freshly mowed grass with notes of mango creeping in as you delve deeper. The bottle I’m drinking is wonderfully fresh as it’s lively and well carbonated with all of those hop flavours in the aroma coming through on to the palate. The mouth feel is smooth and hop resins coat the back of my mouth as it gently slips down. This IPA produces a wonderful mango and grapefruit bitterness with just a hint of sweetness from the malt. The finish is crisp and dry but that hint of resin just helps the bitterness linger long enough to last until you take your next sip.
As far as American style IPAs go this is not one of the most in your face, it’s not an out and out hop bomb. It’s got heaps of flavour but is never overwhelming and is incredibly refreshing and very drinkable. Racer 5 is a beer you can enjoy on it’s own after a long day or as a great accompaniment to food, it’s versatility is one of it’s great strengths. It’s definitely one of the best IPAs I’ve tried and would be a regular in my fridge if it was more readily available on these shores, if you do see some I highly recommend you give it a try, I guarantee you’ll go back for seconds.