Tasting Notes: Looking Glass IPA from Starr Hill Brewery

SHBLookingGlassPour600_editedThis week’s installment of Tasting Notes finds us reflecting on the India Pale Ale style as we take a long look at Looking Glass IPA from Starr Hill Brewery (Crozet, Virginia).

Currently serving as Starr Hill’s 2018 Spring Seasonal, Looking Glass IPA is a fruity India Pale Ale that sources pronounced “notes of juicy pineapple, mango and passion fruit” from an impressive hop bill comprised of Galaxy, Citra, Mosaic and Columbus hops.  Although Looking Glass (6.5% ABV, 40 IBUs) is packed with a “big hop aroma and flavor”, it remains incredibly easy-drinking “with minimal bitterness.”

Looking Glass IPA is available now and will hang around through April 2018.  You can expect to find this Seasonal brew available in 6-packs of 12 oz. bottles and on draft at select craft beer establishments located in Alabama, Virginia and throughout the rest of Starr Hill’s distribution footprint.

Now that the background data has been properly presented, let’s gaze deeply into the Looking Glass and lose ourselves in some Tasting Notes!

Tasting Notes for Looking Glass IPA from Starr Hill Brewery

Appearance:  Slightly hazy in appearance, this IPA presents itself as a pale golden in color with just over a finger of bubbly white foam resting on top.  When held to direct light, the golden tones take on a bit of a soft orange hue.  Although hazy, the beer avoids being ridiculously cloudy and allows the drinker to see the tiny carbonation bubbles hard at work within.  Head retention is good, falling gradually to a lasting cap that leaves an intricate web of lace behind on the glass.

Aroma:  A strong tropical wave hits the nose first with a crash of pineapple and mango.  Grapefruit zest and orange juice act as a solid foundation for those tropical notes and the hops close out with just a grace of pine.  Malts lie underneath with a subtly sweet presence of clean grain.  Mighty juicy and oh-so pleasant.

Taste:  That juiciness carries over onto the palate as Looking Glass basically comes across as a fruit bowl of mango, passion fruit, grapefruit and pineapple blended into a base of sweet orange juice.  The zest of various citrus fruits and a touch of resinous pine then surface to cut the fruitiness at the perfect moment.  The malts and yeast mingle throughout the experience to add some balancing sweetness, but otherwise they are not really players in this game.  The hops are the star, and they flex their ability to provide both a fruit-laden flavor and a subdued but present level of bitterness.

Mouthfeel:  Falling on the lighter side of medium in body with a moderate carbonation, this IPA provides an experience that is quite smooth and easy drinking.  It is nicely balanced and dry, but there is a sharp – but not harsh – jab of bitterness that creeps in near the finish.  The ABV does bring a bit of warmth to the throat at times, but it is not at all out of hand.  The aftertaste is a lingering presence of orange juice with a twist of pineapple.

Final Thoughts:  What we have here is middle ground. Looking Glass IPA has found a comfortable spot somewhere between classic American IPAs and those newfangled hazy brews that everyone is so gaga over these days.  Sure, it definitely has some characteristics of the New England/Hazy IPA: a slightly hazy appearance, a good amount of balance, and a serious burst of tropical juiciness sourced from a sublime hop bill.  With that said, it is not so hazy/cloudy/muddy that it comes across as a tall pour of orange juice in a fancy glass.  It still retains a semblance of that invigorating hop bite that many of us long for when we see the letters “IPA” or the words “India Pale Ale”.  It is there in middle.  It is a balanced and juicy not-so-filtered American IPA.  It is a more bitter, less hazy New England-style IPA.  It is the neutral ground between the two where fans of either style can come together and discuss their allegiances (like adults) over a beer that appeals to both of them.  Now that we are at a point where we are altering and adding style guidelines to accommodate changing tastes and preferences, Looking Glass IPA serves as a much-needed place to discuss where we have been and where we will go in this ever-evolving, hop-fueled realm of craft beer.  It sparks a conversation and I can certainly get behind that.  Be sure to check this one out before its Seasonal run comes to a close at the end of April.  Prost!