Belgian brewing giant Inbev acquired Anheuser-Busch in late 2008, making The St. Louis Brewery the city’s largest American-owned beer maker. Better known as Schlafly, the brewery quickly swung the Gateway City’s allegiance from the “King of Beers” to a more diverse lineup of flavorful hometown brews. Once an unthinkable scenario, Schlafly can now be found directly next to Budweiser at concession stands throughout Busch Stadium – home of the legendary baseball Cardinals.
Schlafly recently entered the Northwest Arkansas market. Most area retailers now offer the brewery’s core lineup of Pale Ale, Dry Hopped American Pale Ale, Hefeweizen, Oatmeal Stout, and Kolsch. Schlafly also provides us with a handful of “session” beers in cans – including the IPA, American Brown Ale, and Black Lager. Canned beers are awesome because they are packable, portable, and outdoor-friendly. Try kayaking the Mulberry River at flood stage with a hatch-full of bottles!
A couple of Schlafly’s special release beers have recently received rave reviews. Tasmanian IPA, available during the late fall and early winter months, is brewed with the Australian hop Galaxy. What results is a beer highlighted by citrus and pineapple notes. By contrast, Schlafly’s American IPA is brewed with Amarillo, Simcoe, and Centennial – all traditional American hops grown in the Pacific Northwest. These hops are known for their floral, citrus, and pine qualities, and impart a bitterness that exemplifies the west coast style of brewing.
For this review I picked up a six-pack of American IPA at The Spirits Shop on Garland Avenue in Fayetteville. On a side note, I am pleasantly surprised by the store’s gradual expansion of its craft beer selection. With close proximity to the University of Arkansas, I would expect cheap beer like Natural Light or Milwaukee’s Best to demand the biggest chunk of cooler real estate. Maybe college students are slowly developing a more sophisticated palate?
I poured one of the 12 oz. bottles into an American pint glass, resulting in a beer slightly darker than the typical IPA. A medium-amber in color with a thin white layer of foam, the brew was very easy on the eye. It certainly looked like a delicious beer.
The aroma didn’t mess around, with huge notes of citrus and pine. Tropical fruit and prairie grass also joined the party. American hops are known for their olfactory punch, and they didn’t disappoint in this beer.
Citrus, pine, and grass were also present when the beer was tipped back for a taste. The bitterness was sharp and pronounced, but balanced nicely by the solid caramel base. Sometimes IPAs can get a little sticky, with a sweetness that overshadows the complexity of the hops. This beer is well-balanced, however, with just enough carbonation to bring it all together.
Schlafly American IPA is one of the finest examples of the style available in Northwest Arkansas. There are others with more bitterness, and some with more malt character. But in terms of balance and a true “American” profile, few stack up to Schlafly’s version. Available through May, American IPA is worthy of inclusion on your craft beer shopping list.