Fearful Symmetries

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04 January, 2016

An APA by Any Other Name Would Smell As Bitter: Vacation Request by Capital Brewery



I first tasted Vacation Request back in August at a pre-Great Taste event where I also got to chat with Capital Brewery's brewmaster Ashley Kinart. I found her to an affable person so, if you get the chance to talk to her, do so.

I'm not sure if this beer was meant as a one-off or if it sold poorly and has been flushed down the memory hole because I can find nary a reference to it at Capital's website. Bottles appeared on store shelves not long after my sampling above which means this beer dates to late August or early September at the very latest. For a beer described as a "Light-bodied ale brewed with Mandarina Bavaria and Lemondrop hops", I am probably doing it a disservice by drinking it now but so it goes. I'll be gentle.

Honestly, I don't know how to classify Vacation Request stylistically. I suppose that, if Kinart felt it to be an IPA, Capital would have advertised it as such considering the marketing value of "India" and "IPx" these days. Perhaps after tasting the beer's taxonomy will become clearer.

The Mandarina Bavaria hop is a rather recent invention having been introduced in 2012. Hailing from Germany, it's part of a wave of Teutonic hops that mimic popular American varieties with predominant citrus and other fruit aromas and flavors. See also Saphir and Hüll Melon hop varieties. Lemondrop hops, on the other hand, are born and bred in Washington state and appear to have become widely available only last year.

Vacation Request pours a light gold hue that is just a touch hazy. This was one effervescent brew as I got a big, firm, white head that would have lasted until 2017 had I not poured it into my waiting maw. There were countless bubbles inside my glass making their way upwards.

It was quite unsurprising that the beer's aroma was dominated by bright lemon and citrus scents. There was also a hint of the herbal underneath, however. A "citrus hopped ale" indeed. Those aromas translated into the taste. Big lemon (Lemondrop) and tangerine (Mandarina Bavaria) flavors burst forth onto the tongue. These flavors were not, however, very zesty. Instead they were rounded and mellow in the same way that citrus scents in dish soaps lack a sharpness. Concomitant to this, the hops also provided a pronounced herbal bitterness and a faint floral taste too. There was a hint of the malt in a bread-like taste as well as a hint of earthy rye spiciness. Lastly there was carbonation which added a nice dry counterpoint to the festival of citrus.

Those citrus flavors faded in the finish and were superseded by the herbal taste and some bitterness to ultimately end on a fairly clean, dry note. My glass was left with a lot of lacing. There was a surfeit of thick webbing along with a smattering of dense patches.

Although I give Kinart credit for putting rye into this beer, the truth is that the malt is deemphasized here. To me, this along with a paucity of yeast flavors makes Vacation Request an American IPA or an APA. Despite the fact that my tasting did not involve the freshest beer, Vacation Request still managed to deliver big, bold hop flavors. All of that citrus gave the brew a sprightly taste that was underpinned by some herbal bitterness and the sharp, earthy rye. I liked the flavors of the hops themselves although I'd like to try fresher brews with them. And while not a fatal flaw, I have to admit that I do wish that there was more malt here. Ultimately I find beers where the grains are the brewing equivalent of the Washington Generals to be fine in small doses but unsatisfying in the long haul. I'd rather that the hops get something substantial to play off of and meld with rather than being considered an end in and of themselves. Still, Vacation Request was tasty and a nice introduction to two new hop varieties.

Junk food pairing: Pair Vacation Request with Chipotle Cheddar Pretzel Crisps. The pretzels and the salt will add a little body to the proceedings with the light beer while the light touch of smoke complements the citrus flavors of the beer very well.

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|| Palmer, 10:08 AM

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