One of the reasons this site was created was passion. I have several. I won’t pretend that the things I’m passionate about don’t effect my opinions and by proxy, the content of this site. This beer review delves into several personal passions of mine. A passion for my home state of Virginia. A passion for cold, delicious beer. A passion for the beer lover’s Mecca that is the Brew Ridge Trail in Charlottesville, and most importantly, a life long love affair with the music of the Grateful Dead.
Some of my favorite memories in life involve being outdoors while enjoying a cold, adult beverage and listening to Uncle John’s Band. It’s one of the many reason’s I was eager to taste Starr Hill’s latest seasonal offering. Available through July, “Grateful” is described thusly on the brewery’s official website:
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (April 25, 2013): Starr Hill Brewery, Virginia’s largest and most award-winning craft brewery, is kicking off the summer with the introduction of its new summer seasonal beer, Grateful Pale Ale.
Grateful is a medium-bodied session pale ale brewed with two-row and caramel malt. The beer is also brewed and dry hopped with a mix of Topaz, Chinook, Cascade and Centennial hops which produces a huge citrusy, piney hop aroma and flavor, but the beer is refreshing and easy to drink
Starr Hill has always championed the appreciation and influence that music has had on what they do. It’s no surprise they they chose the Dead as a muse for this beer. The label art is very cool and understated. I agree with its sentiment that we should all be “Grateful” for the gift of great beer. As far as the product itself, the beer’s odor is mild and slightly hoppy. The faint aroma of pine notes gives you a hint on things to come. As a side bar, it should be mentioned that it’s always been somewhat surprising to me that Starr Hill implements twist tops when so many other craft brewers make you work for it. By no means is this a deal breaker, but it’s not expected. Hit the jump for more amazing prose on suds.
Hops are a beer drinker’s greatest ally and their worst enemy. They are used as a crutch by some brewers to make overly hopped bro-dogg swill, yet used by others to create a symphony for your taste buds. Mark Thompson, the man that founded Starr Hill seemed to agree with my sentiments. He had this to say about the inspiration for “Grateful” and what he was attempting with his latest creation:
Like so many craft beer drinkers, we love hops. But sometimes on hot summer days, a big, hoppy beer is just too much. Grateful Pale Ale is a perfectly balanced beer that’s very hop forward, but it’s also a bit lighter and easier to drink than traditional pale ales which we think make it an ideal choice for summer.
Amen. On a hot summer day, ideally you’d like a beer you can drink 6-14 without turning your pallet into the screenplay for “Battleship.” It’s become too stylish to sacrifice balance for sheer hoppiness. Sometimes a three figure IBU number is a good thing, but not EVERY time.
***SPOILER ALERT*** “Grateful” gets is right. It starts with a nice mild hop with a pleasant citrusy middle. The finish features the pine notes I spoke of earlier and while retaining an understated hoppy base. Some comparable pale ales to give perspective include “Full Nelson” by Blue Mountain and “Striped Bass” by Devil’s Backbone, both of which are members of the Brew Ridge Trail as well. One of the Grateful Dead’s most iconic songs “Fire on the Mountain” included the following lyrics:
The more that you give, the more it will take, to the thin line beyond which you really can’t fake.
It’s extremely relevant to this beer. To brew a session pale ale that retains a pungent hoppy essence withOUT overpowering the drinker is a feat that many beer makers have failed to accomplish over the years. Starr Hill proves they can walk that line as well as any Man in Black. I give “Grateful” by Starr Hill 4 Beer and Pig coozies out of 5. The perfect beer to enjoy on a summer night as you listen to the river sing sweet songs, to rock your soul.