Tuesday Brew Review: New Belgium Ranger IPA

September 7, 2010
Clare Goggin

Clare Goggin

Those that know me know that I’m a pretty big New Belgium supporter. They were the first craft brewery I really latched onto, in college (with Odell a close second). Throughout college and beyond I had friends that worked there and friends that lived down the street from the brewery. One of my friends still works there, as one of the heads of the shipping department. (Hey Dave!) Whenever I make it back home to visit, I’m always taken care of.

There are numerous reasons to love New Belgium. They’re incredibly environmentally conscious. They treat their employees well (the employee beer wall is a sight to behold). They have tons of fun. And, most importantly, they make fantastic beer.

Their Lips of Faith series has produced some real winners, like Biere de Mars and La Folie, while at the same time pushing the envelope with entries like Dandelion Ale. Their Belgian black ale, 1554, is one of my favorite beers on the planet. Abbey, Trippel, Skinny Dip and Hoptober are all excellent.

Which makes this tough to say: we were a little underwhelmed with Ranger.

BeerGoggins and I had it last year around this time, when we were in Colorado for the Great American Beer Festival. We made a trip up to Fort Collins and got the tour, and Dave let us sample their IPA that wasn’t quite finished. We remember being impressed with that sample, but somehow unimpressed with the finished product.

We poured 12 oz brown bottles – shipped to us from my friend Andrew in Iowa, since it’s hard to find New Belgium on the East Coast – into a tulip snifter and a New Belgium globe glass. With light lacing and a gorgeous golden amber hue, the look was right on target. The nose was fruity: apricot, orange, citrus, with a hint of spice and some sweet caramel maltiness. With three different hops (Cascade, Chinook and Simcoe, and dry-hopped with Cascade again) and at 70 IBUs, the bitterness is fine. Not overpowering, but not weak. The finish is a bit dry, and at 6.5% ABV, it’s got a little bite, but nothing lethal.

It’s hard to pinpoint, but … this is a style that was made for New Belgium. This is right up their alley, right in their wheelhouse, a 2-0 fastball right down the middle. A year ago it seemed like they were about to set the gold standard for American IPAs and knock a 450-foot grand slam off the upper deck.

But for some reason, it’s an IPA that you’ve had before from a dozen different American craft breweries. It’s a single back up the middle. This isn’t a bad thing, necessarily; it’s definitely quality, as are all their beers. It’s just not transcendent. I guess, maybe, I should lower my standards just a bit.

[Thinks for a second]


SCORES: Mad Hops: 15/19; BeerGoggins: 15.5/20

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3 Responses to Tuesday Brew Review: New Belgium Ranger IPA

  1. September 7, 2010 at 11:59 pm

    Wow! Your thought’s are almost exactly what I felt about the beer. I too grew up in Colorado and New Belgium is why I love the craft brewing industry! I remember first having the 1554 back in the day!

    I also remember being stoked picking up the first 6-pack of Ranger when it hit shelves in AZ (where I now reside). My expectations were high, but for some unexplainable reason, the beer just didn’t seem to meet those expectations.

    Anyway, great review!

  2. Ray Grace
    September 8, 2010 at 12:03 am

    I enjoy Ranger but it is a touch underwhelming. I definitely think it could use a little more body, great aroma and easy to drink. I also think that the bar has been set incredibly high on American IPA’s.

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