New Belgium's Ranger IPA debuts at Falling Rock

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"So it's about time that the state's largest craft brewery (& 3rd largest in the US) FINALLY makes something Hoppy," writes Chris of the Falling Rock Taphouse in the periodic e-mail newsletter he sends out. And he couldn't be more right.

I know that overly hoppy beers aren't everyone's favorite style (although I am a hophead extraordinaire), but I've often wondered the same thing about New Belgium Brewing.

It makes some great beers: Frambozen, 1554, Trippel, and a couple from the Lips of Faith series, as well as a few that I'm not a big fan of (Fat Tire among them). But the Fort Collins-based brewer has always seemed to shy away from the big hop bombs.

That changes on February 1 when New Belgium releases Ranger IPA, a 6.5 percent alcohol-by-volume brew that uses Simcoe, Cascade and Chinook hops. For a sneak peak (taste) of this beer, though, head to Falling Rock tonight, where it will be on tap at 5 p.m.

Ranger was named for the company's 26-state sales team, which it calls "beer rangers" - and requested by them as well. "Rangers, fans and craft lovers everywhere were searching for hoppier beers," the company says in its explanation. "While IPA is not a Belgian style, and our brewmaster prides himself on not brewing to style but to imagination and salivation, we agreed that a New Belgium IPA was in order.

As an exalted member of the media, I was allowed an even sneakier, sneak peak (taste) of Ranger, courtesy of the brewery, which mailed me two bottles of it.

And it has some good points and some bad. On the good side, it is unmistakably hoppy, with a bitter, slightly floral goodness that comes from the cascade and chinook hops. On the other hand, it has a somewhat brassy flavor and lacks a malty balance. New Belgium fans will likely enjoy it, though, as it also carries the brewery's distinctive earthy tones.

All in all, I would congratulate New Belgium on trying something different and encourage the brewery to keep trying. My suggestion would be to look at something like San Diego County-based Stone Brewing's Vertical Epic, which is an enormously hoppy Belgian-style porter brewed with chocolate malt and vanilla beans.

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