I’d heard great things about Red Racer India Pale Ale from beer-loving friends, but my first sip of the stuff was at Bottlescrew Bill’s, a great Calgary watering hole that caters to the seriously beer-obsessed. How good was it? Here’s a tweet from my experience at the time: “Finally got around to trying Red Racer IPA @BottlescrewBill. So much pine! Like drinking a very delicious tree.”
That’s high praise, by the way.
The Pitch: From the can: “An ale fashioned to survive the long voyage from England to India during the British colonization. Hops, hops and more hops, this ale has an intense aroma and a long lingering finish. Drink as an appetizer on its own, or pair it with any hearty dish. A beer for the connoisseur, this is the Brewmaster’s choice.”
The Look: A can, which is an odd format for a microbrewery. Pretty design that features a young woman, posed pin-up-style on a bicycle, showing a bit of leg. Cute look. The beer itself is an amber-golden colour, with a smallish head that disappears quickly.
The Taste: HOPS! Heavens, yes. First thing that hits you is pine, then some caramel sweetness, then mouth-puckering bitterness. After further sips, I got more citrus (grapefruit, mostly, with a touch of lemon). The taste is beyond intense. Thick, heavy mouthfeel with plenty of body.
Pairs With: Something with a whole lot of flavour. I’d go for grilled meat, possibly with a nice marinade featuring some sweeter flavours to counter the beer’s aggressive bitterness, as well as rosemary. An idea that came to mind about halfway through a glass: This would be great with a bowl of hot, spicy chilli (topped with sour cream and green onions, naturally), served with a slice of maple cornbread.
Yes, yes, but where can I get it?: After finding that liquor store after liquor store was out of stock of the stuff (including one shop in Edmonton that claimed it was no longer available in Alberta), I e-mailed the folks at Red Racer. As of the time I posted this, I’m still waiting patiently for a reply. If I get more info on availability (or lack thereof) in Alberta, I’ll share it here. From what I gather, the brewery’s capacity isn’t currently large enough to keep up with demand, though I recently read a story about their brewhouse undergoing a major expansion. Let’s hope that helps push more cans across the B.C. border.
RATINGS AND DETAILS
Cost: $16.99 for a 6-pack of 355 mL cans at the Crowfoot Co-op Wines and Spirits store in Calgary. This is cheaper than I’ve seen it for elsewhere.
Value for cash money: More expensive than other domestic microbrews, but the quality is great. Not an everyday beer; a rare treat, with a price to match.
Availability: VERY limited. If you’re in B.C., lucky you. If you’re in Alberta, good luck. If you’re elsewhere in Canada, well … don’t hold your breath.
Acceptable substitute: Because it’s so hard to find Red Racer’s India Pale Ale, may we suggest Red Racer ESB? It’s another super-hoppy brew that, for some reason, has been easier to find in Alberta in the last little while. It’s made with caramel malts and British hops, and lord knows you can taste those hops. It’s nicely dry and bitter, with grassy, piney notes. Different from the IPA, but there’s a clear family resemblance.
Nutrition?: It’s Beer.
Beerish power: 6.5 % a.b.v.
The verdict: Superb. Very much a beer-geek’s beer. It’s intense, it’s an experience, and one beer has more flavour than an entire six-pack of lesser brews; truth is, it’s hard to drink more than one at a sitting. Worth every penny.