Food Liquids

Review: Red Racer India Pale Ale

Red Racer India Pale Ale comes packaged in cans, not bottles. This is strange for a small-scale microbrew.

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.

Red Racer India Pale Ale is nice-looking IPA. But it’s the taste that counts.

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.

4 Comments

  1. Just tossing in my 2cents, but the last few times I’ve looked for the Red Racer(now Red Betty stateside) at Keg’n’Cork-south Edmonton-they’ve invariably only had the R/R ESB. And my local pub, The Next Act stopped carrying it quite awhile ago, despite it still being listed on their menu/beer list. I’ll have to phone Sherbrooke.

    P.S. Have you tried Dieu du Ciel’s Herbe a Detourne. They refer to it on the label, as a ‘new world tripel with Citra hops’. But it seems more of an imperial IPA…Great beer though & incredibly well-hidden 10.2%abv.

    • Iain Ilich

      There’s a curious brew from Phillips in Victoria (now available in Alberta, if you keep your eyes open) that bills itself as a Belgian tripel crossed with an IPA. Goes by the name of Hoperation Tripel Cross. Strong, but worth checking out. Might be your cup of tea. 🙂

  2. Oh yes I’ve had that a few times, as well as their Amnesiac. Prefer the ‘Tripel Cross’, but the Amnesiac is well-balanced & certainy good for what it is. We/EBGA http://www.edmontonbeergeeksanonymous.ca had Matt Phillips in to talk to us & do a Q&A when the beers first became available here so it was a great ‘heads up’. (I thought it should’ve been ‘…Beer Geeks Unanimous’ as in united in the quest for better beer, but… *shrugs*

    Another heads up we Beer Geeks got was about the Anderson Valley beers -n we had brewery owner Trey White talk/Q&A/introduce samples of 5 of their beers. All very well-balanced, not the U.S. hop bomb type. If you’re into video reviews, check out this Calgarian’s assesment of Anderson Valley’s Summer Solstice-very nice Cream Ale, & DdC’s Herbe a Detourne.

    http://www.youtube.com/user/patrickthebeerguy

  3. Just posting this here for anyone else looking for Red Racer IPA in Calgary, I picked a couple of 6 packs up from the Highlander Wine and Spirits on Richmond Road this past Saturday, I’m not sure if they regularly stock it, as I usually go there for the great whiskey and wine selection, but they have it currently.

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