A certain segment of the drinking public fetishizes localism. They sometimes take their case too far and try to dress dumdum provincialism up in environmentalist clothing, e.g. rooting for a hometown brewery because they consider it an extension of themselves—as if it were a local sports team—but pretending to have greener, less narcissistic motives. And localism can also provide handy cover for blowing the rent money on beer: Off to stimulate the local economy, honey. Don't wait up.
But on a basic, toned-down level, the preference for local beer is a logical one. First and foremost, freshness has a direct impact on the quality of most beers, particularly when high doses of hops are involved. And just as you don't have to be Captain Earth to consider the environmental impact of trucking beer 3,000 miles across the country, you don't have to be a Koch brother to see the value in spending your beer money someplace where it has a higher chance of turning into a job for a friend or a freshly paved road for your kid's school bus to drive on.
So I understand the appeal of local beer, and I drink a ton of it. But for my own selfish reasons, I get just as excited when an out-of-town beer enters the local market as I do when the place down the street taps their Friday-night firkin of Same Damn Pale Ale But This Time With A Slightly Different Hop Or Who Knows Maybe Hibiscus Petals Or Some Shit. In my line of almost-work, it helps to have access to as wide a variety as possible, mostly just so I have different beers to sort-of write about every day, but also because I'm not constitutionally opposed to accidentally learning what I'm talking about along the way, either.
Revolution Brewing, from Chicago, has recently made a deal with whatever angels oversee the right to distribute beer in my state. I was greatly pleased to learn this. I've heard good things about them for a couple of years now, I like that they can their beers, and I have a vaguely positive impression of Chicago in general, because who doesn't? (Other than the secret prison; gotta clean that one up, Chicago.)
The Revolution beer I've heard the most about is their Anti-Hero IPA. This is handy, because it's the only one I've seen in local stores, and also because I'm always looking for Midwestern IPAs. Beer readers see a lot of fuss about East Coast versus West Coast IPAs, for a couple of reasons: One is the obvious coastal bias that affects the media's coverage of every damn thing, but the other, more innocent factor is that Midwestern brewers tend not to be as hop-obsessed as their brothers and sisters along the fringes. Either way, IPAs from the heartland are still something of a novelty, at least where I live.
I'm very pleased to have Revolution in my neighborhood because it is an excellent beer, and also because it has provided the last crucial bit of data needed to present Drunkspin's Unified Theory of Midwestern IPAs: They taste faintly of strawberries! Now, is this true in any empirical sense? Eh, no more or less so than it's true that East Coast IPAs are malty and West Coast versions are hoppy, or whatever today's consensus phony distinction happens to be. But it is now the official Drunkspin position, on account of I taste strawberries sometimes in Bell's Two-Hearted, and also in Anti-Hero.
The Revolution website says Anti-Hero is "an American hop assault for all the ambivalent warriors who get the girl in the end." So piss off, heterosexual women, this is man stuff (and lesbian stuff)! But then, to be fair, the next sentence is some kind of Star Trek quote about not being here for revolutions and princesses, so maybe it's a tongue-in-cheek thing that I'm missing. Let us, for just this once, choose to not be offended. Let us instead consider this beer on its considerable liquid merits.
Anti-Hero's hop assault is gentler than I'd feared, with the traditional Midwestern respect for barley evident despite the heavily piney nose. It has a pronounced floral note, along with light citrus flavors, a touch of peach, and, I swear, strawberry. It goes down so smoothly that I'd have guessed the alcohol content was even lower than the relatively modest (for a modern IPA not marketed as explicitly sessionable) 6.5 percent. Anti-Hero's balance is nearly perfect, with just enough sweet, biscuity malt to stand up to the strong hop frontbone.
I still love plenty of my local Boston IPAs, but until one of them can appropriate the strawberry essence that I quite possibly (but if so, happily) hallucinate in a couple of their Midwestern counterparts, there'll room for Revolution Anti-Hero in my fridge.
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Image by Jim Cooke.
Will Gordon loves life and tolerates dissent. He lives in Cambridge, Mass., and some of his closest friends have met Certified Cicerones. Find him on Twitter @WillGordonAgain.