In these fractious times, when we can’t even agree on what constitutes a sandwich (hot dogs are not sandwiches, because if you ate three sandwiches in one sitting, all existing and several future generations of your family would disown you on the spot, you gross monster) or who the MVP of the NBA Finals should’ve been (whoever had the cutest toddler), it’s comforting to know we can all agree on one thing: Improv comedy is the worst.
Improv isn’t just terrible because its participants have no other conversational interests, making it a sort of doughy CrossFit for middle children; it’s also objectively less funny than other sorts of comedy. That’s because improv performers are primarily concerned with being impressive rather than merely entertaining.
Sadly, the improvisers aren’t alone. Practitioners of other, finer arts have similar tendencies to veer off the rails of their intended purpose in pursuit of their own insular shits, giggles, and style points. Bloggers, for instance, will sometimes meander around the point for several paragraphs before getting down to business. And a lot of brewers these days seem preoccupied with novelty at the expense of excellence.
India pale ale is the best-selling craft-beer category, and by a wide margin. There are tons of great ones, and even more good ones. So naturally the homebrewers and hardcore trophy hunters who make up a minority of the beer market but a majority of the beer chatter can sometimes be dismissive of IPAs, because that’s what cool kids do: complain about how they’re totally over whatever’s popular.
But their fundamental snobbishness is abetted by the reasonable claim that a lot of middling brewers use high hop dosages to cover up for production flaws. If you want to impress these inveterate judgmentalists, you’re better off brewing in a more demanding, or at least more obscure, style. But if you’re looking to sell some beer, it’s still a good idea to take a competent hop onto the IPA bandwagon. Normal, handsome, discerning people tend to like well-executed, hop-forward pale ales. Who are we snobs to tell the NHDP they’re wrong?
Aeronaut Brewing Company opened in Somerville, Mass., last year with an eight-beer lineup devoid of IPAs. They make good beer that’s getting better by the batch, and I’m glad that Saturday they’re celebrating their first anniversary with their inaugural canned release. Surprise! It’s an IPA. If it’s good, and it sticks around for a while, I’ll tell you all about it in a few months.
Today I’m pleased to tell you about Tallgrass Brewing Company of Manhattan, Kan., and their fantastic Ethos IPA. Tallgrass debuted in 2007 with their Pub Ale, a very nice mild English brown that is stylistically incapable of supporting an American brewery in the 21st century. They eventually followed that up with the funkily packaged, fruitily hopped 8-Bit Pale Ale, and then a 16-Bit version, along with various wheat beers and a bonkers can of rye barrel-aged Belgian tripel called Wooden Rooster, among others. They sent me a big box of beer a few weeks ago, and my favorite was the double-dry-hopped, 6.8-percent ABV Ethos IPA they introduced in 2013.
Ethos opens with a lemon-lime-grapefruit aroma that soon focuses into straight grapefruit that’s joined by pine on the second or third noseful. One of Drunkspin’s guiding principles is that we must try never to speak of “mouthfeel,” but I feel compelled to mention that this beer provides a pleasant sensation on the tongue; a more confident reviewer might guess the brewer added a bit of oat or wheat, or some other adjunct grain that helps fluff up the barley. The six different hop varieties make for a complex flavor profile featuring some tropical fruit notes along with the citrus and pine, and the silky texture lends a perception of balance despite a relatively muted malt presence.
The aspiring tastemakers and other assorted belching heads may prefer something smoked, aged, soured, or even lagered these days, but Tallgrass Ethos is a great crowd-pleaser of an IPA that exemplifies the sort of beer that can keep a community smiling and a brewery in business. Sometimes the most impressive way to go about your job is to simply be good at it.
This is Drunkspin Daily, the Concourse’s adequate source for booze news, reviews, and bullshit. We’ll be highlighting a beer a day in this space; please leave suggestions below.
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.