By Iron Chef Leftovers
It is almost suicide for a NW brewery to not have an IPA regularly on tap, just because it seems to be the default beer of a number of NW craft brew drinkers. Because of that, there is significant pressure on breweries to not only produce the style, but to do it well so they don’t get lost in the shuffle. For the early part of its existence, NW Peaks did not have an IPA on regularly, but that changed about a year ago when one of their regular commercial customers asked them to brew one, which lead to the Challenger IPA.
From the NW Peaks site:
The name. The mountain. Mt Challenger anchors the NW boundary of the Picket Range, arguably the most remote, inaccessible area of the N Cascades. The main feature of Mt Challenger (maybe besides its jagged, rocky summit and sub-summits) is the Challenger glacier – the largest in the area spanning nearly 2 miles and about 3000 of vertical feet. It’s a great climb, with a long approach (which many might consider a climbing excursion in itself), fun glacier slogs, and a nice rock pitch at the end. A truly great mountain and great back country climbing excursion. A perfect namesake to our traditional NW IPA.
The Beer. We tried to emulate the stunning features of Mt Challenger in the IPA. We started by selecting 7 varieties of hops, each used at 1 specific time during the process to bring out a unique flavor and bouquet that had both the traditional citrus notes as well as other complementary notes, in this case stone fruit. The malts were chosen to support the hop character, add a little complexity, and give Challenger IPA a nice balance, one that would feature, but not owerwhelm with, the hops. The result is a nice drinkable hop forward IPA featuring citrus and stone fruits on a solid, medium bodied backbone.
The beer pours hazy golden orange in color with a nice citrus and grain nose. The beer starts out with a pleasant amount of citrus before shifting into a slightly floral sweetness, lingering for a few moments before bringing a mild bitterness of resin and citrus peel. The beer finishes long, bringing all of the flavors together with hints of grain tying everything into one cohesive unit. The beer has plenty of character and a nice balance between bitter and citrus, making this a pretty easy beer to drink with a great lingering finish. The different variety of hops bring a nice layering to the beer and the 6.5% ABV is not at all perceptible.
NW Peaks Challenger IPA rises to the occasion and accomplishes its task with 4 double dares out of 5.