Welcome to Thirsty Thursday, a weekly column where we pick a beer from our fridge and review it, because in a world where two new breweries launch every single week, sometimes we need some help sifting through all of the hops.
This week’s beer is one that I’ve chased for a while now. No, it’s not some abundantly complex limited release I had to wait hours for but, rather, something fairly readily available – though its distribution can only be found in certain parts of the country. For years, Philadelphia wasn’t one of those locations, so I couldn’t virtually share a beer with Stone Cold Steve Austin. If you’re not a fan of wrestling, you might not know that the WWE Hall of Famer created a beer with a small brewery on the outskirts of Los Angeles. Now I don’t follow the WWE at all, however I have this weird fascination with professional wrestlers, maybe because it reminds me of a simpler time – when my cousin would practice wrestling moves on me while watching WWF Mania. So, a fun beer with a fun story? I knew I had to try El Segundo Brewing Company’s Broken Skull IPA and, thanks to a friend who managed to grab some when it hit the area, I finally got the chance.
Founded in 2010 by Rob Croxall, El Segundo began with a passion for hops and an ability to create beer as delicious as what was being done in San Diego. After tons of homebrewing, El Segundo started with the capacity to brew 60 barrels a month but it quickly grew to about 400. Along the way, Roxall and his crew continued to pump out IPAs, DIPAs and more, getting the industry to take notice, as evident by the brewery’s gold medal win in the American-Style Amber Lager or Dark Lager for Casa Azul at the 2016 Great American Beer Festival. And then the brewery partnered with Stone Cold Steve Austin and things just seemed to explode.
Austin, also known as Steve James Anderson, has a residence in nearby Marina del Ray and while he used to be a lager guy, the six-time WWE Champion fell in love with El Segundo’s beers. Soon, Austin showed an interest in teaming up for a beer and within no time the two sides were sitting around a table drinking and discussing the former wrestler’s palate. Broken Skull IPA was released in 2015 and Austin appeared on a Monday Night Raw reunion with his new beer in hand – and that’s when it was clear wrestling fans had to get their hands on it.
Broken Skull IPA is a “bad-ass” 6.7 percent effort brewed for the working man and woman, featuring Citra, Cascade and Chinook hops that the brewery claims delivers “big flavor with an easy finish.” The name came from Austin’s Texas home, Broken Skull Ranch, which was also in the name of a Country Music Television reality television series that he hosted at the time. The label of this 16-ounce can features a tan and blue theme, with the look of El Segundo beers, plus barbed wire all around the outside of the logo and a “Stone Cold” skull at the bottom. It also has all the information a beer nerd like me wants, with the ABV, a synopsis of what’s inside – and the hops used – and even a Steve Austin signature endorsement on every label.
And at $14 a four-pack per their website, Broken Skull IPA was off to a good start.
When I cracked it open and did my best Stone Cold impersonation, raising it in the air, I held off on sniffing it until I poured it. With a ton of generous off-white head, Broken Skull IPA poured an almost crystal clear golden yellow color with plenty of signs it’s well carbonated. It certainly had the look of an American-style IPA and it made for a pretty decent photo opportunity. So far I’m impressed.
The aroma was a little on the lighter end, offering a decent hint of piney, hoppy nose along with an underlying hint of tropical smells and just a little bit of biscuit. It’s by no means the best-smelling beer I’ve ever had but it’s adequate and, to the novice beer drinker, it would get the job done. But the taste is what’s most important here and Broken Skull IPA is on the lighter side there. Don’t get me wrong, it’s tasty but there’s nothing about it that really stands out among the crowd. It has a lemon and pine backbone, with a little citrus in there as well, especially grapefruit and it’s followed up with a shot of bitterness and dryness on the back-end – nothing too crazy. Maybe don’t start the night with this one but it would be the perfect beer to finish it.
Having said that, I can imagine why Stone Cold is able to pound two of these at the same time. On a hot summer day, this beer goes down pretty easily, with no real effort. If you’re tailgating and looking for a beer that’s a little on the lighter side that everyone will likely enjoy, Broken Skull IPA is the beer – yes, even that one friend whining when everyone brings IPAs, saying they don’t like that style.
After I was finished with this beer, wrote down my notes and thought of a score in my head, I went over to BeerAdvocate to see what the website and the people had to say about Broken Skull IPA. The site gave it a very good rating of 88 while the average score was a very solid 3.93 out of 5.0 – and that was based on more than 230 ratings. I would give it 7.7 out of 10. I definitely enjoyed it. I can’t emphasize the crushability enough.
I mean, I could’ve finished it in three honking sips but I just thought, other than the pour, there wasn’t anything about it that made it all that special, besides the fact it was created with the help of one of professional wrestling’s biggest names. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t drink this one again, because I would, but it’d lean into it more in a group setting, knowing full well it would appease almost any palate in the group.
Stay tuned next week, because I might try something from your favorite brewery.