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.
A couple of weeks ago, I took a trip with some friends to northern Pennsylvania to enjoy a weekend at a cabin in the mountains – and a trip to New Trail Brewing Company. As per usual, we were all required to bring the beverages we’d be consuming for the weekend and then, by the end of the weekend, it becomes a hodgepodge of beers that we split up and take with us. There was a beer I have enjoyed a number of times in the past but didn’t have it all weekend, so I recently grabed some, knowing it would be the perfect time to review it for Thirsty Thursday. Unfortunately, it didn’t survive the trip home, so I had to purchase more.
That beer is Extra Pale Ale, known better as XPA, by Flying Fish Brewing Company. Founded in 1995 by Gene Muller on the World Wide Web in a New Jersey suburb just outside of Philadelphia, Flying Fish boasts that was “the world’s first virtual brewery.” More than two decades later, the company is the state’s largest craft brewery – and both state-of-the-art from a production and environmentally friendly standpoint. Flying Fish produces seven year-round efforts and a whole slew of seasonal and limited editions, most notably the Exit Series – a diverse series highlighting something unique from each exit on the New Jersey Turnpike. All of their efforts have led to 10 medals at the Great American Beer Festival, more than any other brewery in the state.
XPA was the company’s first beer, a standard in my circle of friends. It’s a slightly updated recipe however, boasting 5.2 percent alcohol by volume and 27 IBUs. Available in 12-ounce bottles and 12-ounce cans, XPA is brewed with four different kinds of hops – El Dorado, Citra, Palisade and Warrior. The company provides great detail with this beer, explaining the various malts and yeast used as well as the original gravity of this effort but you can look that up on your own. Flying Fish even recommends pairing XPA with fish, fowl and spicy foods.
The label for XPA, which was recently updated not that long ago, features a blue and yellow color combination, with three hikers staring out into mountains and an accompanying river. The sun is also in the background, though it’s been made to look like a giant lemon. The label also encourages drinkers to snap a photo with the beer and use the hashtag #XPA on Instagram. There’s even a nice little description of the beer:
Extra Pale Ale, simply known as “XPA,” was our original beer. It’s quenched the thirst of many along their journey. Like a change of scenery, this updated version is citrus forward and begins a new chapter for XPA.
When I cracked this one open, I immediately went in for the sniff. I noticed a light, bitter, piney aroma, a little bit of what I thought might be grapefruit and some yeast. XPA is a medium-bodied effort that has a moderate amount of carbonation, pours golden in color with white head and thin lacing. The taste really kind of mimicked the smell, offering some grapefruit and lemon, a little yeast, a hint of bitterness and some tropical vibes.
It’s a pretty standard beer, providing nothing too complex, but it’s damn easy to drink. It’s crisp and flavorful without being heavy – honestly, it’s one of the perfect summer beers. If you want something the whole group is likely to enjoy while sitting back and relaxing, XPA is it. A six-pack will typically run you just over $11, which is a bargain for an easy-drinker of this nature. It scored an average overall of 3.74 on BeerAdvocate and I’m in the same boat essentially, just a little higher, scoring it a 7.7 out of 10. Flying Fish didn’t reinvent the wheel here, but it did make a quality, easy to consume beer, that should be a standard during the summer months. It leaves you wanting to try more of what’s in their arsenal, which is exactly why I grabbed this one in the 15-can variety pack.
Stay tuned for next week, because I might just try something from your favorite brewery.