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.
It’s quarantine day-something of week-something and I needed a trip out of the house, so I went on a short drive to my distributor to grab some stuff, since my fridge was empty. Well, there were actually two singles in there, one of which I planned to review but when I realized the expiration date had passed, I decided to pivot – and I only bought it like two weeks ago. I guess I need to pay closer attention to freshness right now. But what I found at the distributor was that a hyper-local brewery appears to have expanded its footprint in these bizarro times, so I grabbed a four-pack of Levante Brewing Company’s Cloudy & Cumbersome New England IPA.
Before I jump into Levante’s background, I would like to just continue to urge you to continue to drink local, if you can, and support smaller breweries that are adapting to current events and trying to find sustainability until things return to normal. If not, they might not be around later.
Levante started with a three-gallon homebrew kettle inside a college apartment and quickly evolved from there, thanks in part to brewmaster Tim Floros’ inspirational trip to Italy. In 2015, Levante officially opened its doors as a 15-barrel brewhouse just outside of Philadelphia. With no TVs on site, except for an updated chalkboard, Levante focuses on some of Italy’s traditions when it comes to drinking, as customer interaction and drink quality are predominant principals. And like everyone who enters the brewery, every beer has a story. Whether it’s a partnership with a local establishment, a recent adventure or simply the desire to create a next-level beer particular to a specific area of the world, Levante is fueled by what often inspires its brewers.
And while its footprint might be small, Levante can be found around Philadelphia and much of Pennsylvania – given the local buzz, there’s no telling what the future might hold. I’ve actually never had one of their offerings. The brewery is only about a 40-minute drive from my house and it’s long been on my list of breweries I’d like to visit, so when I saw some in the wild, I had to grab it. Cloudy & Cumbersome was first brewed in 2016 as Levante’s specialty can releases began to take hold and appears to be one of the company’s cornerstone beers these days. It seems as though Levante is consistently rotating limited releases, rather than having year-round efforts, and the company is currently offering both delivery and curbside pickup through their website.
Cloudy & Cumbersome is a 5.9 percent ABV, 34 IBU New England IPA featuring Mosaic and Idaho 7 hops that “burst bright with the citrusy pith flavors reminiscent of tropical passion fruit and freshly peeled grapefruit.” The haze is a product of the oats and wheat found in the grain bill. It comes in a 16-ounce “pounder” can, with a blue logo that gives the illusion of the sky, with a vibrant color and some white mixed in as though it was fluffy clouds. The company’s logo is smack-dab right in the middle and although it took a minute for me to find, the ABV and the hops used to create this beer are listed on the side of the label, so they’re off to a good start here.
A beer like this one was made to smell, so I elected to stick my schnoz up to it for a massive whiff as soon as I opened it, with all that aroma still permeating in the can. Brewed and canned at the very end of April, it doesn’t get too much fresher than this one. What I noticed from that first sniff was a punch of citrus notes, including some tangerine and a little bit of orange creamsicle. There was an underlying dankness to it as well but I really wasn’t able to pinpoint any other smells.
My glassware isn’t as awesome as some that Levante offers but I poured it into a 16-ounce teku glass, allowing the head to build before topping it off. It had a good looking off-white head to complement the amber-orangy-blonde color – and it was as hazy as expected. The retention was very good but I’m not sure I would say the pour was anything memorable.
Upon my first sip, I’ll be honest, I was a little disappointed by this effort. But I think some of that was on my end, expecting some Earth-shattering juicy, dank, sticky double hazy-type effort, along the lines of what I’ve come to love. It wasn’t really fair on how I immediately assessed this beer but I did have to warm up to it a little and, as the sips went on, I enjoyed it more and more and the drinkability skyrocketed. What I noticed from Cloudy & Cumbersome was a taste built upon a foundation of citrus, like with the nose, that offered a little tangerine and a little pineapple. It was followed by an oat flavor that offered a little dankness and gave way to caramel and maybe just a little bitter on the back-end. It all lends itself to a medium-bodied and smooth – nailed the mouthfeel – effort that’s very drinkable.
As far as the price goes, this one was kind of a steal at $15. Most similar localish efforts in this space usually go for between $18-$20, so I cannot complain about that one bit! Checking the stats on BeerAdvocate, Cloudy & Cumbersome features a site score of 87 and an average score of 3.87 (out of 5.0) based on 85 reviews. If you’re new to this feature, I score on a 10 point system and I would go a little higher than that average here, based on conversion. I would give this Levante effort a 7.9.
Cloudy & Cumbersome is a NEIPA that doesn’t try too hard and stays in it’s lane. It proved to be a flavorful – with that citrus hop base – and drinkable effort though it might be a little rough around the edges when it comes to a pungent aroma and a sexy, Instagram-worthy pour. The mouthfeel was pretty top-notch, however. I would buy it again but I’d love to get a hand on some of Levante’s other complex brews – they seem to know how to brew a complex beer.
Stay tuned for next week, because I might just try something from your favorite brewery.