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.
As far a geography goes, I’m in a great location for beer. Sure, the Philadelphia area churns out some really delicious efforts but, being so close to both Maryland and New York, there are now plenty of next-level beers being distributed in these parts. Certain breweries that are beginning to gain notoriety are still pretty scarce, however, like Other Half Brewing Company. So when a friend of a friend made a trip to the Brooklyn-based brewery and brought some back, it only seemed appropriate to taste test the assorted limited releases smuggled from the Big Apple and there was one beer specifically on my radar, due to it’s unusual name – Baked Ziti.
Other Half Brewing was founded in 2014 by Sam Richardson, Matt Monahan and Andrew Burman with the intention of brewing beer that they wanted to drink at a company they wanted to be a part of – to represent the “other half” of the beer industry. When it started, Other Half produced 5,000 barrels a year but has since nearly tripled its production to 14,000 barrels a year, thanks in part to a 8,000-square-foot brewery purchase in Rochester, New York last year. That structure is often used to explore what trend might come next in the world of craft beer. Other Half also constantly produces limited release and rotating beers, to always ensure something new.
After seeing a recent Instagram post about the release of Baked Ziti, I knew I wanted to try it. I have told a few people about this beer and, immediately, they assume that the classic Italian dish was used in the making of this beer but that’s not the case, because that’d be crazy. I’m not well-versed in the company’s beer names but it seems as though Other Half enjoys naming its beer after food and other random things – we tried another beer called Broccoli as well. Baked Ziti is an India Pale Ale that is 7.5 percent alcohol by volume and features Simcoe, Citra and Mosaic hops, along with wheat and oats. Other than that, I wasn’t able to find a ton of information on this beer.
Baked Ziti’s label is pretty simple but definitely eye-catching – maybe more so because of its name than anything else though. It features a red and orange theme, with a big old plate of baked ziti positioned right in the middle of the can. While the name and alcohol content are both listed, there’s no other information for what the drinker is about to consume, which follows the same overall look as all of the company’s efforts.
When I popped open the 16-ounce pounder can, the smell was mainly tropical, with citrusy aromas like pineapple, and I also noticed a slight grassy aroma. Baked Ziti poured very nicely, with a golden-orange color that has a slight haze to it, complemented well by an off-white head that dissipated very quickly. It had a great look for a basic IPA, so I was excited to give it a taste. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from it, though I knew I had to remind myself that it wasn’t a hazy New England IPA like most of the other beers we wanted to try that evening.
Like many IPAs, this one tastes an awful lot like it smells. I got a strong note of citrus flavor brought about by the hops – the ones used really look to emphasize that tropical flavor. On the back-end, I felt like I could really notice the malt flavor and just a slight bitterness. It wasn’t nearly as bitter as I anticipated and Baked Ziti actually had a slight sweetness to it – but I’m not entirely sure why, to be honest. As far as drinkability, I could’ve had another one – but that’s about it. Other Half made a beer here that’s a little more complex than I expected, though the taste didn’t quite live up to the hype surrounding the brewery. Then again, this is just one effort from a brewery that’s always putting out something different.
I’m not sure what exactly a four-pack of Baked Ziti costs though I’d imagine it’s in the $18-$20 range, which isn’t too bad for a rotational beer like this one. The average overall score on BeerAdvocate is 4.16 based on 14 ratings but I think that’s on the higher end. I would score Baked Ziti as a 7.75 out of 10. I liked it but wasn’t blown away. It’s a good IPA that’s worth your time but nothing that really sets it apart from the countless others that are just like it.
Stay tuned for next week, because I might just try something from your favorite brewery.