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.
Like a moth to flame, I was drawn to this week’s beer solely based on the label. It comes from a brewery I visited quite a long time ago and remember having some solid efforts, so I figured why not give Saucony Creek Brewing Company’s Prince-inspired Topaz Rain a try? While I’m not admittedly some sort of Prince fanatic, I delved deep into the Minnesota-based artist’s catalog following his 2016 death and gained a newfound appreciation of both his music and guitar licks. In fact, I decided to throw on 1999 while I took this local 16-ounce beer out for a proverbial spin.
Founded in 2013 by former professional skateboarder and snowboarder – and three-time X-Games bronze medalist – Matt Lindenmuth, Saucony Creek focuses on brewing what it calls “hyper-local adventurous beer to keep glass-clinking camaraderie alive and well.” The idea is to create farm-to-pint beer that pairs with farm-to-table food offered at the Kutztown, Pennsylvania brewery, which operates on a 15-barrel system and produces close to 6,000 barrels annually. That line of thinking, and the attention to local ingredients, helped Lindenmuth, and head brewer Nick Micio, grab a gold medal in the Belgian-style Fruit Beer category back in 2015. With roots firmly planted in the Allentown area, Lindenmuth decided to create another brewery, The Larimer, just outside of Philadelphia – a spot I’ve heard only very good things about that I hope to visit soon.
Saucony Creek offers more than two dozen different beers, according to its website, and while I’m not exactly sure how many a year-round, I know they also add some limited releases to that mix, one of which is Topaz Rain. This New England-style IPA comes in at 7.5 percent ABV and features pils malt and copious amounts of Galaxy and Motueka hops – and a little Citra hops. It also features an eye-grabbing label with the purple one wearing his classic Purple Rain outfit and holding his signature guitar, only the label has a bluish theme to it giving the beer’s name. There’s rain in the background and a couple of doves right above the name, however besides the ABV, there’s no real explanation of what ingredients it contains and what I’m about to drink.
Once I cracked open this beer, and before I even poured it, I gave it the old smell test. With a New England IPA, I expect there to be a juiciness brought about by the hops, given that this specific style is often dry-hopped to the point that it’s hazy, with an aggressive tropical aroma and flavor. What I got from Topaz Rain was a little more faint than I anticipated, with a small punch of citrus and a little bit of berry mixed in as well. It smelled pretty inviting, with some of the characteristics of the style, but delving any further into its nose profile proved challenging.
The pour, on the other hand, couldn’t have been any better – it was spot on here.
It might’ve helped that I used an IPA-specific glass but Topaz Rain flowed out into a yellowish-orange color, offering about three or four fingers worth of off-white head that hung around for my little photo shoot. I thought that the lacing was on point and the carbonation served this beer well also. This pour, along with the eye-grabbing label that caught my attention, is the perfect look for a social media post. I only hoped the taste would follow suit.
A little more pronounced than the aroma, the flavor here was built upon a medium mouthfeel and featured undertones of peach and tangerine. I felt like I also noticed a hint of spice in there – I’m no expert. All of the flavor, which tended to feel just a little watered down much like the aroma, gave way to an awesomely dry and slightly bitter back-end. Sure, it wasn’t necessarily dynamic but the way Topaz Rain finished left me grabbing my glass and returning for more. Is it the most crushable beer I’ve ever had – certainly not. But I’d have no problem killing two of these over the course of watching Tim Burton’s Batman because, you know, Prince created the soundtrack.
I teetered back and forth on the score on this one. At first, I was in the disappointed camp but then it grew on me the more I consumed it. Topaz Rain might not have been the quintessential textbook New England IPA but I enjoyed it and while it certainly had flaws, it’s a fun tribute to an underrated musician. The aroma might have been a little undefined but the photogenic pour made up for it and even though the flavor was slightly watered down, the dryness that it hit with was fairly on point. To be honest, I’d love to see this beer taken to the next-level and turned into a Hazy Double IPA, if for no other reason than the true juiciness of the hops could just detonate.
Enough beating around the bush, I gave Topaz Rain a very solid 7.7 out of 10. When I logged onto BeerAdvocate, I found that this beer had no official site rating and just one consumer rating, which was 3.79 out of 5.0. So, they were pretty on point with me.
Stay tuned next week, because I might try something from your favorite brewery.