Bear Republic Brewing – Racer 5 IPA Races into Craft Brew Acclaim

Bear Republic

The first time I tasted Racer 5 IPA was at a gallery opening and accustomed to the plastic glasses of Charles Shaw typically  poured at such events, this introduction was especially startling – in a very good way. Crafted in the heart of California’s wine region, Racer 5 has won awards and won the hearts of craft brew drinkers in short order.

Racer 5 IPA is just one of the brews created at Bear Republic Brewing Company. Bear Republic is a family owned venture that started with a Healdsburg, Calif. brew pub and grew into a second brewery in Sonoma County’s Cloverdale. It’s a sustainable craft brewer, dedicated not only to shaping stellar beers but to the small towns and Sonoma growing region in which it’s located. They’ve adapted innovative North State solar power as well as utilizing the environmentally supportive EcoVolt water treatment system. This system treats wastewater and generates biogas, changing waste into an asset, allowing Bear Republic to re-use up to 25% of its water in this drought-stretched region. Along with cutting water costs and reducing their carbon footprint, Bear Republic also donates spent grain to a local rancher and spent hops to farmers for compost.

But if Bear Republic is racing to the ecological support finish line, what about the beer? With both year ‘round and seasonal blends, the brews are decidedly hop-centric, and it’s the quality of the varied and hand-chosen hops that makes the beers so memorable.

Racer 5 is a golden IPA with a 7.5% alcohol content while Bear Republic’s golden Grand-Am has a 6% ABV. Other all-year offerings include Red Rocket Ale, Hop Rod Rye, Big Bear Black Stout, Peter Brown Tribute Ale, Hop Shovel, and El Oso, with the richly flavorful Big Bear Black Stout the most potent at 8.1% ABV.

All distinctive, robust beers, but Racer 5 has captured the most attention, taking Gold in the 2009 Great American Beer Festival, and at both the 2010 and 2011 California State Fair. Full bodied, crafted using American pale and crystal malts, the hops in Racer 5 are varied: Chinook, Cascade, Centennial, and Columbus. A true IPA, Racer 5 embraces a top-fermented, warm fermented brewing process, using the pale malts and large hop content to create a flavor-packed, full- bodied beer. The golden yellow beer offers up an aroma of citrus and pine hops, caramel, and grains. And the taste delivers what the aroma promises. Caramel, pine, floral, and citrus, with the citrus redolent of lemon and orange, are all a part of the flavor; but it’s the crisp and bitter hop layers that have the strongest pull.

In the summer months, Bear Republic offers a seasonal variation on Racer 5, the Café Racer 15. This limited production brew took silver at the 2012 Green American Beer Festival, and like Racer 5, is an IPA with the aroma and flavors of citrus, pine, and bitter hops, and an ABV of 9.5%. Here the hops are Citra, Amarillo, Chinook, and Cascade, creating an assertive, bold flavor with slightly more pine taste than Racer 5.

In short, IPA drinkers should speed up to taste seasonal Café Racer 15 as well as the bracing, bitter, hoppy goodness of Racer 5.

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