LIKE ANY SCOUT worth his salt, New Belgium’s Ranger IPA knows the value of a good first impression. Pouring a honey gold, Ranger has plenty of effervescence, a gracefully blooming head, and magnificent lacing that coats the entire length of the glass. A solid layer of foam remains to the very dregs and a half-finger head is easily coaxed back with a swirl that turns nearly hop-pellet green. In short, Ranger earns its Appearance badge with ease.
The beer is dry-hopped with Cascade for a boldly citrusy, resinous nose, which brackets a creamy mouthfeel and medium-plus body with a finish of grapefruit peel and slightly dank florals (Chinook and Simcoe). Between slow-playing carbonation and the head’s persistent smoothness, the mouthfeel is very round and pleasant, balancing the 70 IBUs that crowd in at the finish. They do back off enough on the entry and middle, though, where C-120 crystal malts create a straightforward caramel flavor as the centerpiece in a three-part arc. The carbonation, also subordinated by the body at the opening, reasserts itself in the zesty finish and enhances the impression of dryness. Altogether Ranger is a pleasant effort that satisfies without overexerting itself—substantial at 6.5% ABV with a slightly slick residue without becoming boozy. There may be a little too strong a pendulum swing between the slightly drab malts and the grassy Simcoe hop resins towards the finish, but New Belgium themselves describe the beer as ‘imbalanced’. Perhaps it’s biased to let Ranger write their own rubric for this test, but at least they’re playing the game well.
Served: 12 oz bottle (Best by 13 Oct, 2013)