The first question some of y’all are asking is ‘who are these gentlemen in the picture to the left?’ Well, the man standing in the front is named Ron McKernan, and while you might not recognize him or his compatriot from first glance, you should all know the story we are about to tell (and yes I tie it into the beer). What you are looking at are the founding members of….the Grateful Dead. The man in the background in none other than a young Jerry Garcia, but you can not tell the tale of the band without the other half of this creative empire, Ron McKernan, better known as Pigpen.
Pigpen was the soul of the early Grateful Dead. His background as a blues musician and grit could excite a crowd. If you have ever heard him do Lovelight, you know what I’m talking about. But unfortunately, as the band evolved, they moved away from featuring that kind of music, leaning towards the jammy psychedelic rock that defined the Grateful Dead. As his health began to deteriorate until his early passing, it just seemed that his flavor was just going out of style, tragic for someone instrumental in forming the greatest jam band in history.
Now this is a beer review, so let me tie this all together. Breweries change from time to time, and the root of that change can come from a wide variety of sectors. Sometimes a management/brewers want to move in a new direction, and sometimes the public’s taste (or perception of taste) change and breweries accommodate that. We could get into a graduate level class on economics, but leaving it at ‘change is inevitable’ is suffice for this article. We got to try the 2.0 version of a popular beer, appropriately named for the company above, and the sense of moving on was completely evident.
Grateful Pale Ale Remastered, Starr Hill Brewery (Crozet, VA)
American Pale Ale, ABV: 4.7%, IBU: 45
Presentation: Straight from the bottle. If you are into fancy glassware, go pint.
Appearance: Bright yellow/orange to orange tint brown, white head that sits up one to two fingers, laces as dissipates. Peaking observed.
Taste: The Remastered version is much brighter and green/citrus hopped forward. While the malt is evident and balanced up front, it gives way towards the middle to the hops, and finishes slightly hoppy. Grapefruit/lemon/lime citrus throughout while some hop/malt effects like pine/earthiness popping in and out.
Mouth Feel: Light to light-medium body, more evident of a pale ale than a ‘sessionable pale ale’. Acidity and bitterness noticeable, but not overwhelming in the front, reset is right about neutral, but found that it became more towards the hoppy side as the beer went along. ABV is covered and slightly spiked at the beginning and IBU can seem low from what you experience with this beer.
Overall: If you are confused about what we think of this beer, I’ll lay it out for you. (It’s about to get soap-boxy) This is a truly great beer. And to be completely honest, I have enjoyed the remastered version a lot more than the original. What has thrown me for a loop is exactly why. The green/citrus pales ales are the ‘in’ thing right now, and this checks off every box. It is now more of a summer beer than a 3-season maltier version of it’s predecessor, and when summers in Virginia last most of the year now, it rarely will fall out of favor. But have I moved on to accepting that as the norm? It seems it is harder and harder to find malt-forward pale ales that truly defined PALE ale a decade ago. Public tastes evolve and this is just a movement that is happening, and I don’t knock Starr Hill for remastering this one at all. That being said, this beer lives up to it’s Grateful moniker. It is moving on, but unfortunately, like Pigpen, it leaves behind what really started the movement. Outside of the ‘sessionable’ naming part, there is nothing I don’t enjoy about this beer, and find it to be a great re-addition to their year round line up. Now I have had this in bottles, and I will be enjoying the first run in cans shortly as part of their Summer Jam Variety Pack, which puts four great beers together. Absolutely get this beer and enjoy it through the rest of the summer.