Putting a new beer release directly into your regular lineup is a bold move. And Port City is nothing if not careful in how they curate their menu. Locking down their core beers was party of their early strategy, which to judge by overwhelming successes such as Optimal, Monumental, Essential, and the Porter was the smart play. And you just have to wonder how important it is to them to have their beers end in -AL (such as Revival, Maniacal, the COLOSSALs, and the seasonals)…that can’t all be a coincidence. Still, when the press release hit my inbox for Integral, my eyebrows did one of those ^^ over how confident Head Brewer Jonathan Reeves must be to go ahead and throw this new IPA in with all those other award-winning beers.
SPOILER ALERT: Yeah, it belongs there.
Integral IPA, Port City Brewing Co. (Alexandria, VA)
American India Pale Ale, 7% ABV, 60 IBU
Presentation: Crowler pour into IPA glass.
Appearance: It’s as if the head were joined at the hip to the rest of the beer. It sank down deep long after the pouring had stopped, and hung out like it had nowhere else to go. Some lattice hugged the lip of the glass but the rest was fairly clean. As for color, it’s a cloudy melon under fluorescent lights, skewing more tangerine in the shade.
Taste: Ready to play the fruit guessing game? On the nose I get dank pineapple and a vague resemblance to stone fruit. But it’s not peach, apricot, cherry, plum, or other drupes ranging out towards olives and pistachios. Beer nozzle to the mouth, I’d lean avocado, honestly, as it’s more slick and oily than fleshy. The body is really interesting, as there’s a bit of spice there alongside that tropical blast. That effect is courtesy some Azacca hops as well as Mosaic – the former is one of my least favorite varieties out there. The addition of Pekko is a good touch but you may have a hard time picking out its herbal undertones over the Azacca. The finish pulls through that spice into some colorful resin, meaning instead of bitter it’s almost as though you just pruned some peppery veggies such as arugula or even spinach.
Mouth Feel: The white pepper effect of the finish, along with the Simcoe resin, makes this a beer you could pair alongside just about any Latin or Caribbean dish. It mostly coats the back of the tongue and throat, leaving plenty of tastebuds for salty and spicy foods!
Overall: Port City was hopping almost up until closing time. Nearly everyone had a glass of Integral (or in many other cases, Optimal given the body heat had the whole place up into the low 80s). I can see why, as I came in expecting a super resiny DIPA from the hop lineup (to wit, Azacca, Mosaic, Pekko, and Simcoe), and instead got this spicy tropical mash I’d have expected from some jerk chicken and chutney. It’s not the citrus or hop bomb of Maniacal, and I like term floating arond for “Modern IPA” in that it melds East and West Coast flavors fairly seamlessly. I also dug the new crowlers, and simply could not resist loading one up for sitting out on the porch the next afternoon.