Usually my business trips take me to the Midwest. For once (and maybe the only time), a trip kept me in the Commonwealth and I was able to meander around the 757 of all places. One of my evening visits took me to Benchtop, which was fresh off its GABF Gold Medal win for its Mermaid’s Scorn Oyster Gose. Yes, I tried that, too. What caught my attention most of all was their NE-ish IPA, and the cheeky name attached to it. A Proven Theory for what, exactly? That yours is the best? That this is a superior style? Endless debate may abound, but in the weeks that followed I started seeing this beer – and not Mermaid’s Scorn – start popping up all over NoVA. That says something that such a new brewery could instantly penetrate the dense (almost super-saturated) market we have up here. I picked up a crowler one afternoon because, well, good beer.
Proven Theory, Benchtop Brewing Co. (Norfolk, VA)
American IPA, 7.6% ABV
Presentation: Crowler pour into tulip.
Appearance: Could pass as a Witbier or even a Hefeweizen. A uniform whitish straw base, hazy but not cloudy. That’s where the “ish” came from when I said NE-ish. A robust and thick head surprisingly left behind no lattice.
Taste: Similar to the appearance, the nose imparts citrus but also a bit of straw. A very fresh start, with a clean body full of esters (hop oils) and a touch of grapefruit. The finish is very mild to start, and very low bitterness overall. This is a versatile beer that plays off a lot of different styles and flavors. So maybe the Proven Theory is that compromise or moderation is best? I still have no idea. I do know that there’s nothing in here which may offend most palates, unless you’re a true hophead or sour-seeker. In which case, you probably know what you like already…
Mouth Feel: This beer truly engages all your taste sensors, but it doesn’t quite coat the mouth. Like a NE IPA the hop aroma doesn’t translate to any discernible bitterness.
Overall: Proven Theory seems to be both an entry-level American IPA and a beginners NE IPA. You get to understand hop aromas and flavors, but it only has a mild bite. At the same time, it’s not a total juice bomb or “beermosa.” It’s approachable, drinkable, and well-executed. Maybe that’s the secret to the name then – the proven theory for good beer is that everybody likes it, wants it, even demands it. Whatever the full meaning of the name, Proven Theory is going to be a staple on draught lists for at least the near future. Skip the flight or taster and just get a full glass of it…and try to prove Benchtop wrong on this one!