Despite the fact that I like all various beer styles, normally I’m not a huge fan of hoppy beers. Then again, some varieties I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. For instance, Founders Devil Dancer, which is like hop overdrive on steroids was fun and enjoyable, but others don’t quite cut the mustard for me. So I’m faced with a dilemma. I try not to be biased when I drink a hoppy beer, but it’s hard because I’m more of a hearty, earthy, robust flavor kind of guy. Hopheads, like my compatriot Rob, are a different breed I suppose. Rarely do I enjoy that dry, crispness and strangely bitter finish that hoppy beer leaves me with. My mouth often feels violated by such things. Usually it just makes me want to grab another beer to quench my thirst. So where can I find a solution to this hop hazard? Enter Cascazilla Red Ale by Ithaca Beer Company out of Ithaca, NY.
At 7% ABV, I was pretty sure I would be getting my hands on a good, relatively strong red ale, but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this. It poured a nice and clear reddish amber, and left a nice finger and a half of fluffy off-white head on top. That head produced plenty of citrusy aroma, like a fresh cut grapefruit waiting for you on the breakfast table. Also present in the nose was that bready aroma you would expect from a darker-colored malty ale like this. Getting back to the head, it had some serious lasting power. All the way to the end of this thing, I still had about a fingers worth of head left. At first I was apprehensive about the bitterness, it’s kind of hard not to be when giant hop flowers flank the beer’s namesake, right smack dab on the focal point of the beer label. Since I’ve often been bold enough (or stupid enough) to fend off any worries/fears or self-imposed dares, I dove in.
The head was very creamy, yet the slight hop bitterness was there. Usually when you smell a hoppy beer, you know what to expect as far as the taste concerned. But this one didn’t blow me away like I thought it might. In my opinion the bitterness and earthy, caramel-like flavor balanced nicely, a good complement to each other. The dry, bitter hop ending battled back and forth with the creamy notes and a touch of the zesty citrus fruitiness like a pair of swordsmen dueling to the death.
I know that being able to balance hoppy bite and malty creaminess can be like walking a tightrope, but it seems that these guys from central New York were able to pull it off. If you like your beer hoppy, or if you’re the type that likes a nice darker colored ale with good strength, then you both are in for a treat. Chase down Cascazilla. Then grab it and see for yourself!