Tell me, who doesn’t love going to Trader Joe’s and finding things you didn’t know you needed? I like to cook, so I wandered in to pick up a few random things. As is often the case, my searching led me straight to the beer aisle, where I picked up today’s subject.
I hadn’t realized TJ’s carried its own beer brands until friends out West told me about reasonably good breweries taking contracts for the chain. So while some of the beer churned out is the decidedly mediocre, but great value, Simpler Times canned lagers, there are also beers made by reputable craft breweries. Today’s beer, Mission St. India Pale Ale, falls under the latter category. While the bottle says it’s brewed by “Steinhaus Brewing Co.”, that’s just a shield for a far more reputable outfit, Firestone Walker Brewing in Paso Robles, California. Firestone Walker brews quite a number of excellent beers, several of which are very hoppy styles like the Mission St. IPA, so I had high hopes when I noticed this on the shelves at Manhattan’s newest Trader Joe’s and brought it home for the Beer Boor treatment.
I’m a big fan of very hoppy, bitter beers, so of course India Pale Ale, when it’s good, displays all the characteristics I love: a big citric or flowery nose from an overdose of hops, unbalanced bitterness in the flavor coupled with a clean maltiness with little fruitiness from the yeast, and a lingering, hoppy, dry finish. I’ve discussed one of the best East Coast IPAs before, but it’s high time we dip back into the style, and why not do it with a widely-available, inexpensive beer?
Mission Street India Pale Ale pours a slightly hazy deep orange color, closer to blood orange, kicking up a large, lingering soapy cream-colored head that sticks to the glass and the top of the beer for nearly the entire twelve ounces. This head serves up a big citric aroma from the hops added very late in the brewing process, and probably added whole to the fermenter, just so that the aromatic compounds don’t break down and instead assault the nose with hops hops hops. Now granted, in Mission St.’s case, thishop assault is tempered a little by some malty sweetness, but that isn’t really a stumbling block to me. I’m anticipating a tasty, bitter beer.
Do I get that from Mission St.? Yes. Yes, I do.This is a solid IPA through and through, and I’d venture it’s a classic example of Cascades hops in a beer. This beer tastes of grapefruit rind and lemons, a brisk bitterness tempered by the malt backbone that somewhat balances this bitterness with a little sweetness. The beer seems a bit on the thin side — maybe that’s partly due to the high carbonation — but it doesn’t cause any astringency, and I drink sip after sip, feeling the dryish, rough bitterness with every swallow lead me to have another. Over all, a very tasty, surprisingly good IPA and at this price point, a no-brainer.
The label for this beer mentions the crossroads of quality and value, and I couldn’t agree more. At $6.99 for a six-pack — unheard-of in the city these days for a good craft beer — why wouldn’t I pick this up, and its sister the Pale Ale? For an IPA, this beer is even on the “weak” side, as it checks in at a “mere” 6.1% alcohol by volume, so it won’t wreck you to have a couple while watching the game. It’s like a perfect storm of good beer attributes.
If you can’t find this beer in your area, or if you like this beer and want to branch out, some similar beers to try would be the Green Flash West Coast IPA, which is not a deal in six-packs but in bars it’s fairly reasonable; Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA, which has its moments, though its hops aren’t as citric; or Sierra Nevada Torpedo (or Celebration Ale, if it’s closer to Christmas). Normally with cheaper IPAs, I’d consider whether it’s a good “training wheels” beer, one that isn’t particularly great but would get you used to the style and interested in trying others. With Mission St., heck, stock up and drink it, it’s one of the better IPAs available in our neck of the woods and at that price? Fuhgeddaboutit. Drink up and enjoy the summer!