Craft Beer Scene Around Rockford: Summit’s Saga India Pale Ale doesn’t disappoint

February 19, 2014

By Michael Sears
President, Forest City Brewers

This week, I would like to highlight an IPA from Summit Brewery called Saga India Pale Ale. In addition to tasting this from the bottle, I had the lovely experience of drinking the cask version Friday evening, Feb. 14, at the Olympic Tavern.

The Olympic recently completed a major renovation of the bar area that features a very good craft beer selection in bottles as well as a top-of-the-line system of 28 tap handles installed by Micro Matic USA, one of the leaders in beer dispensing equipment. Stop in to see Zak and the bar staff sometime soon.

Saga IPA, introduced in 2012, is Summit’s interpretation of an American IPA, named after the Norse goddess Sága, drinking companion of the god Odin. Saga has now become one of my favorite “go-to IPA” beers, not only because it is a great-tasting beer, but it is affordable, approximately $8 for a six-pack and available year-round. It quenches my hop yearnings with a tropical fruit hop aroma and clean, assertive bitterness.

Saga has a hefty hop bill at 80 IBUs (International Bittering Units). According to Summit’s website, they use Centennial, Amarillo, Citra and Rakau both in the boil and dry hopping. The Rakau hop is a new and relatively unknown hop variety from New Zealand. I searched for this hop’s characteristics, and this is what is said of the Rakau hop: “a unique offering from New Zealand bursting with a lot of the typical New Zealand fruity character tropical aroma highlights of passion fruit, mango, and peach.” Hmmm … let’s give this a try.

This beer is to be served at 45 degrees Fahrenheit according to Summit, in a Nonick or standard pint tumbler. The beer pours a clear honey gold with a two-finger white rocky head with solid retention that fades to a finger with some really nice lacing all through the glass. The aroma is of orange and grapefruit, with hints of pine and a solid pale malt graininess (bready) in the background. The taste begins with a grainy flavor upfront with some orange mixed in. There is also a moderate grapefruit hop taste. The grapefruit grows stronger and more bitter, eventually giving way to an ever-so-slight caramel (sweet) flavor that again is rejoined by the orange. At the end of the taste, the grapefruit, which is now quite pronounced, mixes with a light piney taste, leaving a long-lingering bitter taste with slight hop oiliness on the tongue. The mouth feel has a medium body with a carbonation level that is average, keeping it on the very drinkable side, but still showcasing some of the nice bitter hop flavors with a nice, dry finish.

Overall impression is this is a great IPA effort by Summit. It looks great, and smells and tastes solid, with a tradition and quality that lacks in some of the newer breweries’ IPAs. Summit didn’t rush to make this hoppy American IPA, and it shows. Summit never disappoints me.

Prost!

Michael Sears is president of the Forest City Brewers. The Forest City Brewers is a homebrewing club dedicated to the art of finely crafted beer. The club meets the first Wednesday of each month at Thunder Bay Grille on East State Sreet. For more about Forest City Brewers, go to http://forestcitybrewers.org. If you have comments or recommendations, please contact Mike at rockfordcraftbeer@comcast.net.

From the Feb. 19-25, 2014, issue

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