Straight To Ale Monkeynaut IPA

May 21, 2013

A respectful moment of silence is in order for Alberts 1-4, the first primates the United States ever launched into space aboard rockets. The data collected from their efforts – unknowingly important to the simians – helped pave the way for space exploration and almost countless technological advancements. Alberts 1-4 didn’t make it.

Shakespeare would adore the irony that the first monkey to survive its flight into the heavens was named Yorick. You think NASA wasn’t feeling too good about their chances when they handed out that name?

I think that more than a little of Alabama’s Straight To Ale Brewing Company’s inspiration is derived from the presence of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center also located in Huntsville. From their Werner Von Brown Ale – named for the father of rocket science in a translation play-on-words – to the Laika Russian Imperial Stout happily wagging its space-doggie tail at the reference, STA has no shortage of Earth orbit themed beverages based upon all backgrounds of space exploration.

Just as long as they don’t dedicate a beer to poor Gordo whose rocket capsule sank to the bottom of the Atlantic, never to be found. That’d be morbid.

We at Hopjacks were extremely happy to be given an early look at their year-round selections a few months ago and ever since we’ve been chomping at the bit to be able to feature their beer. The one that immediately grabbed my attention sported a screaming monkey in a space suit on the can.

Turns out the Monkeynaut IPA has a big historical connection with Pensacola. In 1959 a selection of primates were purchased at a Miami pet shop and brought to Naval Air Station’s Medical Center for testing and training in the Space Program. The best of the bunch was a squirrel monkey named Miss Baker and she was partnered up with a rhesus named Miss Able. The two survived their flight and became national celebrities of sorts being featured on the cover of Time. Baker’s handlers had her “married” in 1962 and the happy couple lived here at the Naval Aerospace Medical Center until 1971 when they were moved to Huntsville. Monkeynaut is dedicated to the memory of Miss Baker.

It is a reddish-orange pale ale that gives up a dense, fluffy head with plenty of sticky lacing left behind. Scents are right where one would expect from an American IPA; a combination of everything hoppy with pine, citrus, tropical fruit and flowers. Juicy grapefruit launches across the palate like a Jupiter missile with orange peel, pine needle and sweet caramel malt exploding like a V-2 rocket. Carbonation is crisp while the texture is medium-slick and satisfying.

Huntsville, we have a problem. I need more Monkeynaut!