It’s been quite some time since we’ve visited with our friends from Pennsylvania, Victory Brewing, and with the release of their newest once-a-year-beer, Ranch Double IPA, there’s no time like the present.
Victory does two seperate annual specialty batches; Braumeister and Ranch. The Braumeister is always a German/Bohemian-inspired Pilsner project while Ranch is a set recipe with the hops always changing. What sets Ranch apart from other annual projects is the brewery’s friendship with a number of small-batch hop growers out in Washington State.
There are a few farmers in the Yakima Valley who own private ranches (hence the name) that Victory’s brewers actually fly out to inspect to better hand-select which hops go into the beer. The Ranch series focuses more on aromatic beta-acid hops rather than sizzling the drinkers’ palates with bitter alpha-acid hops. That being said, tangy Cascade hops — the hops that made the Pacific Northwest famous, beer-wise — are almost always one of the base ingredients to give that strong, floral foundation American pale ale is known for.
By sourcing material from small farms means they get a chance to utilize experimental hop hybrids, too. A chance taken, to be certain, but in the hands of Victory’s brewmaster, the Ranch series has always turned out killer, flavorful beer despite the X-factor of untested hybrid hop cones. This almost mad scientist, darn the torpedoes, laissier-faire approach to brewing coupled with actually travelling to the vinyards combines two cool things about beer; a home brewer’s tinkering and a farmer’s market sustainability of fresh ingredients.
A quick word about fresh hop and wet hop: wet means the cones were picked and used in less than 24 hours while fresh hop are whole cone hops used, lightly dried out, in about 1 week’s time. The Ranch series uses whole fresh hop.
This current Ranch Double IPA is dark gold with a milk white head of tiny, densly-packed bubbles. Spotty lacing slides down the glass as slow as a glacier. Did I mention that Ranch focuses on aromatics? Don’t get your nose wet with repeat visits inside the glass to check out the abundance of flowers, mint, orange blossom and grapefruit with notes of home-made caramel and hint of something spicy; Noble hops, perhaps? A wheat-bready and toffee malt base on the palate quickly makes way for juicy tropical fruit and citrus hops with minor bitterness and a flavorful finish.
There’s a little of this left, so hurry or wait until next year.