The local beer scene continues to evolve. It seems like a new brewery opens in the area every month. This brings increased competition along with innovation, many of the new breweries are producing unique and flavorful brews. It also puts the onus on established breweries to continue to evolve in order to stay relevant. One of the most extreme examples of this is the evolution of Otter Creek Brewing Company in VT. Instead of introducing a couple of new beers to complement their tried and true classics, Otter Creek has ditched all of their older beers and rolled out a completely new lineup over the last year plus. Gone are Copper Ale and Stovepipe Porter, along with the old logo and bottle art. The new Otter Creek brand is focused on hop-heavy beers packaged in bottles and cans featuring art depicting a VW style orange van, Brewmaster Mike and his Bernese mountain dog Oslo. Last year they introduced a series of tasty seasonal brews, and this spring they completed the rebranding by producing a couple of brand new year round beers. One of these year-round releases is Backseat Berner, a West Coast style IPA. Backseat Berner is the first year-round IPA in Otter Creek’s history, which is a little surprising considering how ubiquitous the style has become. Otter Creek Backseat Berner is now widely available on draft and in 12 oz. bottles.
Otter Creek Backseat Berner pours a cloudy orange with a moderate white head. The scent is a solid dose of aromatic hops, citrus fruit and resin. The hops lead the flavor too, notes of grapefruit, lemon, cut grass, pine and nectarine. This hop flavor is accompanied by substantial but not overwhelming bitterness. While the beer is very hop-forward there is just enough malt to keep it from being overdone, touches of caramel and whole grains. Even with the full flavor and bitterness Backseat Berner drinks relatively easy, at 7% ABV it is not a light beer but not overwhelming either. The finish is classic American IPA, dry with some tongue-tingling bite. This is a quintessential West Coast style IPA, a showcase of New World hop flavor. Backseat Berner is a great addition to the strong Otter Creek line-up, and a good all-occasions IPA. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
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