As Constitutional Amendments go, the 21st was certainly a good one (Wiki here, if more info is required). And the 21st Amendment Brewery produces one of TheCraftBeerGuru's most preferred IPAs, their "Brew Free! Or Die."
Brew Free! Or Die IPA
7% ABV, 70 IBUs
The 21st Amendment Brewery, San Francisco, CA
Though Brew Free! Or Die is the subject of tonight's review, let's first discuss the 21st Amendment (the brewery, not the update to the Constitution).
The 21st Amendment Brewery was founded in San Francisco in 2000 by Nico Freccia and Shaun O’Sullivan. And who (or what?) do we have to thank for influencing this wonderful creation? Well, a brewing class at the University of California - Davis where Freccia and O'Sullivan met. And, no doubt, Triple Rock, Steelhead, and (the now sadly defunct) 20 Tank, all breweries where O'Sullivan worked prior to opening 21st Amendment.
Despite being brewed in California, 21st Amendment beers are canned in Minnesota. And, in the case of Brew Free! Or Die, what an interesting, unique can indeed! Its lovely art depicts President Lincoln's apparent escape from Rushmore (Washington appears confused, Jefferson smug, and Teddy jovial).
Now, to that review of the flagship 21st Amendment beer, the Brew Free! or Die IPA...
Lacing remains along the inside of the glass, though a bit unevenly distributed, like bubbles from dish detergent
The beer pours very yellow, like a traffic light, with just a bit of orange influence. For comparison, the can's background is just a slightly darker representation of the beer's actual hue.
Brew Free! Or Die is hazy such that it's totally opaque. A luscious head, perhaps half an inch thick, remains long atop the beer.
The scent is predominantly orange zest. Ripe, in the positive sense of the word.
Upon reaching the mouth, one is first met with Brew Free! Or Die's wonderful grapefruit tone that remains throughout. There's also a hint of lemon. Both characteristics are matched by a very pleasing floral bouquet.
Let's call this a liquid citrus, rose petal salad.
So far, so good, though, there is a bothersome flaw: the subdued hop spice. It seems a bit off. While Brew Free! Or Die effectively tingles the tongue with its peppery touch, that aspect never explodes upon the palate with the big spice pop that one so eagerly expects.
The mouthfeel is also only adequate. The texture is very mildly chewy, though not bad. It simply does not invite savoring. It's a beer that encourages gulping, despite a delicious flavor that is worth patiently enjoying.
Again, Brew Free! Or Die is mostly good. Particularly because of its remarkable balance. A sweet malt backbone is amply revealed. Yeast also provides a satisfying influence on the flavor profile. So, while hop-forward, this excellent IPA does well to showcase its other delightful features.
While not particularly unique, Brew Free! Or Die is nearly as good an IPA as any (well, okay, arguments for IPAs across the US are acceptable; (from the west) Pliny, (east) Heady Topper, (midwest) Surly Abrasive). It loses a half star for failing to bring anything new to the class, but yet remains above average.
Ultimately, TheCraftBeerGuru.com deems Brew Free! Or Die a 3.5 star (of 5) beer. And, of course, it receives a full recommendation.
So, this one is to you, UC-Davis! You've had a happily fortuitous impact on this man's drinking experience. Cheers!