The American theme continues (as does the car theme) with beer number 99 off my epic list: Racer 5 IPA from the Bear Republic Brewery in California.
The bottle says:
The label is a black & white chequered racing flag, with the Racer 5 logo in the middle. It’s design looks like something out of a 1960’s Japanese cartoon, one that involves a ‘Racer’ that ‘Speeds’ around the racetracks in a Mach ‘5’. There’s a passage of text on the back of the label that further alludes to this link to this awesome anime, with “Racer 5…Go…Go” (for those playing at home, ‘Speed Racer’ was known as ‘Mach Go Go Go’ in Japan). However the rest of the passage doesn’t fit with the cartoon fun, instead advising in a rather serious way that this beer is an aggressive IPA that demands your attention…so is this beer the villain or the hero?!
It pours a sparkling orange/amber with a frothy white head. The first things you smell are the hops; piney with an underlying sweet perfume. The hops make their mark on the taste right from the beginning with a bitterness that’s hard to ignore (the label said it would demand attention), but definitely not as aggressive as the label would suggest. The body is light and refreshing, and there’s another flavour keeping the bitterness in check; it’s a candy like sweetness that makes the whole experience nice and balanced. I can’t tell if the sweetness is a result of the malt or the hops, but it’s the hero for me nonetheless.
There’s something a little herbal in the beer now which adds a savoury spice, and both the sweetness and the bitterness have been toned down. The malt is starting its flavour lap as well; it’s bready and works well with the overall ‘savoury herb’ thing that’s going on. It’s still nice, but I enjoyed the first half better (although the heroic candy sweetness does make an encore appearance in the final few sips).
My first thought when I poured this beer was how much it reminded me of Punk IPA by Brewdog. Ironically, in my epic ’1001 Beer’ book, the Racer 5 IPA is on the opposing page to the Punk IPA…but that’s not the only thing these beers share; they’re both the flagship beers for their respective breweries, both are self proclaimed ‘aggressive’ beers, they both follow the same basic formula of “a light refreshing body with a bucket load of hops”…they even look pretty similar. But while the Punk challenges you at every mouthful, Racer 5 doesn’t – instead it invites you back for more. I agree that this is an aggressively styled beer, but not offensively so…this is about as approachable as aggressive gets. It gets your attention without the need to demand it. Personally I prefer my IPA’s with a bigger malt backbone, but this beer still managed to impress me without it. I guess it’s the hero after all…GO RACER 5, GO!