Everything brewed by The Ithaca Beer Company of Ithaca, N.Y., is at least really good, and some of them are true gems.
There are a lot of breweries that brew some really good beers and brew some beers that don’t quite hit the mark.
There are even fewer breweries that brew a lot of really good beers and a few excellent ones.
The Ithaca Beer Company of Ithaca, N.Y., is one of those breweries. Everything they brew is at least really good, and some of them are true gems.
Ithaca, founded by Dan Mitchell, began brewing its beers in the Finger Lakes region in 1998. They have quickly grown from a small local brewery that served the local market to a brewery that now distributes beers to six other states and is working to increase its distribution.
Ithaca’s best year-round beer is the absolutely phenomenal Flower Power IPA. Although this sounds like a beer that hippies would love, this is not a beer about peace and love. It is more of a hoppy and bitter assault on your tastebuds.
This 7.5 percent alcohol by volume (ABV) beer is loaded with hops. The hops provide a pleasant flavor of pineapple and grapefruit. It also has a nice sweet malt body, which makes the bitterness a pleasure.
This IPA has garnered a lot of attention. It has been to the final four of the beer newspaper “The Brewing News” National IPA Championship three times, and is once again in the final eight this year.
But Ithaca is not a one-trick pony, the rest of its year-round beers are extremely good, too.
The Apricot Wheat Ale is a beer I thought I would hate. I don’t like apricots that much and I rarely like fruit-flavored wheat beers. Most of the time it tastes like the fruit used in fruit beers is basically there to hide the lack of flavor in the beer.
Ithaca’s Apricot Wheat is nothing like that. It’s easy to drink, and it tastes like real apricot is used instead of fruit flavoring, which you find in a lot of fruit beers. It is light at 4.9 percent ABV, but it still has a good body.
Another year-round winner is the CascaZilla. The CascaZilla is basically a hopped up red ale. The sweet malts used to give this beer its nice red hue blends nicely together with the much more than usual amount of hops used in a red ale to create a really nice drinking beer.
Ithaca’s seasonals are also worth seeking out.
My favorite of the seasonals is the Cold Front, which is available from September through January. It is a 7.2 percent ABV Belgian amber ale. It is a spicy ale, with just a hint of hops in the background. It is slightly sweet, and the alcohol provides a nice warming feeling as it goes down your throat.
The current seasonal (available until April) is the Ground Break, an untraditional saison. It is basically a traditional saison (spicy, light on the palate, dry), but with a lot more hops thrown in. I just had this beer for the first time and was impressed by it.
The next seasonal scheduled to be released is Partly Sunny, which is a Belgian witbier. It is available from May through August.
Other beers to look out for are from Ithaca’s Excelsior series, which are available in 750 ml bottles, not the 12-ounce bottles all of the other beers are packaged in. These are more experimental beers. If you happen to see one of these, grab them, because they have all been impressive.
Excelsior beers have included Le Bleu, a blueberry beer brewed with both Champagne and wild yeasts; and White Gold, a wheat beer brewed with both domestic and French malts and using Belgian, English and wild yeasts.
Norman Miller is a Daily News staff writer. For questions, comments, suggestions or recommendations, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out The Beer Nut blog at http://blogs.wickedlocal.com/beernut. Also follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/realbeernut.