October is in the air and while at least one of the three beers up on the docket isn’t strictly here for the bonfires and falling leaves, it is brand new to Zipline’s year round lineup. First off, we’ll dive into the crushable hoppy session IPA, Alpha Modern; move into the fall delights of the toasty Festbier and finish off with dark decadence of Zipline’s latest seasonal, Coconut Stout.
Over the course of their existence Zipline hasn’t exactly been known for their witty Beer names or boldness in their packaged releases–sticking almost exclusively to nailing traditional recipes with on-the-nose names (IPA, Oatmeal Porter, Copper-Alt, Kölsch and so on). Nowhere on the quality scale is there a check mark for “Clever Beer Name”, so the fact that to this point Zipline’s biggest “sin” is laziness in naming beer is a testament to how well they nail the styles they do release–seeing as few of their offerings will warrant grunts of disgust.
In steps Alpha Modern. In name alone you’d be hard pressed to pin down exactly what you’re gonna be sipping on, aside from the Alpha precursor which undoubtedly hints at the almighty hop. Alpha Modern is a Session IPA to be exact, meaning that it’s alcohol content is mild with the hopes that the hop flavor pop with each drink–the end goal being that you can crush a sixer in a single sitting and not forget your kids’ names when you pick em up from daycare. And crush it you can.
Pouring golden yellow and settling like hazy lemonade the nose on Alpha Modern is deliciously dank. Lemon pops through the soapy head with additional notes of pineapple. The fruity hops really shine from aroma and directly into taste. Crisp mouthfeel and carbonation bite help the zesty fruity crackle on your palate. Dank hops and lemon linger with each sip, demanding you to go in for one after another until the glass is empty and the flavors still linger like a siren song prompting you to open another and start all over again. As it warms (if it lasts long enough for you to let it) its IPA characteristics amplify–allowing a greater deal of acidic pineapple flavors to dominate in tandem with the dank aspects of the hops.
Session IPA are often criticized for muting flavors and phoning in on aroma. Alpha Modern is guilty of neither. The beer sort of teases the appearance of the New England IPA craze, but maintains the straightforward integrity of the Session IPA mission statement and will quench the thirst of many a hop head.
The long running tradition of Oktoberfest beers has allowed for endless interpretations of the style. Over hopped variations lend to experimenting with rye spices and various other malt combinations. True to their beginnings, Zipline enters the market with straightforward execution of an Americanized version of the seasonal favorite.
Pours light copper/gold and settles with a thin quickly dissolving head. Lots of malt on the nose–hints of burned caramel and buttered biscuits. Aroma very much paints the picture of Fall. First impression on taste is creamy caramel followed by toasty malts and a spicy bread-like finish. Very full mouthfeel that spreads nicely over the course of each sip. The flavors are sped through the drinking experience with a very slick and smooth character with virtually no alcohol bite (6% ABV) to be perceived.
While there’s nothing here that’s going to jump out at you here and blow your mind, it’s just another example of an endlessly drinkable beer from the good folks at Zipline Brewing Company. Sure to be a Fall staple on the shelves in Nebraska for a long time to come.
I’ve got a complicated relationship with coconut. As a young lad the only time it ever came across my taste buds was through treats like Snoballs and an unfortunate bite into a Mounds bar. As a kid, I don’t think I had the ability to appreciate the nuance of coconut. Flash forward to the first time I took a sip of Death by Cocout by Oskar Blues where my brain went through a cinematic quick cut of taste buds finally connecting the dots where as an adult the nuance aligned.
Zipline’s Coconut Stout pours dark brown settling with a black appearance but with highlights around the glass. A thin slightly off-white head dissipates quickly as I took in the aroma–dark chocolate dominates and sweet coconut note cuts through at the end along with roasted coffee. Oskar Blues’ Death by Coconut I described once as a liquid Mounds bar–Zipline’s Coconut Stout is whatever the off-brand of that would be. It hits a lot of the same notes, but does them each with slightly less pizzazz. There’s coconut, there’s chocolate and there’s a roasted malt character. What sets Zipline’s apart and weakens its overall impact is that it’s a bit aqueous. Instead of pouring thick and having the appearance of oil you can tell by its muted color scheme it’s thin and the mouthfeel suffers as a result. The coconut does struggle to shine in favor of coffee forward flavors to the extent you could argue with is more of a coffee stout than a coconut stout. Good thing as a non-coffee drinker I actually semi-appreciate it in my beer.
Credit where credit is due Zipline has been branching out of their style comfort zone in recent years. Their seasonal line has managed to deliver competent styles that adhere to closely to expectations, but I’d be lying if I said it wouldn’t be nice to see them take a step further with measurable risk here and there with some of their smaller format packaged offerings.