Every time Tröegs brewing comes to town with something special in kegged or bottled form, you can be sure of two things. First, the beer is going to be tasty. Just last October during Cleveland Beer Week, the Winking Lizard hosted a “Scratch and Splinter” event where I got to try one of my favorite beers of the year, Splinter Black. But more than just great beer, the second safe bet is that when the Lizard hosts Tröegs, it’s going to be a great night. Such was the case with last night’s “Scratch” event, where 4 of the brewery’s small-batch experimental beers were tapped. Scratch series #37-#40 are all American IPA’s. They’re all similar from a malt bill’s perspective, so the primary difference between all these beers is in all the different hop varieties that they use. This always makes for a fun beer tasting experience, as you get rewarded with not only great beer but more experience for your palette in tasting what the miscellaneous hops bring to the table. So, we happily made the drive to the Independence Winking Lizard last night to witness the 5:00 tapping. We arrived and got to the “side bar” where the beers were being poured and sat down to try a sampler paddle before picking our favorites for pints. Here’s how the beers stacked up:
Tröegs Scratch Series #37 American IPA
Warrior, Cluster and Columbus Hops
To start off with, all of the beers looked relatively similar with a golden caramel color and nice white lace left by a small head. Scratch #37 was just a touch lighter but featured similar clarity and active carbonation. Of all the four IPA’s, this was the least reminiscent of citrus, as the bitterness of the Warrior and particularly Cluster come off as more grassy and herbal. The slight difference in malt bill made this a bit lighter, with a kiss of sweetness but less caramel. This was my least favorite of the bunch, but was still a great beer for those who prefer more intricate and earthy tastes in their IPA’s.
Tröegs Scratch Series #38 American IPA
Centennial and Chinook Hops
This was a nice step in-between the earthiness of Scratch #37 and the citrus blitz of Scratch #39. Perfectly situated in the lineup, this featured some nice Centennial hop flavors that anyone who likes Bell’s Two Hearted can identify. The flowery and perfume elements were countered by the Chinook’s deeper bitterness. This beer wasn’t my favorite, but the expression of scents and flavors was enjoyable.
Tröegs Scratch Series #39 American IPA
Simcoe is a love-it or hate-it hop. Some people not only get notes of pine and grapefruit rind but also a wild onion smell that has also been described as “catty”. For me, the Simcoe hops are perhaps my favorite and Scratch #39 stood out as the best in the bunch. This beer featured just a bit more pizazz than the others due to the dank aromas and tastes that Simcoe provides. The bitterness also lingered a bit more than the other beers, but the nice carbonation that all these beers feature makes tasting a joy.
Tröegs Scratch Series #40 American IPA
Citra, Cascade and Amarillo Hops
Scratch #40 reminded me a lot of a fruit bowl, with huge lemon and grapefruit notes from the Citra and Amarillo. Like all the beers, this featured a nice drinkability due to the moderately bitter but clean finish. This was clearly my second favorite of the group as the Citra hop made it brighter than all the others. It also has the highest ABV of any of the beers at 8.1% but that was barely detectable.
This was another great night of hoppy beers and I enjoyed lining up the beers and reporting back to you! Thanks to Tröegs and the Lizard for hosting and cheers to all the great beer people hanging out at the “side bar”. It’s always interesting to try different hoppy twists on a theme, and it was a privilege to line the four beers up. In the end, the beer was tasty and it was a great night. For those who missed it, you may never have the chance to line up these four IPA’s but you may get to taste a new Tröegs beer called Perpetual Pale – word has it that this new bottled offering will be a recipe that will take the best of each of the four beers and create a hoppy hybrid that is sure to be a welcome addition to shelves in Ohio. Look for it soon!
Want a different spin on things? Check out this review from Cleveland Food and Brews!
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