Operation 200, a key component of Fitzledge Midwestern Tour 2011, turned out to be an epic fail. My goal was to eat my way over the 200 pound plateau while vacationing in the Land of Good Food. It was going to be the gluttonous grand finale of my annual bulking phase (you know you’re a meathead if your winter bulking phase extends into August!). I was going to top two bills on the scale and then spend my fall dieting down to 175. I had an ironclad assemblage of accomplices: Steak N’ Shake, Burger King, Tony Packo’s, Famous Dave’s, Grand Traverse Pie Co., Handel’s Ice Cream…There was just no way I could lose! But I stepped on the scale this past Monday and discovered I’d only made it to 198. In spite of gorging myself on sausage, beef, and beer for ten solid days, I fell two pounds short of glory. So close…yet so far! On a more positive note, at least I’m two pounds closer to 175. And a second component of the trip, Mission Brewski, was a decisive victory. I successfully purchased 150 dollars’ worth of craft beer in three different states, and now I’m fully stocked for the arrival of football season. The first of my booty to be sampled: North Peak’s Wanderer Session IPA.
So what the hell is a “session IPA”, exactly? Is it really an IPA, or is it just an assertively hopped APA? What the hay - I’ll give the brewer the benefit of the doubt! Citrus and pine are the prevailing notes. There’s a bitter bite to the flavor. An IPA it is! And at just 4.2 % alcohol and a modest 45 IBUs, it’s most definitely sessionable! Call it an “IPA light” if you wish, but the Wanderer delivers an extraordinary amount of taste for such a low ABV. You can drink 4 or 5 of these and not get blitzed, and that is precisely the point! If other warm weather seasonals come off like concessions to the average Joe, this one is a beer connoisseur’s session brew. Hopped with Perle, Willamette, Centennial, and Citra, and incorporating hops local to Traverse City, Michigan, this bad boy combines a clean finish and maximum drinkability with a strong, grassy hop kick. I’m funny with hops – sometimes modest little APAs taste gross to me, whereas I quite dig the full-on knock-your-socks-off bitterness of a double IPA. I’ve never quite warmed to the idea of a “drinkable” IPA…until now. The Wanderer is a balanced and tasty beer, and one I’d like to see upgraded to year-round status since it’s not really your typical “summer” ale. Then again, in the Michigan Upper Peninsula, “warm weather” beer season lasts about two months before it’s time to shelve the session beers and break out the imperial stouts. No wonder Michiganders have such outstanding beer – they deserve it!