Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews

471 Small Batch IPA

Breckenridge Brewery
Denver, CO

Style: Imperial/Double IPA
ABV: 9.2%

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Recommended)

Pair With:
Very rarely does Nigel plan his beer reviews in advance. I usually have a nice stock of craft beer in the ol’ cellar (it’s actually a closet, but work with me here), many of which are for enjoyment purposes only, as they’ve already been reviewed by yours truly or one of the other Dorks. Typically I have about 30 different types of brews in storage (usually around 100 bottles total, give or take), about 5 to 8 of which are available for review. When a review night comes along, I typically make a last minute decision as to which one will be the lucky choice, often basing it on how I feel, the weather, what sporting event is on that evening, you know … totally scientific things.

Selecting today’s review was rather simple for a change. While it will probably be a week or so before publication, I’m writing this on π Day. That’s right … it’s March 14, otherwise known as 3/14, which happens to be the mathematical number designated by the Greek symbol π (this is actually an infinite number that is shortened to 3.14 … that’s pretty much the extent of Nigel’s algebra knowledge). π Day is Nigel’s second favorite March day after 311 Day, which honors my favorite band of all time (for those of you unfamiliar with the unique stylings of the reggae/rock/hip-hop influenced band from Omaha, Nebraska, it’s time to update your iTunes). In Nigel’s college days, 311 was one of the most popular bands and many of us would do an honorary shot or beer at 3:11 on 3/11, in honor of 311. This ceased a few years ago when we matured and realized how ridiculous that tradition was, but π Day utilizes the same premise … everyone takes a drink at 3:14 on 3/14 in honor of π (I’ve never done this as I heard of π Day for the first time last year, but I did enjoy the similarities … for the non-drinker, you could always just eat a piece of pie instead). I figured the best way for Nigel to honor π Day was with a beer that is mysteriously numerical, like Denver-based Breckenridge Brewing’s 471 Small Batch IPA.

There are actually far better reasons I chose 471 IPA, but none of them sounded quite as sexy. First of all, I’ve never had anything from Breckenridge and I’m always excited to try a previously unknown brewery. I was impressed with their website and they seem to have received a decent reception on the various craft beer blogs, so I’m cautiously optimistic. Also, as we all know by now, Nigel LOVES his hops. I don’t care if it’s brewed by rabid chipmunks with six toes; if it’s an imperial IPA, I want to try it. Finally, Nigel is in the midst of the marathon known as Championship Week, when the various college conference tournaments heat up and the NCAA field of 65 is decided. In Wisconsin, this coincides with the state girls basketball finals. Currently I’m watching the Division I semifinals and I need a beer that is STRONG to tolerate watching a bunch of 5-foot-7 girls take two-handed step shots and jump while shooting free throws. Nigel isn’t trying to be sexist and will readily admit that the women’s game has made significant strides in the past decade or two, but dear lord … it can still be painful to watch. I try very hard to support high school athletics in my state which is why I choose to view this poor display of basketball fundamentals, so I’m hoping a high ABV brew will help ease the visual sting.

Since this is my first brew from Breckenridge, I really don’t have much info on the brewery. It’s in Denver, it has the name of a popular local skiing destination, and it’s located downtown near Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies (and in area code 471, hence the numerical designation for Small Batch IPA). Colorado has an impressive lineup of craft breweries, so much so that they give the craft brew meccas of the Pacific Northwest, New England, and the Great Lakes a run for their money. My only trip to Denver was a two hour layover at the airport on my way to Phoenix, so I can’t give a firsthand account, but if you love brewpubs and craft beer, Colorado is easily one of the top destinations.

I must point out a bit of irony. This “Small Batch” IPA is by far the most reviewed brew from Breckenridge on most craft beer websites, which would seem to indicate that the batches aren’t really as small as they make them out to be. How a microbrewery can claim that they have a limited edition line of “small batch” beers that are actually more widespread than the standard fare is beyond me, but I guess that just proves how important marketing is.

Breckenridge pours very nice for an IPA; a cloudy golden brown/orange hue bubbles up a bit, leaving a quarter inch head that quickly dissipates into a mild creamy trace. The translucent characteristics combined with some stickiness at the sides of the glass seem to indicate this could be a balls-to-the-wall imperial IPA; initial aromas seem to say otherwise. I was expecting the standard West Coast hop monster, but the initial aroma is … malt?? Granted, it’s not malt to the extreme, but it’s a bit earthier than I expected without the typical citrusy and piney zip of an imperial. The initial sugary sweetness does give way fairly quickly to a pleasant yet mildly tempered hop aroma led by Centennial, with other hops present as well (Chinook, Simcoe, and Fuggles, according to Breckenridge). The combination of pale, Munich, caramel, and wheat malts is also very noticeable with an earthiness both sweet and grainy and just a touch of yeast. All in all it’s a decent aroma, but not what you’d necessarily expect in an American imperial IPA.

The taste is good, but it falls short when compared to other imperial IPAs; I’d likely give this a four mug rating overall if you don’t take style into account, but when put up against other imperial IPAs, it’s a three. Initial flavors of Northwest hops, mainly clean, citrusy notes of grapefruit and orange peel, as well as a tinge of evergreen dominate the flavor from the outset, but not as much as I expected them to. Malt is present, and all four varieties leave their individual imprints (pale, caramel, Munich, and wheat). The brown sugar and caramel sweetness balances well with the hops, making this a bit more rounded than some imperials. The sweetness, earthiness, and hoppiness make 471 IPA more complex than the standard hop monster. Again, as a beer overall it’s unquestionably a four mugger; as an imperial IPA, it’s unique, but ultimately average (not that there’s anything wrong with that). A nice medium body and smooth mouthfeel makes this a relatively easy drink despite the high ABV. The mild aftertaste is not too objectionable, though you have to be careful with it, as the 9.2% ABV is well hidden; turning this into a session brew could be a risky proposition.

There it is, in all its numerical glory. Breckenridge 471 Small Batch IPA is an excellent beer, but unfortunately doesn’t stand out when compared to other examples of the style. It’s left a favorable enough impression that Nigel picked up another Breckenridge brew at the local retailer today, with plans to review it in the near future and see what else they have to offer. (Pandora’s Bock … I couldn’t resist that name!) It’s worth a try if you’re so inclined, though it’s a bit pricey at about $10-12 for a six-pack (Breckenridge brews are widely available throughout the Rockies and Midwest). Though it didn’t reach the four mug threshold, Small Batch IPA has nothing to be ashamed of.


Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on March 20, 2008.
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