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Beer Reviews

Salvation IPA

Other reviews for this beer:
Eddie Glick one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer read it ›
Atwater Block Brewery
Detroit, MI

Style: India Pale Ale (IPA)
ABV: 6.0%

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Drinkable, but flawed)

Salvation needed …

Never before have I reviewed a beer that is more aptly named given the circumstances. This is Detroit-based Atwater Block’s last chance to impress Nigel, so Salvation IPA will either bring just that or eternal condemnation. This is my fourth brew to date from “AtBlo” (far better shorthand than referring to them as AB, for obvious reasons), and the first three ranged from awful (Maibock) to blah (Vanilla Java Porter) to average (Voodoo Vator). The IPA being the king of styles in Nigel’s book, Salvation has the potential to save AtBlo from Nigel’s “Brewers Hall o’ Shame,” a list that currently includes King Brewing Co., Leinenkugel Brewing, and Rob Deer.

Nigel could take the easy route here and harp on Atwater Block and the city of Detroit, hoping to exhort a few cheap laughs from the audience. Yes, I’ve been extremely disappointed in Atwater’s product thus far, but I refuse to make this a lowbrow attack on a city or brewery that I have never actually been to. In all seriousness, while I have great respect for my colleagues Baby-boy and Jill, I may be guilty of “drinking the Kool-Aid,” if you will. Until recently, I didn’t have access to Atwater Block offerings, but as a loyal employee, I carefully read each and every article and review posted on this fine website. My colleagues raved, and I bit. Every chance I had over the past six months or so, I scooped up a variety of AtBlo brews, and, as I stated in the opening, I’ve been hugely disappointed.

Without further ado, let’s let Salvation do its thing. I checked out Atwater’s web site, which, to their credit, is well done and seems to be up-to-date (this is often a shortcoming among small craft brewers). Salvation is brewed with European malts and Northwest hops (no indication as to the exact variety), then dry hopped with Cascade hops. Checking in at a modest 6 percent ABV and 55 IBUs, this appears to have the ingredients and statistics that fall right in line with good IPAs. Too bad the execution falls far short of expectations.

Salvation pours with a moderate white head of about an inch, revealing a golden brown brew with some sedimentation. The head quickly recedes, leaving a mild creamy lace with some stickiness. The aroma is an initial indication that this may not be up to snuff: pale and caramel malt dominates, but there’s only the slightest hint of the typically odoriferous Northwest hops that AtBlo claims to use. Most unfortunately, however, is the overwhelming aroma of stale alcohol. How you can make an American IPA without much in the way of hops, but huge malt and alcohol aromas is beyond me. I suppose there’s a first time for everything.

The taste does not redeem Salvation, and I’m once again left utterly disappointed in Atwater Block. While the American hop additions clearly classify this as an American IPA, it’s one in name only. Atwater is proud to profess that they hold German brewing traditions close to their heart, but this appears to be an overuse of European malt at the expense of the most important ingredient in an American IPA, Northwest hops. Initial flavors are earthy to the extreme, with pale and caramel malt providing a sugary, grainy backbone that would be fine in an English pale ale or brew of that sort, but is totally out of place in an AIPA. Secondary citrus tones of orange peel and grapefruit come through next, but they are relatively muted by the grain and don’t do enough to bring out the lagging hop profile. Just how disappointing is that hop profile (or lack thereof)? Alcohol is the third flavor in this parade, with virtually undetectable hop notes barely coming through at the very end. Medium bodied, Salvation goes down smooth with a mild aftertaste, and could be a session brew if you’re so inclined. However, I prefer session brews that are, you know … good.

While it may be unfair to unilaterally declare that I’m done with Atwater Block, I can’t say I have any interest in trying them again. I’ve now had four brews that I was excited and hopeful for, and all of them have been huge letdowns. Perhaps a new release or seasonal will come along in the future and strike my fancy enough to give AtBlo another shot, but for now I’m ready to give up on them. Salvation is fleeting, and anyone who makes an IPA as crappy as this is not for Nigel.


Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on July 17, 2008.
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