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Dragonfly India Pale Ale

Upland Brewing Company
Bloomington, IN
USA
http://www.uplandbeer.com/

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

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


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You know what’s interesting about Indiana?

Nothing.

Sorry, but I couldn’t resist that little stab at our friends in the Hoosier State. Nigel has been to Indiana only a handful of times (more like through Indiana, but whatever), and didn’t really pick up on much. I’m not a racing fan, so that’s out. I think Notre Dame football is a joke, an incredibly overrated relic of the mid-20th century. I did love the movie Hoosiers and enjoy the basketball tradition in Indiana, but that’s about all I can hitch my wagon to. Even as a Badger, I can’t say I enjoy our rivalry with Indiana, as we crush them in virtually everything, with the exception of men’s basketball, and even that we’ve dominated lately. So basically, I can’t say I’m a Hoosier honk, though I can’t really disrespect a state I’m not terribly familiar with.

What’s the point of all this Indiana talk? It’s because the latest in my long line of long-winded long beer reviews is for Bloomington’s Upland Brewing Co., one of the few widely distributed Indiana craft brewers. Upland seems to have blown up in the last year or so, since I rarely see a craft beer retailer without at least a couple of their selections. Unlike some states, Indiana never appeared to be lacking in craft breweries, just in distribution outside of the region. Upland seems to have joined Munster’s brilliant Three Floyds in making themselves known outside of the local ranks, and I’m all for it. And no, I’m not expecting another Three Floyds in regards to Upland … that would be completely unfair to them. I’m simply hoping for a solid, drinkable brewery that I can add to my list of respectable Midwest purveyors. My few samples at various beer festivals haven’t been nearly enough for me to form a solid opinion, but if anything can form an opinion in the mind of this Hophead, it’d be an IPA.

I first sampled Dragonfly at the Milwaukee Public Museum’s annual Food & Froth event back in February. I wasn’t overly impressed, but in their defense, it was towards the end of the evening (read: Nigel was buzzed). What I seem to remember, besides the exhibits dancing with each other and the spaceship landing on Wells St., was that it had a very prominent malt profile, which pushed the hops into the background. It seemed very grainy, which may be why I was left disappointed … at that point in the evening, I was craving pure hops. We’ll see if my impression has changed.

Dragonfly pours with a thick white head of over an inch that slowly dissipates, leaving a noticeable creamy, sticky lace throughout the session. A beautiful dark golden brown/copper hue, there’s plenty of sedimentation to accompany the lace, making Dragonfly very impressive looking in my BeerDorks.com chalice.

Initial aromas are similar to what I remember from February: a muted hop aroma that is grainy, earthy, and sugary. Hence, malt dominates. Malted barley is met with light notes of sugary caramel and mild hops. While the typical aroma of North American hops that you’d expect from an IPA are present, they don’t punch you in the nose; on the contrary, you have to search for them, but they are there to be found. All in all it’s a decent aroma, though somewhat unexpected for the style.

The flavor largely emulates the aroma, and my initial impression appears to be spot on, though I’m more generous this time without my multiple craft beer sample-induced buzz. It’s a good beer, a decent IPA, but nothing special and certainly not a hop monster. The distinct flavor of roasted barley comes through right off the bat, giving Dragonfly an initial grainy, earthy, bready body. Sugary sweetness in the way of caramel, toffee, and light brown sugar come through next, along with slight fruity esters comprised mostly of citrusy zest. Hops are present, but they take a constant backseat to the malt. Light, floral, bitter Northwest hops make their presence felt at times, more so as the beer warms. While pleasant, they never come close to taking over, which is a bit disappointing for an American IPA. The flavor, while decent and largely balanced, never really grabs hold of you, making this average at best. Smooth on the palate with a mild aftertaste and manageable ABV (6 percent), Dragonfly is a perfect candidate for a session beer, but hardcore hopheads may be let down.

All in all, Upland’s Dragonfly IPA is decidedly average. It’s got plenty of flavor, but it’s not what I was expecting. Despite my hophead roots, I really don’t need a hop monster to be satisfied; a well balanced brew is just fine with me. But nonetheless I was left feeling a bit empty with Dragonfly, and I think Upland is capable of better. Give it a shot should you see it, and remember that it could be a nice summer session brew. Just don’t expect the next Alpha King.

Cheers!

Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on April 22, 2009.
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