Starr Hill Brewery, a pioneer in the American craft beer scene, introduced its Northern Lights IPA back in 2007, riding the wave of the craft beer revolution. The beer, standing at 6.2% abv, became a flagship for the brewery, renowned for its distinctive hop blend and robust bitterness. Over time, the brewery has revamped the recipe, aiming for a more hop-centric experience that appeals to both loyal enthusiasts and those just stepping into the craft beer arena.

Aromatic Ambiguity

Pouring this IPA from a 12 oz. glass bottle into a tulip glass, the Northern Lights IPA presents itself with a clear copper hue, crowned by a tan foam that exhibits moderate retention and leaves delicate lacing on the glass. The aroma unfolds a bouquet reminiscent of fall leaves, potpourri-like dried orange peel, and a hint of sweet strawberry. However, despite these aromatic charms, the flavor profile strikes a balance, leaning towards neutrality with a substantial autumn ale foundation accompanied by a restrained hop bitterness. The beer’s texture is notably oily and possesses a somewhat rich body, challenging immediate categorization as a traditional American IPA.

The Taste Odyssey

In a blind tasting, one might mistake Northern Lights IPA for a hoppy amber ale, lacking the prominent aroma hops and assertive bitterness commonly associated with American IPAs. However, the beer distinguishes itself in its mouthfeel, offering a straightforward, exceptionally balanced bitterness and a depth of toasted malt-forward notes. The overall experience, while not groundbreaking, is undeniably pleasant, showcasing the beer’s enduring drinkability and its potential to please a diverse range of palates.

Time-Tested Appeal

While the Northern Lights IPA might not have undergone a radical transformation over the years, its enduring presence in the craft beer scene speaks volumes. The recipe’s subtle evolution retains the essence of the original, making it a reliable choice for those seeking a well-balanced, approachable brew. Whether you’re a seasoned craft beer enthusiast or a newcomer exploring the vast world of IPAs, Northern Lights has managed to stand the test of time for a reason.