It’s a fact that Colorado makes some of the best beer in the world (no, it’s not an opinion; check the Great American Beer Festival and World Beer Cup medal counts). It’s a veritable beer mecca, where ales and lagers of the highest caliber converge in one, mountainous location. The hippies had Haight-Ashbury, bikers have Sturgis, and brewers have Colorado as their cultural epicenter. With so many great breweries in one spot, is it any wonder some of the most spectacular beers get swept under the rug? That great beers are overshadowed by larger, more famous ones? That, perhaps, is the case for Independence Pass Ale (7% ABV), an IPA (check the beer’s initials) from Aspen Brewing Company: a fantastic ale that, like Rodney Dangerfield, gets no respect (no attention, at least).
Color: Independence Pass is mostly clear but for a few yeast floaties that might be present in the can, thus making the beer a bit murkier. There is suspended hop sediment amid the setting-sun-orange body and a fluffy white head of foam sits atop.
Aroma: Very citrusy, like orange fruit, this beer also features mild, piney intermingling wafts. It’s a pleasant, relaxing aroma.
Taste: A near perfect balance of hop and malt, Independence Pass zings the palate with a citrus zest but with no bitterness; one can taste the flavor of the hops without being taken aback by intense astringency. Fresh, pine needle flavors are also noticeable, as if the coniferous forests of the high country are right there in the glass. This is one quaffable ale; it goes down without a thought.
Mouthfeel: A little hop heat can be detected in Independence Pass and it finishes crisp and dry.
Is Independence Pass the best IPA in America? Objectively, it’s probably not even the best IPA in Colorado but, in this reviewer’s mind, it’s right up there. It’s expertly balanced, it’s no-frills, it pleases the palate, doesn’t attack it, and it’s just plain good. Pick some up at a Denver-area liquor store today; it won’t disappoint.