Among the hundreds of beers at this month's American Craft Beer Fest, the Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project was one of the few that had long lines from start to finish. The reasons are simple, Pretty Things makes some of the best beers Massachusetts has to offer, and are routine crowd pleasers thanks to whimsical names and quality ingredients. While the saison Jack D'Or may get a lot of the glory, their Meadowlark IPA deserves it's moment in the sun. With a smoky, woody nose and a balanced hop portfolio, this IPA truly stands out from the pack, and is well worth buying.
Meadowlark IPA, according to the brewery, was born from a 2012 road-trip across the country, in an attempt to capture the essence of all the "barbecue, boot stores, two-bit towns, canyons, and radio preachers" they visited along the way (so apparently, the South made an impression on them). Mentioning barbecue as an inspiration for the beer was interesting, and it makes sense that it would be a hoppy beer that can best complement the strong flavors of Southern barbecue.
The head's aroma, after pouring the copper liquid into a stemmed glass (recommended by the brewery), evokes the smells of a quality by-the-road smokehouse in the South with subtle oak notes paired with a nice bitter, citrus punch from the combination of Citra and Galaxy hops. Yet unlike most IPAs that tend to be all-bitter business, Meadowlark's taste reveals a pleasant malty sweetness, and a slight smokiness that is reminiscent of homemade barbecue sauce. Now, this could be because the label got me thinking about Kansas City ribs while I was drinking it, but the difficulty in creating that sensory connection in something as complex as an IPA, while still maintaining the bitter hop characteristics is a complement to the brewery's skill.
Meadowlark IPA is truly a stand-out IPA. It's smoky sweetness and hoppy bitterness is a departure from tradition, but it works as a great summertime beer, or as a complement to a saucy rack of ribs. Thankfully, it's available year-round, so there is no reason why this can't be the one IPA to have in your fridge at all times.