An IPA Named for the South’s Most Iconic Peak

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Natty Greene’s, out of Greensboro, North Carolina, is one of those breweries that gets overlooked all too often. I’m as guilty as anyone. They’ve been around for a while (since 2004), so the new car smell has worn off. Plus their distribution is pretty limited.

That said, every time I’ve had the chance to suck down a Natty Greene, I’ve enjoyed it. And they’re in the midst of a pretty big expansion, building a $10 million production facility that would take the brewery’s capacity to 100,000 barrels of beer a year. Right now, they’re brewing about 17,000 barrels a year. This year, Natty Greene’s is also releasing a few new beers, and Mt. Mitchell IPA is one of them.

First, I can’t believe nobody’s done a Mount Mitchell beer before. Bravo, Natty Greene’s, for naming a beer after the South’s most iconic peak. This is  a single hop beer, which means the brewery only uses one hop strain, instead of the more common melting pot of hops approach. The beauty of a single hopped beer, is that the beer becomes a venue to showcase what that particular hop can do. In this case, Natty Greene used Eureka hops, a relatively new hop variety that’s known for its pungent aroma. I think the beer world is one of the few places where “pungent aroma” is a compliment.

Eureka is all about the pine, until it’s not, then it’s all about the grapefruit. Digging into Mt. Mitchell, pine needles are heavy on the nose (imagine getting lost in a Christmas Tree farm outside of Boone) and they hit you hard on the sip, too. Then things balance out a little with some slightly sweet grapefruit before a dry finish whisks it all away. Overall, it tastes really fresh (back to that Christmas tree farm again), and has a great balance thanks to the malt bill, which provides a bready, almost cracker-like note. Eureka was originally called “Experimental Pine Fruit.” That’s a pretty apt description. Emphasis on the pine.

Mt. Mitchell is different than a lot of the other IPAs on the market these days, which tend to be juicy fruit bombs. It has depth and nuance, which is cool considering the brewery used just that one hop strain. My only complaint: Natty Greene’s doesn’t put this beer in a can, which means I’m probably not going to lug it with me on my next hike up Mount Mitchell. Because how great would it be to drink a beer named after the mountain that just kicked your ass, while standing on top of that mountain? So post modern.

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