Rainbows are great if you’re advertising Skittles or Lucky Charms, but perhaps less so if you’re talking about beer. And yet, drinking Brewery Ommegang’s Neon Rainbows New England-Style IPA makes a pretty solid case for its name. It’s an unexpected addition to the realm of New England-style IPAs, and a bold demonstration of how a relatively new style of beer is already undergoing fascinating permutations.
The design of Neon Rainbows is a study in contrasts: Ommegang’s neo-medieval design aesthetic covered in the decidedly non-medieval look of neon. What this amounts to in practice is a series of pastel diamonds covering a wide swath of the color spectrum. It reminds me of the signage at Wildwood, New Jersey transposed to 1500s Belgium. The look of the beer itself is cloudy, with muted hues of orange and light yellow. The beer sits in the glass with a distinct solidity to it, and almost no transparency.
The first impression that comes to mind upon smelling the beer is, appropriately enough, one of brightness, evoking the warm days of late spring and early summer. There’s a floral freshness present, with a rosy smell emanating from the top of the glass. Chalk that up to the abundant hops used in this beer—the process involves two rounds of dry-hopping—but also to the right blend, which creates an almost tactile odor.
This takes some liberties with the style and hearkens back to flavors and textures found on both sides of the Atlantic.”
Some New England-style IPAs crank up the juiciness to 11. Neon Rainbows has a subtler approach. While there’s still a strong citrus flavor present here—and a bit of resin in the mix as well, creating a bitter flavor that subtly offsets it—it also heads to some unexpected places. When swallowing, there’s a slight tinge of butterscotch that comes to the forefront, accompanied by a caramel-like texture. All told, there’s a lot going on here, and it means that this beer’s taste can vary somewhat, depending on the speed and volume of consumption.
Neon Rainbows’ array of flavors makes for a more complex drinking experience than other beers of its style, but in this case, that’s largely rewarding. As befits a New England-style IPA made by a brewery known for its Belgian-style beers, this takes some liberties with the style and hearkens back to flavors and textures found on both sides of the Atlantic. The result is a smartly made ale with the power to surprise again and again, and sometimes, in the midst of that, to delight.