Take something previously been minimal in design, to the point of being almost entirely innocuous, and then suddenly supercharge it with the addition of one simple element – then you've bottled what Barrier's doing with its Suite IPA.
There’s something inherently compelling about the use of a brightly-colored label on an otherwise stark and metallic can of beer. It’s an understandable move from many a small brewery: but in the right hands, it can make something stand out as opposed to looking like, well, a blank can of beer with a label on it. Think of it as the silkscreened LP artwork of beer packaging.
Barrier’s Suite is a textbook case of how to do this design update right – both in terms of an eye-catching can and a memorable beer.
On the label, a suit-clad man stands over a tray abounding with fruits and drinks made with various citrus ingredients. There’s a veritable forest of paper umbrellas on display here. Adding to the easygoing feel of this beer: look at it in the right light and you might well mistakenly think chamomile tea had taken up residence in your pint glass. Cue truth in advertising, as far as the label is concerned: citrus smells and tastes abound with this one, from the moment when you first breathe it in to the point when you begin to drink it.
It’s bold without calling attention to itself.”
That said, this isn’t a beverage that’ll increase your Vitamin C intake, nor is it the ideal choice for a breakfast drink. That’s not mere hyperbole: though the alcohol by volume is at a solid 7.8%, it tastes like something much less strong. Given that the taste here isn’t terribly hoppy, and places the citrus notes up front, the result is a wholly drinkable ale, one that’s refreshing and doesn’t feel terribly heavy.
There’s a slightly bitter aspect to its taste, reminiscent of childhood mornings poking at the innards of a grapefruit with a spoon with a serrated edge, sugar at the ready if the experience proved too overwhelming. As the taste deepens, it becomes less acidic and more indicative of orange juice – familiar, welcoming, and refreshing. It lingers for a while, but doesn’t possess a strong aftertaste. Instead, it’s got a fleeting sense of something tangy – or, to continue the citrus theme, a sense of pith.
This IPA, then, is one that embraces its more paradoxical aspects.
It’s strong enough to leave a mark when you drink it, yet its tasting notes are those generally associated with brisk refreshment. It’s a light-tasting beer that’s impactful enough to hold its own into the colder months, if that’s what you’re craving. And it’s got a complicated taste without being overly showy: its flavors come together well and don’t feel overly stage-managed. It’s bold without calling attention to itself, with a great sense of balance. It might be a little more “morning drinking at the soccer bar” than “orange slices at the soccer game,” but that’s all right, too.
It’s a welcome repurposing of a familiar taste, done with a welcome sense of proportion.