Dark Horse Brewing Co.

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Crooked Tree is a Dark Horse in its Own State

November 29, 2017

By Tucker Anders, November 29, 2017

Thanks to growth over last few decades, strong craft beer offerings can be found all of the world and certainly across the United States. Original craft powers dot the West Coast along with plenty of highly acclaimed local favorites. The Northeast and New England are driving the hyper fresh hazy IPA craze, and the region is also home to the preeminent purveyor of the East Coast IPA in Delaware’s Dogfish Head.

The flyover states have their fair share of whale producers and national distributors. Even the Bible Belt is beginning to embrace craft brewing with second homes for Oskar Blues, New Belgium, and Sierra Nevada paired with a myriad of blossoming regional brewers.

For my money, Michigan is among the best beer states in the union, though. It is the home of brewing giants Founders and Bell’s. Both produce plenty of top tier grocery store beers (All Day, Two Hearted), several highly sought after stouts (KBS, Black Note) and plenty of other interesting offerings.

The state may even be becoming the next big hop producer outside of the Pacific Northwest.

While I certainly enjoy my share of Founders and Bell’s excellent catalogues, it is Marshall, Michigan’s, Dark Horse Brewing that has recently caught my eye. The brash family owned brewery doesn’t pull any punches – when brewing or talking about beer.

Massive bright grapefruit and other accompanying citrus notes dominate from beginning to end.”

The brewery’s flagship is its Crooked Tree IPA – a classic pine and citrus style IPA that is dry hopped in abundance. Like neighbor Bell’s standout Two Hearted Ale, Crooked Tree is left unfiltered – but this slightly hazy IPA is not a Hazy IPA.

Copper in color, it is still mostly clear with just a touch of haze. A nice off white head lingers off the pour on top of a beer that smells fantastic, if a little subtle. The smell is mostly citrus, grapefruit in particular. It’s an extremely bright aroma that is way more sweet citrus flesh than bitter rind, though. Dark Horse says pine should also strongly influence the aroma, but I only pick up traces of it. Honestly I don’t mind.

The taste completely follows the aroma. Massive bright grapefruit and other accompanying citrus notes dominate from beginning to end. A light drying pine nips at the finish to round out the flavor. No floral or earthy notes here, just juicy citrus with a hint of pine.

Crooked Tree comes in at 6.5% alcohol by volume and 48 International Bitter Units. A lower IBU count makes sense, as this is not an overly bitter beer. Most of the hop flavor is fruity with just enough bitterness to be a balanced effort.

The malt bill mostly plays in the background, as it should in a good IPA. But it is still there, providing a backbone of light bready notes and just a touch of caramel.  

Dark Horse plays with the citrus flavors over a super soft body in this beer. The mouthfeel is soft but not thin, one of my favorite outcomes from combining the right malt bill and yeast with the perfect carbonation.

A little more aroma and complexity of flavor would make this a stunner in my book. But it is hard to go wrong with soft mouthfeel, medium bitterness and big citrus flavor.

ZX Ventures, a division within AB InBev, is an investor in October
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