Chicago’s Half Acre Beer Company makes some outstanding beers. Pony Pilsner, Daisy Cutter pale ale as well as IPAs such as Gone Away and Beer Hates Astronauts are delicious offerings. Anytime I pass through Half Acre’s distribution (Illinois, Pennsylvania and New York), I stop and grab whatever is fresh, knowing I won’t be disappointed. My most recent stop yielded the aforementioned Daisy Cutter and Beer Hates Astronauts along with a spring and summer seasonal IPA, Vallejo. Available only April through August each year, Vallejo is Half Acre’s “votive offering to the coast.” Based on the scenic can illustration alone, it’s worth picking up a four-pack.
Appearance and Aroma
Vallejo is just as beautiful in the glass. It’s a hazy—but not opaque—bright golden-orange that holds the light. Tight bubbles cling to the sides of the glass and slide up to a tall and luscious frothy white head. A deep breath over the beer reveals a bright and complex aroma. Grape, grass and tropical fruit notes combine with slightly earthy qualities to form a balanced and refreshing smell. It’s all just too subtle. Vallejo doesn’t need anything changed about the aroma, it just needs more of it.
Vallejo tastes like a beer you brew, tweak and brew again to make a great beer.”
The initial taste is sweeter and maltier than the aroma suggests. It’s not that this is a malty beer—the grape, grass and fruit are still present—the malty quality is more cracker-like than roasty. Mango and guava flavors carry through each sip, but even still, I’m left wishing more of the earthiness from the aroma pushed through to anchor the overall flavor. Half Acre suggests that dankness has a chive or garlic-like quality, and after a few more sips that makes some sense. Regardless, Vallejo could use more of it to balance the sweet fruit and malt, even if the thin body and light bitterness keeps the sweetness from lingering too long.
Vallejo tastes like a beer you brew, tweak and brew again to make a great beer. The balance of hop flavors and aromas is nearly perfect, it simply needs both turned up to play nicer with the malt. Or instead, cut out some malt—and with it some ABV (Vallejo clocks in at 6.7%)—to hit a home run with a session IPA or pale ale. But even as it stands, Vallejo is still a solid offering that will top most IPAs on the shelf.