Aug 22, 2016

Starr Hill Northern Lights

I was lucky enough to receive a package from Starr Hill last week that included their new Fall Seasonal bottle mix. Within the samples was their flagship Northern Lights, a 6.2% ABV IPA that is available year-round. This tasty brew was generally a constant in Barley Blog headquarters during the warmer months, but as the market has expanded so have the bottles in that fridge. This sample pack has given me an opportunity to re-introduce myself to a beer whose recipe the company had tweaked around June of last year in order to keep up with the changing tastes of their customer base.

If you’ve been drinking craft beer (micro-brewed beer for you old hats), then you’ve probably sensed a shift in what is expected of your standard IPA. Gone are the sticky, piney hops along with grapefruit. Those elements are still present, of course, but they’ve taken a backseat to tropical fruits and floral notes as the use of new hop varieties have trended upwards. Starr Hill saw that change coming and tweaked their beer’s recipe to match.

So how does this IPA stack up to the tainted memory of my tastebuds? Well, it’s different, but not so much so as to cause a drastic reaction from fans of the beer. The caramel that was present in the past as a balancing measure has been toned down and the citrusy fruits feel juicier, more upfront and more varied (not just grapefruit as in the past). The hop bite is of a moderate level, about the same as the previous recipe.

I have a feeling that you’ll see more breweries tweaking recipes to keep up with changing tastes of the times, whether that’s altering a flagship beer or simply creating a new beer to replace an out-dated brew. Starr Hill’s Northern Lights is still a darn good beer and will always have a place on the shelves of my fridge in the years to come. I was a fan of the previous iteration of the beer and, while the new flavors aren’t my favorite (I’m an old school sort of guy), it’s still a refreshing and tasty IPA.

This is a review of a promotional sample.