I feared the worst when 21st Amendment Brewery‘s superlative session Pale Ale, Bitter American, started becoming harder and harder to find on store shelves. Even the specialty shops that pride themselves on deep selections stopped carrying it. And then, I learned the bitter (only slight pun intended) truth. Cancelled. Discontinued. Sent to the big recycling bin in the sky.
But you can’t be a modern craft brewery without a session Pale Ale, without that hoppy yet infinitely drinkable beer that you can enjoy over the course of an afternoon or evening of socializing. So, enter Down to Earth, the sequel beer, if you will, to Bitter American.
Down to Earth follows its predecessor with a low alcohol content of 4.4 ABV and a similar bitterness at 42 IBU, but changes style from an American Pale Ale to an India Pale Ale. Neither Bitter American nor Down to Earth could be considered excessively hoppy, so the switch in style manifests mostly in increased floral and citrus notes. There’s still the same easy drinkability and clean finish that makes for a social pint (or a social 12 ounces, I guess, since it’s only available in standard cans), but I don’t find myself as drawn to this version.
Now, I’m a confirmed IPA drinker, an unreformed hophead, even, but I don’t know that the IPA style really works for a session beer. I like to savor an IPA and its complexity, with a higher hop concentration helping to balance the florals. Down to Earth is a good beer, make no mistake, and it’s a great beer to share with friends, but it’s not a great IPA.
With Bitter American, I never questioned what my session ale would be; with Down to Earth, I’m not going to automatically pick it over other session ales. It’ll always be in the running, but like the monkey on the can, I’m going to explore my options.