Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA Review: The Race Is Over, And This Wins

Bear Republic: California, that great state of wilderness and civilization combined. Sonoma County is world-renowned for its wines, so it is no big leap of logic that it is also home to some very fine beer. In the quaint, historic town of Healdsburg, great things are happening in the world of craft beer, mainly from Bear Republic Brewing Company. This Norgrove-family-owned brewery began as a brasserie (brewpub) in Healdsburg in 1995. By the way, their menu looks simply amazing. In 2006, Bear Republic had grown enough to open a second brewery in Cloverdale, also in Sonoma County. Bear Republic is not a microbrewery; in fact it is a relatively large operation. But it is indeed a craft beer brewery, as its products (all unfiltered) are of very high-quality, and something special. Bear Republic emphasizes brews with heavy hops: it is their trademark.

Just like Sierra Nevada Pale Ale was the first real craft beer that I ever tried, and just as it opened my eyes to the fact that beer could be good, so is Racer 5 the first truly great beer that I ever tasted. I knew that beer could be good, but Racer 5 — introduced to me by a friend — opened my mind to a world of delicious, overwhelmingly-great craft beer. It was as if I had never known that beer could make my nose, palate, and mind come alive.

Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA (7.5% ABV) is a true India Pale Ale. As such, it is a top-fermented, warm-fermented ale brewed from pale malted grains, with an unusually-large amount of hops included. It has won multiple awards. Here is how Bear Republic describes the beer:

This hoppy American IPA is a full bodied beer brewed with American pale and crystal malts, and heavily hopped with Chinook, Cascade, Columbus and Centennial. There’s a trophy in every glass.

Everything On Tap Review: Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA:

Bottle: The bottle contains 22 ounces of ale, and is made of brown glass that is a bit lighter than I like: the purpose of dark glass is to keep solar ultraviolet radiation from degrading the beer. The label has a checkered flag as the background, following the company’s general racing theme. The center of the label is a yellow circle with a red number 5 in the middle of it. The lettering is red and orange.

Pour: The color is golden yellow and orange, with a slight amber hue. It is yeasty and hazy, as this ale is bottle-conditioned. The head is two fingers thick and off-white. It is sudsy and foamy but structured, and it dissipates slowly, leaving heavy lacing.

Aroma: The aroma is not so much mild as it is mellow, like a fine wine. It contains malted grains, caramel, and piney-citrus hops.

Flavor: The palate is immediately hit with intense hoppy bitterness, with elements of citrus, pine, grass, and flowers, as well as an undercurrent of pine resin. Caramel malted grains are present as well, but not overwhelming. There is a hint of bright fruit, such as grapefruit, orange, lemon, and pineapple. But nothing detracts from the heavenly hoppiness. In my opinion, this is precisely what an IPA should be: strong, focused, bitter hops with layers of hop flavors. If you want hops, this is a great ale to find them in. There is, on the finish, an element of ethyl alcohol. I personally like this in an IPA, although some IPA fans do not.

Mouthfeel: The body is certainly full and rich. The carbonation is medium to high. On the finish, there is that tart, bitter, sour crispness that can only come from a superior IPA.

Structure: The structure is broad, balanced, stable, and firm. I suspect that the bottle-conditioning adds to this.

Food Pairing: I would pair this IPA with three sorts of food. First, it would compliment very spicy Indian, Thai, Malaysian, or Chinese food just perfectly. Second, it would hold up beautifully to sharp, hard cheese, like aged English cheddar or Asiago. Third, it would be an absolute delight with spicy Thai chicken, or spicy Louisiana seafood, especially in a seafood gumbo.

Overall Rating Out Of 5 Possible Beer Mugs: