Having a beverage review site on which one reviews all sorts of beverages can be, at times, surprisingly limiting in terms of approaching highly "technical" beverages. While I have allowed myself the freedom to review whatever sort of beverages I choose, my lack of any sort of formal system or grading rubric sometimes comes back to bite me when it comes time to review drinks as complex as Bear Republic's Racer 5 IPA. The industry-specific terminology required to "adequately" describe the experience of drinking a Racer 5 would be a harsh departure from my typical writing style—a departure that I'm not sure would fit within the confines of my rather amateur reviewing persona. So, for now, I will do what justice I can to this incredible beverage with my only mildly relevant opinions.
Bear Republic's Racer 5 IPA is a superb beer. As I'm sure that I have alluded to before, India Pale Ale is currently my favorite type of beer, so I jump at the opportunity to try as many as I can. I first had Racer 5 about a year and a half ago at a bar in Columbia, SC, and I immediately fell in love with it. I quickly realized, however, that Racer 5 is apparently a bit hard to find in this particular area of the states, and I did not see it again until I stumbled across it at a beer and wine store in Asheville (North Carolina) several weeks ago. I am very glad that I did, too, because I had sort of forgotten during the interim just how good Racer 5 actually is.
The flavor of Racer 5 is actually sort of hard to explain. It is very complex, and the flavors shift over the course of each sip in such a way that pinning down one particular, descriptive flavor element is difficult. Because Racer 5 is an IPA, the hops are very present. However, they are such in a more mild way than other sorts of similar beers. IPAs are typically much more bitter than other kinds of beer, but Racer 5 manages to be bitter without actually "being bitter." It's a difficult concept to explain, now that I have actually sat down to do so. The bitterness is just more ambient than it usually is in other India pale ales; it's certainly there, but the hops aren't as strong on the tongue. If you like the flavor of a good IPA, but are regularly put off by the often extreme bitterness that lingers in the aftertaste, Racer 5 will suit you quite nicely.
The thing that interests me most about Racer 5 is that, while it is a bitter IPA, it is much more malty than other beers of its type. The malts come through very strongly both in the body of the beer and in the aftertaste, but they evolve as they do so. The beer starts off with a hint of sweetness on the tongue, but as the flavors progress the sweetness dissipates and moves in to a very "grainy" malt taste. The malt combines with the natural flavors of the grains used in the brew, resulting in a very interesting and constantly shifting flavor that will surprise you with something new and intriguing all the way down to the bottom of the glass.
Overall, this is just an excellent beer. I have found that some of the best (or at least, most interesting) drinks that I have had have been the ones that result in a "you just have to try this one for yourself" verdict, and this one is definitely one of those beverages. Bear Republic's Racer 5 is great, and you should really try it sometime.
Verdict: Highly Recommended
Purchased: Weinhaus [Asheville, NC]
Size: 22 fl. oz. [650mL]