First Pitch (Idle Hands Craft Ales)

Style: Belgian Rye Pale Ale

6.3% ABV

Bottled On: April 15th, 2015

From: Everett, MA

Brewery’s Note: “First Pitch is the quintessential beer to enjoy while watching a game. Rye combines wonderfully with our house Belgian yeast to create a chewy, spicy malt backbone. However, hops are at the center of the lineup with Amarillo, Mosaic, and Cascade each taking swings creating flavors of candied tangerine, tropical fruit and grapefruit. Heres to a repeat of 2013 when First Pitch was last brewed. Go Sox!”

The beer pours out a pale, oranging yellow, with a big, snowy-white head of bubbles. The head caps the glass, sitting a good finger’s width above the beer, and leaving thick sheets and strands of crusting lacing along the sides of the glass. The beer is opaque and cloudy in body, yet clean and clear, with a gorgeous brightness to the color, and it looks very fine in the glass. On the nose, the beer reeks of mosaic hops. Thick, jammy blueberry, papaya, orange juice, light mango fruit, prickly ruby red grapefruit scents, and so much more wafts over the nose. There’s a little bit of spice to the nose, too, hinting at the rye malt and giving further complexity to sniff that could be on a big dank DIPA. Admittedly, the Belgian part of this beer is restrained on the nose, but that works perfectly with how this beer was built, and it becomes more apparent as the beer warms. I’ve had First Pitch in its first iteration, and this blows that out of the water. The original brew was hoppy and fresh, but the addition of Mosaic hops have completely hijacked this brew into a tropical fruit bomb, yet with a restrained edge and great subtle spice to make it interesting to smell. On the tongue, the beer tastes bitter and dry, with just a kiss of sweetness in the middle of the sip. There’s a touch of bright, citric acidity throughout the sip, and especially on the finish. The spice is prevalent, too, and blends with what feels like alcoholic/lightly phenollic bite – though in a completely appealing way – to provide a lovingly crisp zap to the tongue. The flavor blends jammy berries with sharp grapefruit and orange juice that mellow briefly into fluffy, grainy bread that has been spread with a berry preserve. This slides into an almost piney finish that still manages to keep the delicate berry character dancing on the tongue before finally finishing with an estery stone fruit that speaks to the beer’s Belgian yeast strain. This beer executes a superb use of the Mosaic hop, and does so in a crushable and delicious package. I’m often disappointed to see brewers use an unrestrained hand when showcasing the Mosaic hop, but every now and then I find a beer like this, which really plays up Mosaic’s lovely attributes while expertly blending it with other hops. On the mouth, the beer feels crisp and clean, with just a touch of grainy stick to hint at its Belgian leanings. It feels medium bodied, with a middling to mild carbonation, yet also carries a snappy bite from the rye spice and bitterness, which makes the beer feel bright and crisp in the mouth. When the beer leaves, the tongue is left tight with lovely, bitter astringency, while saliva pools over its middle. The mouth develops some spittle on the gum line, but overall feels slightly sticky from the hoppy wash that previously coated it. Overall, I love this beer. It is balanced, yet beautifully expressive of its hops, drinkable and yet complex, and just enjoyable as a whole package. I’ve been underwhelmed with hoppy beers lately (happens as the palate moves and shifts) but this beer has brought me back to the pleasant bite of them. It’s delicious, refreshing, and perfect for this beautiful day here in New England. Idle Hands sometimes seems to treads below the hype that other Boston-area breweries have, but they have been putting out delicious, classic interpretations of different styles since they opened their doors. Their merger with Enlightenment has only served to help both breweries mature and grow, and the results are absolutely delicious. They are putting out some phenomenal stuff.

 

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