One of the things I’ve always enjoyed about the craft beer scene is that there’s room for a little bit of cheekiness in how you name and style your products. It’s the byproduct of an industry with a bit of a sibling-esque mentality between companies—breweries, especially breweries in the same city, have a tendency to perceive and treat each other as “kid brothers.” Yeah, there’s some razzing there, but it’s all in good fun. Now stop hitting yourself, dingus! Stop hitting yourself!
So it is with Atlanta brewery Second Self Beer Co.’s new “Make IPA Great Again,” a DIPA that pokes fun at not only the local scene but the national industry’s (and consumer’s) current zeal for everything hazy and juicy. By combining a retro DIPA recipe with some pretty great branding and packaging, Second Self has served up a pretty darn good joke, despite it being mostly low-hanging fruit. Just read the Trump-parodying description, which had us chuckling:
Many people are saying we have the best hops. Believe me, we have all the best hops. Billions and billions of hops. Believe me, folks! Other beers are a YUGE problem! Beers today do not remember what it was like when this country made the best beers, the biggest beer, the most bitterest beers!!
Your milkshake pastry stout IPAs are FAKE NEWS!!. This bitter beer is DANK, PINEY, RESINY, and clear; just like the RETRO forgotten beers of this country. We make sure it has a tremendous flavor in a bigly tariffed aluminum tall boy! I have to thank our employees for their great jerb Putin in hard hours to make this magnificent beer.
Suggested pairings for the beer include well-done steak with ketchup, taco bowls, Russian dressing, and anything off the Dollar Menu.
Nice way to work in the aluminum tariff, right? Although if we’re being picky, the retro aspect should probably mean 12 oz cans. The side of the can goes on to describe its flavor profile with a collection of key words: “retro, piney, dank, resiny, yuge.” So there you go. Make IPA Great Again (it really could have been “DIPA,” but that wouldn’t sound as good) clocks in at 9% ABV. The only thing left to do is to taste.
On the nose, this DIPA is piney as promised, back by notes of light caramel, black tea maltiness and sweet orange marmalade. It certainly smells like an archetypal DIPA of a bygone era—it sort of gave me flashbacks to drinking stuff like Avery’s Maharaja as a college senior in the late 2000’s.
On the palate, predominant flavors are caramel and bread crusty/grape nuts maltiness, backed by a nice (and really quite well balanced) profile of piney, grassy and citrus zesty hops—orange and grapefruit, mostly. The bitterness is there, moderate-to-high in terms of intensity. I don’t necessarily get the resinous intensity to say the beer is “dank,” but I do enjoy this. More than anything, it’s the balance that stands out—an actual balancing point between malt and hops, which obviously isn’t present in the beers that this one is satirizing. Another thing I should mention is that it hides the 9% ABV very, very well.
The bottom line is that Make IPA Great Again is a beer in a style that doesn’t get beer geeks very excited right now, but it’s a well-done version of that bygone era. This style of IPA never became “worse” over time, it just became blasé after drinkers got very excited about novel types of flavor combinations that were defined by their opposition to terms such as “bitter.” This is still a perfectly valid way to make IPA or double IPA—perhaps harder to sell right now, but I’d hate for this kind of IPA to disappear completely. In my mind, there are defined places both for this, and for the sweet, zero-bitterness juice bombs. All that matters is what I’m in the mood for on any given day, and I think there are quite a few other beer geeks out there who are in the same boat.
Brewery: Second Self Beer Co.
City: Atlanta, GA
Style: American DIPA
Availability: Limited, Georgia and Alabama, 16 oz cans
Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident beer guru. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.