Memory and craft beer make an interesting duo. To have a beer once, really enjoy it, and then have it again for the second time years later is rarely the exact experience one is expecting, namely because our taste buds, along with the beer market itself, experience such rapid and dynamic shifts. There are so many different factors that can play into the experience changing from the first time to the second: Taste bud adjustment. Change in ingredient availability. Change in consumer tastes and expectations. The slow encroach of unreliable memory.
I know this to be true, because I’ve experienced how much things change, even when I know the beer has stayed the same. The process was heightened to the extreme in the first year I started really getting into craft beer, back in 2007 or so. From the beginning of that year to the end, my taste buds underwent a radical adjustment to say the least. Things that I perceived as unbearably bitter at the beginning were perfectly pleasant eight months later. It’s amazing how quickly our senses can adapt and adjust.
It’s because of those experiences that I can draw special pleasure from those few times when things haven’t changed in my mind, and that’s the case with Half Acre’s limited run pale ale, Tasty Waves. It’s a beer that was first brewed back in 2011, while I was working in newspapers in Illinois. I remember picking some up during one of my many trips up to Chicago and thinking it was one of the best simple, crowd-pleasing pale ales I’d had. Now, tasting the limited run again four years later, that opinion hasn’t changed: This is still some really good stuff.
Not that I’m really surprised, mind you. Chicago’s Half Acre is good at several things, but hops are really their forte, much in the same mold as Three Floyds right across the border. Both breweries work in the medium of hops like Renaissance painters, wringing the best, most vibrant expressions out of each variety. They’re two of the best makers of hoppy beer in the Midwest, so it’s no wonder they’ve collaborated several times on making IPAs. It makes perfect sense.
Tasty Waves, though, is something a bit more humble and easygoing, a sessionable pale ale that weighs in at 5% ABV, making it all too easy to kill one of the 22 oz. bottles on your own. It passes one of my favorite personal tests of hop-forward beers with flying colors: The “can I smell it from a foot away while I’m pouring it” test. Yep, I can. Always a good sign.
Aromatics are pretty orange citrus-heavy, with plenty of green grassiness as well and a smattering of tropical fruit. They don’t list the exact hop varieties anywhere as far as I know, I suppose preferring for you to come to your own conclusions. It’s not lacking in malt in the nose either, as there’s a bit of toasted and caramel suggestion there as well. It’s definitely on the assertive side, nose-wise, for a 5% ABV pale ale, which is pretty par for the course with this brewery.
On the palate, Tasty Waves isn’t quite so assertive. It’s a beer that is big on aroma and more calculated in terms of its flavors. Balance is big—there’s a chewy and toasted malt flavor with a bit of sweetness, like golden-brown toast and honey, plus orange marmalade that comes in with the hops, which are again pretty citric in character. Totally spring/summer beer of course, which is obviously why it’s being released now. Their marketing copy in particular seems to suggest that this isn’t really an offering to be taken all that seriously or mused over—it’s for drinkin’: “Brewed to channel your easiest state of mind, we endorse drinking it straight from the bottle, ambition set aside, coast ready.”
So there you are, and that’s what it is—a very drinkable pale ale not lacking in character, well-balanced and citrus-forward. American craft beer—gotta love it.
Brewery: Half Acre Beer Co.
City: Chicago, Ill.
Style: American pale ale
IBU: ...a few?
Availability: Limited, 22 oz bottles