I was lucky enough to be able to have to take a road trip to Bloomington for some meetings on this beautiful day instead of being stuck in the office. And since I was in Bloomington during lunch, I thought I would mosey on over to Upland Brewing Company to see what they had on tap. I remembered that we hadn’t yet reviewed a beer from Upland, so I wanted to fit in a review.
After asking for a recommendation, Frank, the Bartender (who is a retired IU Prof) suggested their Ard Ri (pronounced aard ree), which their spring seasonal Imperial Red Ale that they only started making last year. In case you’re wondering, Ard Ri is the Irish word for High King. The High Kings were the pagen kings that ruled Ireland off and on from BC until the 10th Century.
The Ard Ri is a very powerful beer. It has an ABV of 9%, but it goes down pretty easily, so a beer geek, should he not be careful, could wind up drunk off his ass in two or three beers. Upland only serves the Ard Ri in a snifter because of the high alcohol content.
Naturally, it has a very dark, probably opaque, amber color. But the nose on this sucker is strong. First and foremost, I smelled hops – lots of hops. Now, I don’t know enough about beer to tell the difference between hops from the nose, but the menu says it’s made of Amarillo hops. So that also explains the citrus hints I was picking up. I think I found a hint of caramel, too. I know that sounds weird, but the bouquet was very pleasant.
My first taste echoed back to my first sip of Hopslam. I have to say that the punch from the hops in the Ard Ri is pretty much the same as that from Hopslam. And what I found off-putting about Hopslam – the peachy nose – wasn’t present in the Ard Ri. I think if Upland would put this beer is mass distribution, it would be as successful as, if not more successful, than Hopslam was. I guess what I’m trying to say is that if you liked Hopslam, you’ll really love the Ard Ri.
I think this is a highly-carbonated beer. The first drink buzzsawed my tongue, but surprisingly, didn’t leave a strong or bitter aftertaste. It also had a very thick mouthfeel, almost chewy. In that regard, it was much more like a porter or stout, which is a positive in my book.
Now back when I reviewed the Hopslam, I said that 4 Mugs may be the highest rating I could ever give to a very hoppy beer. Ladies and gentleman, The Knight of Porter and All Beers Dark and Malty hereby bestows a 5 Mug rating to the Ard Ri – My High King of Hoppy Beer!! This was really a fantastic beer, and a great accompaniment to the first day of Spring.
Once I explained why I had my nose in my beer, Frank brought over Mr. Penn Jensen, who is the VP of Marketing for Upland. Mr. Jensen is a very hospitable man, and shared a lot with me about his beer. He told me that they are seeing a lot of positive buzz about the Ard Ri from the locals, and they’re considering making a big push behind it to get a wider distribution. Currently, they’re not bottling it – only in the keg. The bad news is, Indy kids, is that no one in Indy has it on tap. For now, you’ll either have to travel to Bloomington or to Muncie, where The Heorot, The Fickle Peach, and Scotty’s all have it on tap. So I beg you, Mr. Jensen, make the push! Get this beer in Indy and get it in bottles!
As for Upland itself, the folks are very friendly and knowledgeable about good beer. Frank provided me with samples of all the beers they’re currently offering up. I think he was trying to get me drunk! Good Bartender!! Next time you’re down in Bloomington, I highly recommend stopping by a having a brew in their Tap Room.