We're starting 2014 off right with three brand new craft brews--one seasonal and two year-round additions. The seasonal is a 22-ounce bomber from Eugene, Ore.'s Ninkasi Brewing Company. The year-rounders (in the 12-ounce format) include an entry level IPA from Boston's Samuel Adams and a subtle take on a sour from Fort Collins, Colo.'s New Belgium Brewing Company.
Ninkasi Dawn of the Red IRA, $4.99-$5.49
IRA stands for India Red Ale, one of the emerging craft beer categories. This brew pours a ruby-tinged, deep amber and sports a brief, two-finger head. It has lots of tropical fruit on the nose (mango, papaya, citrus), along with floral hops, smooth malt and biscuit. It's big but beautifully balanced, with a citrus-laced bitterness from start to finish that blends nicely with fruity malt flavors. Highly recommended.
Samuel Adams Rebel IPA, West Coast-Style, $1.39-$1.79
This brew pours a soft amber with a thin, but persistent head. Light, resiny hops with a floral note lead off, backed by sweet bread and malt. But on the palate, the West Coast-style got a little lost on its way to Boston. The hop bitterness is there, but it's dialed down, and the characteristic Sam Adams malt profile comes on a little strong--especially on the finish. It's not exactly West Coast, but makes a good intro IPA for the uninitiated.
New Belgium Snapshot Wheat Beer, $1.39-$1.79
A hazy lemonade in color, the Snapshot is topped by a frothy, egg-white head that collapses quickly. Fresh, lightly tart hop aromas blend nicely with cracked wheat and just a touch of wet wool, which is strange but not off-putting. This is a very refreshing brew, something like a domestic hefe meets a Belgian sour. Sweet and sour citrus, soft grass and herb-laced hops come together in this easy-drinking charmer.