Beer Review 0427: No-Li Born & Raised IPA

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No-Li Brewhouse recently began distribution here in North Carolina, so let’s dig into some of their beers and see what’s up with this brewery from Spokane, Washington.

Founded in 1993 by Mark Irvin, No-Li began life as the Northern Lights Brewing Company. Irvin fell in love with beer in the 1980’s while in Germany, living with his military family abroad. He brewed beer for Coeur d’Alene Brewing and Hale’s Ales before starting his own company.

For the first eight years, Northern Lights produced primarily draft beer and self-distributed kegs to local restaurants. In 2002, the brewery moved on the Spokane River and opened a brewpub.

Enter the second player in this story: In 2012, John Bryant, a veteran brewer who previously worked at Deschutes, Odell, and Oskar Blues breweries (quite a reputation there!) had a glass of Northern Lights beer and wanted to work with Mr. Irvin. About the same time these two hooked up, there was a trademark dispute with the name “Northern Lights.” East coast brewery Starr Hill had been using the name on an IPA for many years — in an attempt to settle the issue, Irvin and Bryant contacted Starr Hill, but never received a response. They changed the name of the brewery to a shortened form of Northern Lights, “No-Li,” and named their Pale Ale ‘Silent Treatment’ (my review: 87 points) as a wry nod to the cold shoulder given to them by Starr Hill.

Born & Raised IPA is brewed with Cascade, Columbus, and Chinook hops, all grown within 300 miles of the brewery. Even the malt is considered local, from nearby Armstrong, British Columbia. This IPA comes in at 7% ABV (alcohol by volume) and 80 IBUs (International Bitterness Units).

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Pouring gave way to a large, almost huge head that was creamy and long lasting. The beer was dark in color for an IPA, mostly deep amber with some lighter orange highlights when held to the light. The body was hazy and almost cloudy, but there were no particles or sediment in suspension. Lacing was excellent, leaving behind clingy puffy sheets of foam as I partook.

On the nose, we’ve got a typical west coast IPA with signature grapefruit and pine aromas and a ton of malt. A huge malt backing here, mostly in the form of caramel, and some sweet bread. The hops branch out into notes of citrus — orange and lemon, and are slightly floral. And at just 7% ABV, the alcohol is present, along with an earthen yeast.

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The hops are astringent on the taste, ripping the taste buds with ample grapefruit and pine before slacking off and putting the spotlight on very sweet caramel malt. The malts totally overtake the beer for a moment, making for a very creamy mouthfeel; and for a 7% ABV beer, this drinks much higher — it’s fairly boozy. The finish sees the hops return, issuing heavy bitterness to go with the blanket layer of thick caramel. I found Born & Raised to be medium-bodied, with a medium, creamy and foamy mouthfeel.

While the hops flavors are really nice at the beginning of the taste, this beer struggles with the IPA style assignment and seems a lot more boozy than it really is. I wasn’t impressed, and by the final sip, I was left wanting something more hoppy and refreshing.

No-Li Born & Raised IPA, 82 points. Price: $6.99 US for one 22 oz. bomber size bottle.

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