Beer Review 0559: Great Divide Lasso IPA

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Great Divide Brewing Co. is the vision of Brian Dunn, who during the late 1980’s, spent five years outside of the United States building farms in developing countries. Dunn had a passion for beer, and upon returning home to Colorado, started home brewing and graduated from college.

Dunn thought that he could start a brewery in Denver, and with help from family, friends, and a loan from the city, Great Divide started producing beers in 1994. At first, Dunn was the only employee — but his beers were outstanding, winning medals at beer festivals and catching attention by word of mouth.

Things got big, and today Great Divide has 47 employees, and has won eighteen Great American Beer Festival medals. Now brewing 10 year-round beers and 12 seasonals, Great Divide proudly says they have “something for everyone.”

Celebrating 20 years in 2014, Great Divide is adding the beer up for review today — Lasso IPA — to its year-round portfolio. Inspired by the recent trend of lower ABV (alcohol by volume) so-called “session” style India Pale Ale, Lasso becomes Great Divide’s lowest beer in alcohol, measuring just 5%. Whether you want to consider 5% sessionable or not is an argument for another time, and perhaps another website altogether.

Brewed with Columbus, Centennial, and Cascade hops, the beer ranks 50 IBUs (International Bitterness Units) and promises “it’ll go down mighty fine.”

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Lasso pours a beautiful bright white head, large and soapy atop a perfectly golden beer. The head lasts; the body of the beer is exceptionally clear and contains no particles or sediment. Lacing is excellent, leaving behind thick layers of foam as I sipped.

On the nose, what we have is fairly typical of lower ABV IPA — lots of grapefruit, a fair bit of orange and lemon peel, and significant grassiness. Grassy hops seem to be the dividing factor on these types of beer; here, it’s not overwhelming. The malts are nearly non-existent, only offering up some faint notes of grain. I’d call this one earthy, dominant in grapefruit, with a grassy undertone.

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The taste opens with a bit of a surprise. Bold notes of fleshy grapefruit and juicy orange delight, immediately making me smile and wondering how they got all that flavor in this relatively small package. Really nice right from the get go — middle of the mouth turns more toward the grassy end, and the grainy flavors start to come out as well. But the delicious hoppy flavors never die, as showcased on the finish with moderately bitter grapefruit, pine, and lemon. For 50 IBUs, this is much more bitter than I expected. I’d classify this beer medium-bodied, with a thin, foamy, and drying mouthfeel that hedges just a bit toward medicinal but isn’t off-putting.

Nicely done, Great Divide! Looks like year twenty will be a great one — but some thoughts: there’s a ton of flavor here for a 5% beer, and I love that. However, I wonder exactly who the target audience is — you’re certainly not going to hook a novice drinker with this beer, it’s too bitter! And for someone like myself, I probably won’t go back to this because there is a price issue here. I understand these type of “session” beers take more effort to brew because you are packing lots of flavor without having much alcohol to work with, but I’m not dropping eleven bucks for a sixer of this. Call me cheap if you want, but it’s the truth. That said, this is a very good beer and an impressive feat of brewing. I could easily drink many of these, and I recommend all to try it.

Great Divide Lasso IPA, 89 points. Price: $10.99 US for a six-pack.

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