Brew Free or Die: An IPA that Pales by Comparison

A flight of beers typically consists of four to six different beers served in sample-sized glasses that are tasted in a single session.  Most times you start with the lightest of the beers and work your way through to the darker samples, with the flavors intensifying along the way.  This is a great way to cover a lot of ground and find some new beers to love without getting totally hammered. I’ve seen flights offered at more and more places, which is a great development, unless all the samples they pour taste like dirty tap lines (which is exactly what happened to me this past weekend). 😦

But this isn’t the only kind of flight that beer geeks enjoy – there’s also what I like to call the “night flight.”  A night flight is a mostly spontaneous sequence of beers enjoyed over the course of an evening at home.  Maybe you start with a pilsner or IPA and work your way to a stout.  My buddy Frank and I refer to Victory Storm King as “the last beer you’ll taste” in a given evening, because either you wisely save it for the end, or you drink it early and its immensely toasted body and huge hop kick will blow out your taste buds for whatever might come next.

I enjoyed a mini night flight last evening, but it wasn’t planned.  I decided to break my no-weeknight-beers rule and enjoy a can of Dale’s Pale Ale (or two).  There was only one cold can of Dale’s in the fridge, but alongside it were a couple of cans of 21st Amendment’s Brew Free or Die IPA.  Good enough for me.  I enjoyed the Dale’s and felt like having another beer, so I cracked open a Brew Free or Die.

Drinking these two back-to-back made the Brew Free or Die pale by comparison.  It just couldn’t hang with the sweet earthiness and huge malt backbone that Dale’s provides.  The Brew Free or Die wound up tasting a bit thin and unbalanced when chasing the Dale’s, with its lighter malt profile failing to create equilibrium with its citrus peel bitterness.  Had I enjoyed them in the other order, I think both would have been pretty good, but setting my palate with the Dale’s made it difficult for the Brew Free or Die to shine.

Our pal and bear-obsessed-bourbon-barrel-carpenter John King recently gave me hell in our comment section for not trying new beers.  The truth is, I try new beers all the time, but I find very few of them are worth mentioning.  I’ll write about brews I love or stuff that’s awful, but beers that are just decent or kind of average don’t get my creative juices flowing, so they usually get no ink here.  If it wasn’t for John’s sniping, I don’t think I would’ve ever written about Brew Free or Die here: It’s a nice aromatic IPA, but it just doesn’t curl my toes.




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25 Comments on “Brew Free or Die: An IPA that Pales by Comparison”

  1. February 17, 2012 at 12:04 pm #

    I’ve had Brew Free or Die several times being that it’s brewed and canned about an hour from the Twin Cities and have noticed some consistency issues with them.

    Sometimes the beer was fantastic, sometimes meh and sometimes just not good.

    I haven’t had it in awhile and maybe I’ll pick up a single in the near future to see how they’re doing with it.

    On the other hand, Dale’s is a tough beer to follow for a LOT of beers out there.


    • February 17, 2012 at 12:14 pm #

      It certainly wasn’t a bad beer, Mikey, but it’ll never become a go-to for me.

      • February 17, 2012 at 12:33 pm #

        I know Minnesota isn’t thought of by most of you as a beer paradise but we’ve got it good, especially if you like IPA’s.

        Surly Furious & Abrasive, Fulton Sweet Child of Vine, Town Hall’s Masala Mama, Fitger’s El Nino plus access to Bell’s, Founders and a ton of other great stuff.

        But yeah, BFoD isn’t a go to for me either with the options I listed.

  2. Don
    February 17, 2012 at 12:07 pm #

    I have to agree with you Jim. BFOD is a good IPA, but it isn’t great, and it is quite light bodied. I much prefer their Back in Black and Monks Blood to the BFOD. Nothing wrong with making a light bodied IPA, and for what it is, it is good, but it won’t hold up with a Dales and you are right, had you reversed the order it would have been more enjoyable, but it still wouldn’t have curled your toes.

    • February 17, 2012 at 12:15 pm #

      Yeah, I picked it up for the Super Bowl. They had no Dale’s or Back in Black at the store, so I figured this was a little of both. Turned out it can’t really hold a candle to either.

    • February 18, 2012 at 10:52 am #

      I agree completely. The BFODs that I’ve had didn’t really qualify as IPAs, IMHO. They’re closer to Pales. India is missing.

  3. February 17, 2012 at 12:13 pm #

    Dale’s Pale Ale is a pale ale only by name. It’s 65 IBU and 6.5% ABV so I don’t think anybody can correct you if you call it an IPA. I find its 65 IBU on the sharper side of bitterness, too. I don’t know what causes this difference in bitterness, but my palate is wrecked after a Dale’s while I can drink a different high IBU beer like Torpedo and still enjoy subtle flavors in other beers through the night.

    I’m a big fan of the night flight. I get bored drinking one after another of the same beer. I think most of my beer nights are flight nights.

    • February 17, 2012 at 12:17 pm #

      Me too – I love the night flight! Dales is certainly a big character beer, but I find it’s hop profile much more approachable than many IPAs. I love that stuff, but that’s been well documented by now. 😉

    • February 17, 2012 at 12:41 pm #

      I can’t wait for the release of Deviant Dale’s IPA in tallboys next month. I’ve had it on draft and it’s really, really good. It makes Dale’s taste like Bud Light! Not really, but it’s a major hop bomb.

      • February 17, 2012 at 12:46 pm #

        I was thinking the same thing, can’t wait for the Deviant. Dales is actually on the lighter side than most of what I drink from Colorado. About the only time I drink it anymore is when we go camping or at the Avalanche games since it’s the best thing on tap at the Pepsi Center.

        I know you don’t agree Alex, but I still say Dales tastes much better on tap!

        • February 17, 2012 at 1:02 pm #

          I may be coming around to your point of view; some beers are definitely better on tap. Odell Myrcenary and Odell Gubna seem to benefit from being on draft. I went to an Avs game last month and was thrilled to see Dale’s there.

      • February 17, 2012 at 12:52 pm #

        I think I might die when I taste it. I’m covering a NYC beer fest for the other gig (my first press credential!) and OB is gonna be there. Hopefully I get a sample.

  4. February 17, 2012 at 12:18 pm #

    You could start a little blog game where you select three beers on a Friday for your readership to enjoy and report back on called “Friday Night Flights.”

    • February 17, 2012 at 12:19 pm #

      I was thinking about doing something with “night flights” – maybe that’d be the ticket.

      • February 17, 2012 at 4:22 pm #

        Except when I’m eating steamed crabs, I never repeat the same beer. I had a malty Belgian Ale on tap at lunch today, followed by a really hoppy IPA. That seems to be an ideal start to a flight, but I can’t think what might follow the IPA–pehaps an imperal stout?

  5. johnking82
    February 17, 2012 at 1:45 pm #

    Damn you Jim. I was reading this post conjuring up a rip-fest about another Dale’s Pale Ale post and then I got to the last paragraph. I meant the post in good fun, but also as a jab as well to not be negative, but get you thinking. From a beer bloggers perspective, it’s difficult to do a lot of “beer reviews” because if your readers really wanted to know what others felt about it, they’d check out BA or Ratebeer. I just felt, from you, it was like a tape recording of your top 5 favorite beers (which are also a few favorites of mine) just in a different theme. Oh, and I’m a meanie.

    • February 17, 2012 at 1:59 pm #

      That’s funny, I actually thought there’d be a “gotcha” at the end of this one for you. Glad that happened!

      My thinking is “king of the hill” when it comes to beer. I’ll continue to pimp Schlafly Reserve Imperial Stout as my go-to selection for watching Boardwalk Empire until something else comes along that goes better with the show. For now it’s the king, until it is dethroned by a better beer or I get bored (which is starting to happen). I’ve watched the show with many other brews, but none hit the spot like the Schlafly so that’s what I write about. I could replace it with a DFH Palo Santo or an Avery Czar, but that wouldn’t be honest.

      Anyway, you called me out and it worked. I always appreciate constructive feedback, and you seem to be an endless fount of fresh criticism. 🙂

      • johnking82
        February 17, 2012 at 3:21 pm #

        What’s funny is my wife bought me a bottle of 2008 Schlafly Imperial Stout for Valentines Day…it truly is one of my favorites.

        I choose to give constructive criticism which is constructed like a drunk vagrants cardboard shack.

  6. Mathew
    February 17, 2012 at 2:36 pm #

    My night flight tonight will be Wynkoop B3k, which is a black lager, and Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye IPA. Which one should I have first?

    • February 17, 2012 at 3:40 pm #

      I love Ruthless Rye. Definitely have the lager first since the RR is far more bitter and hoppy which will overwhelm the more gentle lager.

  7. February 17, 2012 at 3:05 pm #

    You have a “no weeknight-beers-rule”?

    If we give up beer for wine then the terriorists win.

    • February 17, 2012 at 3:16 pm #

      Don’t worry, I have a no-wine-ever policy as well.

    • February 17, 2012 at 4:25 pm #

      A “no weeknight-beers-rule”–boy I’m glad I don’t have that problem.

  8. Greg H
    February 18, 2012 at 12:04 pm #

    Most of my drinking nights involve flights. Tonight will be a homebrew IPA, a can of Alchemist IPA and, finally, a bomber of Vermonster from Rock Art Brewery. Killer. Funny, I’ve tried Dales and BFOD back to back and enjoyed it, but maybe I reversed the order, don’t remember. We just got Founders here, so I’ll have to go get some of that, I’ve ben reading so much about them here.

  9. February 18, 2012 at 9:34 pm #

    We had a similar experience when we followed up a Stone Smoked Porter with a Young’s Double Chocolate Stout. We usually enjoy the Young’s, but it never stood a chance against the Smoked Porter. The Young’s tasted like a watered down Chocolate Egg Cream.

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