One beer release I eagerly await each year is Ithaca Beer Co’s anniversary ale. Every year it changes, and just about every year it outdoes itself. As I sit here on this 65-degree February day — the older generation and their elephantine memory telling me this is normal weather — what better brew to dip into than Ithaca’s Anniversary “20/20 Hindsight,” a farmhouse wheat ale brewed with our favorite wild yeast (Brettanomyces)?
It is hard to say which Ithaca Anniversary beer is my favorite — not to mention a historically great portfolio that just dropped “Pulp Addiction,” a hazy IPA with massive hoppy, citrus character. “Twelve,” a Belgian Quad, was more than memorable and made for great cellaring, but “Thirteen,” “Fourteen,” and “Seventeen” were also astoundingly good, hop-forward brews. Last year’s “Nineteen,” a pale wheat sour ale, is still a real treat if you are lucky enough to find any. Nevertheless, you get the point: Ithaca makes great anniversary beers.
This year’s “20/20 Hindsight” is equally delightful, with a story behind it. The brewery released its first “Excelsior! Series Anniversary” beer to commemorate the beginning of its 10th year in business, calling it Anniversary 10. (A beer I had the good fortune of sampling one Christmas Eve some seven or eight years ago.) But, they were only nine years old at the time, being “born” in 1998 ... making just nineteen when this latest brew was done. This year’s beer, which will come out in December of 2018, will be released as “Anniversary 20.”
Don’t let the dates confuse you. This beer is chock full of some of today’s best hops, including Mosaic, Galaxy, Nelson Sauvin and Citra. The malt bill of 2 Row Pale, Wheat, Flaked Oat, Honey, and Carapils create a pleasant, soft body, and choice canvass for the other ingredients. Fermented with Brett, this tropical hop profile combines with a yeast strain that presents some fantastic nuances, all of which get better as the beer warms up. Again, this beer won’t reach out and punch you in the face like so much of what is on the market today, but if you want to sample a delicacy inspired by Belgian traditions and an American hop approach, the subtle spice notes followed by deep tropical fruit and light funk here is a beer to try. Enjoy!
This week’s recommendation: Ithaca Anniversary “20/20 Hindsight,” a farmhouse wheat ale brewed with Brettanomyces for delicate spice, fruit and funk quality, followed by very dry finish. 6 percent ABV. Ithaca.
— Colin Hubbell is co-owner of the Green Onion Pub and The Beer Hub in South Utica, New York.