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Thursday, October 13th 2011

Grand Circus IPA
(Atwater Brewery)

Released in cans the same time as their Atwater's Lager, Grand Circus is another entry in the growing list of lower ABV ales marketed as an IPA. Let’s see how this one stacks up with no definitive style guidelines to light the way. 

From the Atwater site:

"Detroit’s Grand Circus Park is at the center of the city.  It has always been a meeting place where businessmen and visitors alike can relax and enjoy the sights and sounds of the bustling streets.  Every city has a place just like Grand Circus Park.  Nice and easy.  After two years of research and sampling, we’ve found the IPA that craft fans have been waiting for.  The one that epitomizes Grand Circus Park.  A nice and easy, deliciously hoppy IPA that is only 5% ABV and works perfect with a day in the park.  Plus, it too is available in cans."

Here we go...

POUR: A bright, vibrant copper color in the glass with a very dense and creamy white head.

AROMA: Dry crackers and some malt sweetness.  The hops make their presence known as it warms and after the head recedes.

TASTE: A malt-forward ale when cold, the hop flavor becomes more noticeable when it warms up a little bit.  There’s some light sweet tea flavor at the start and middle with a twinge of hop bitterness at the finish that cleanses the palate and gets you ready for the next sip.  Just a little bit of pleasant malt sweetness hangs around for an aftertaste.

OVERALL: A nice and light but flavorful pale ale that would pair well with many outdoor activities where higher ABV beers are not a good idea.  The malt-forward flavor profile with some moderate hop bitterness is what I imagine a lighter version of Breckenridge’s Lucky U IPA might taste like.  The easy, smooth drinking might also make this one a good candidate to use to introduce friends into the world of craft beer (and craft beer in cans!). 

NOTES: Understandably, craft brewers have been using the term “session” instead of “light” to describe ales like Grand Circus, probably because the latter term has been used in the brand name of some watery, thin-bodied, and flavorless beers.  No craft brewer wants a customer to associate their creations with something bland.

We’re OK with the term “session” as a craft beer description for “light.”  If you call it a “session IPA,” like Two Beers’ did with their Trailhead India Style Session Ale then the consumer knows what they’re buying. And here’s where Atwater may run into some trouble with Grand Circus: the packaging and label don’t provide a clue that this is a “light” or “session” IPA.  Even the ABV is noticeably absent from the can, which would give semi-informed beer drinkers a good indication that this is not a typical IPA. 

Good surprises are great, while bad surprises can be really bad.  Had we not known this was a “session IPA” before our tasting then Grand Circus may have been one of those bad surprises.  We think the folks at Two Beers did it right by including “session” in the brand name of their lighter IPA and hope that Atwater finds a way to sneak an extra word on the label before the next canning run.  




Hops Scale:
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Can Scale:
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Grand Circus India Pale Ale
Style: American India Pale Ale
Brewery: Atwater Brewery
Detroit, Michigan  
United States  
Container: 12 oz. can
Malts: ???
Hops: Centennial and ?
ABV: 5.0%
IBUs: ???
Date: October 13th, 2011

Posted by Trent

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