At 4.6% ABV, Ripple is Kane's most sessionable ale, edging out its Belgian blonde summer seasonal, Single Fin, and Belgian wit, Cloud Cover, for the title.
But that's probably digression.
The headline here his hops in session, and Ripple is both an expression of and study in hops in a beer that will let you easily accommodate a second round.
The beer owes its origin to a event the now-2-year-old brewery held at the start of June that featured a lineup of single-hopped versions of Kane's signature Head High IPA.
Among the featured demonstrator Head High brews that day was one shot-through with Nelson Sauvin, a New Zealand cultivar that has found favor with the folks at Kane (they had previously used it for double dry-hopping some brews).
The hop's flavor profile suggests passionfruit or Sauvignon blanc grapes. The June 1 Wolf Among the Seas single-hop event gave Kane its first opportunity to use the hop on the boil side of the brewing process. (A relatively new variety, Nelson Sauvin is billed as multipurpose hop, good for the beginning, middle and end of the boil.)
But with Ripple, the brewery opted for blend and backed up the Nelson Sauvin with a dash of Simcoe (bittering), plus some Amarillo and Citra (finish, dry hop).
"We actually liked the single-hop version of it, but we wanted to add a little bit of hop complexity to it and not have it just one-dimensional," says brewery owner Michael Kane. "We thought that Amarillo and Citra paired well with (the Nelson), the little bit of piney-ness from the Amarillo and those more unique tropical fruit flavors you get from Citra."
Among hoppy session ales, Founders (All Day IPA), Lagunitas (DayTime Fractional IPA) and Green Flash (Citra Session IPA) may come to mind, each turning out beers that reach for the boldness of hops but retain a complexity without the screaming ABV that American IPAs can have, and that double IPAs always do have.
"They're interesting beers to brew, because, I think, they are a little more work than double IPAs," Michael says. "You want to make sure you have balance. You don't want it to be too malty and too sweet; you don't want it to be too watery and thin … You have to get the hop and the malt balance right."
Ripple works out to twice as much Nelson Sauvin as the other hops used in it, all set to a pilsner malt base reinforced with some flaked oats and crystal malts.
"To keep the body there and some of the complexity, we added little bit more crystal than we normally would, and we added a lot of flaked oats," Michael says. "We made quite a few pilot batches, playing with different hop combinations, malt combinations to make sure we got it right. I'm pretty happy with how the first batch came out."
Most Kane followers know the brewery's lineup to trend toward higher ABV, as it runs a respectable style range, from the imperial coffee porter Morning Bell (debuted last winter and rebrewed again in the spring/summer) to Belgian beers (dark ale, quad, a forthcoming saison) in specialty bottles, and other brews aged in whiskey barrels.
Still, it's Overhead double IPA and Head High IPA, of course, that give Kane an image as a hops-friendly brewery. Ripple presents Kane the opportunity to downshift a little to the lower ABV while still exploring that hops identity.
Consequently, Ripple is Kane's newest hoppy draft offering to come along in a while, slipped into a tight production cycle in which its bigger IPA siblings, thanks to demand, command most of the fermenter time.
"Our flagship draft beers are hoppy beers," Michael says, "and I love hoppy beers. I've been saying we need to do more hop stuff. It's hard to get new beers out and still do things like the anniversary beer for this year, which was brewed a month ago, and do one-offs like Morning Bell and the saison, and do interesting stuff for bottles."