The state of Kentucky is known for many things nationally, like basketball, bourbon and horse racing, just to name a few. You could say that Kentucky isn’t really known for craft beer on a national scale like some of the other surrounding states, but don’t let that fool you! There are a multitude of award-winning craft breweries that call the Bluegrass State home.
One such brewery is Country Boy Brewing out of Georgetown, Kentucky. Country Boy Brewing offers a great lineup of craft beer, but today we’re going to be talking about their New England IPA called Witness the Citrus and is it good!
We were able to connect with Evan Coppage, Co-Founder and Head of Brewery Operations, to give us some insight on what makes Witness the Citrus so special and to provide some background information on the brew.
It’s all in the name
“I was flipping through the pages of my Red River Gorge climbing guidebook one day and I came up with twenty-four route names that weren’t too inside, too long or too crude that I thought they could be beer names, specifically for New England IPAs that we were planning to brew”, noted Evan. He goes on to explain that Witness the Citrus is named after a difficult climbing route in the Red River Gorge. The route was originally bolted, climbed and named by Dario Ventura, who is the son of Miguel of Miguel’s Pizza, so, if you know the Gorge, that’s a pretty big deal. The route is a steep jug haul where one must fight past the pump for the send. On Evan’s first attempt, he took a big fall and was slammed back into the rock wall, fracturing his right ankle! That ordeal took him out of the climbing game for eight months. Once healed up though, he went back out and re-climbed the route to evict it from its rent-free stay in his head. “Besides my personal history with it, Witness the Citrus is a great name for a beer that is designed to be a home-style orange juice bomb”, notes Evan. We can verify that Witness the Citrus is in fact an orange juice bomb that might have you climbing back into your car the next day to go get some more!
Trying something new
Country Boy Brewing was a little late to the NEIPA game. Evan notes that “Not enough of us had tried a good enough example of a NEIPA to take it seriously as a style for the future and not just a fad”. He recalls the Brut IPA and Session IPA had just come and gone so quickly that consumers barely had a chance to compare commercial examples. “I think the turning point for us was the quality of Hazy IPAs that were coming out of Burial Brewing”, noted Evan. “We are talking low bitterness, soft mouthfeel, huge citrus aromas and flavors that weren’t a muddled mess.” Country Boy brewed a couple examples and didn’t really like where they were initially. They were slightly bitter for the style, the aroma was lacking and the English ale “bubble gum” flavor was too dominant, noted Evan.
He sent out a couple of inquiries to brewers that he highly respected about new techniques and hopping schemes. They also tried a few other yeast strains to see if that could unlock more potential. He received a lot of great feedback from a friend at Sierra Nevada Chico on all the trials they did for Hazy Little Thing. Evan also notes that he got some anecdotal theories from Tim at Burial Brewing. Just to name a few tweaks, he altered the temperature of his whirlpool addition, the time and temperature of their dry hopping and also started using their centrifuge for it, which Evan notes seemed counterintuitive, but it definitely helped. Evan notes there were many more tweaks and will be many more in the future as they gain new knowledge.
Give me that OJ!
Witness the Citrus was engineered to taste like full flavor “with pulp” orange juice, so they use Citra, Mosaic and Centennial, the workhorse hops for a NEIPA, says Evan. They’re not subtle. They do the heavy lifting of delivering a citrus blast to your olfactory organ and then coating your palate. This combination of hops is proven and readily available, so you don’t have to worry about availability in a year-round beer.
We asked Evan what makes Witness the Citrus stand out amongst other beers in the heavily saturated NEIPA market and rather than “toot his own horn”, he shared a recent text he received from a brewer friend who works in the DC area. Evan adds that his friend has been brewing for well over a decade at multiple, respected breweries.
” I’m not saying this because I know you, but this is probably the best NEIPA I’ve had. I lean toward dry palate-wise, and this was perfectly balanced and pleasantly juicy. Great nose. Something I could actually drink a 4-pack of. Your team nailed it!”
We can again vouch for Country Boy on the quality and flavors of this beer. They were shooting for a juice bomb, and they created an atomic one at that. It has all the qualities you want from this style of beer. Just like Evan described in what they wanted, it has a soft mouthfeel, juicy aromas and that palate-pleasing citrus goodness! As his friend noted, you can definitely drink more than one 4-pack. Coming in at 7% ABV, you might only want to drink one 4-pack at a time though, then again, maybe not, we’ll let you decide.
A country boy can survive, and make beer!
So where did the naming of the brewery come from? How did they become Country Boy Brewing? Evan explains that his brother Nathan and other Co-Founder DH both lived and worked in Japan prior to them starting the brewery. They were really into the burgeoning craft beer scene in Japan and had a blog called ‘Good Beer and Country Boys’ where they documented their travels and beers consumed. When they were brewing in their backyard and getting the idea of the brewery going and trying to come up with their business plan, it was just always going to be Country Boy. The name has been there and defined the craft beer path they took from fans to amateurs to professionals.
Witness the Citrus is their year-round NEIPA. They also brew NEIPAs every 3 months that are also named after climbing routes in the Red River Gorge. “It’s kind of our thing now”, notes Evan. The brewers like to use the seasonal releases as a chance to experiment with some different methods, ingredients or different combinations of hop varieties. What they learn from these ever-evolving one-off NEIPAs is applied to constantly improving Witness the Citrus and the rest of their IPAs and Pale Ales.