Over the course of my various travels to the USA, I’ve been fortunate enough to visit parts of the famed Oregon Trail. The 2,170-mile route once connected various towns along the Missouri River to Oregon's Willamette Valley during the 19th century and was used by colonialists seeking fertile land. It looks a little different these days, and traversing it is certainly less arduous, with lots more taco trucks and the occasional branch of Bed, Bath and Beyond lining the roads it once occupied. Still, it’s no less fascinating.
I’ve also played the 1971 video game that is designed to simulate the authentic Oregon Trail experience, perils and all. Yes, I too have died of dysentery far too many times to mention.
It’s from the latter where today’s beer takes its name. Berkshire’s Elusive Brewing – founded by award-winning brewer, Andy “The Nicest Man in Brewing” Parker in 2016 – has its branding rooted in the 8-bit video games some reading this will perhaps remember fondly. The can itself depicts a digital rendering of a horse-drawn wagon train, as it chunters through the American West… and west is certainly the word when it comes to this sublimely delicious IPA.
While the hazy, juicy New England-style IPA has captivated beer drinkers old and new over the past few years, I sense change in the air. Yearnings for balance, bitterness and refreshment from IPA drinkers across the land are being listened to, and the majestic West Coast IPA is once again seeing a much-deserved and oh-so-long awaited resurgence.
This example from Elusive is one of the best of this new West Coast wave I’ve tried. A self-confessed West Coast IPA lover himself, with this beer Andy Parker has deftly crafted a tribute the likes of Green Flash, Alpine and perhaps even the great Russian River itself would be proud of.
It pours bright and clear and begins gnashing at your palate with aromas of candied orange and lemon peel from the moment it hits your glass, its shade of burnished copper somehow reassuring in its opalescence. To taste, it begins with a gentle, candy-cane sweetness before being met with some more zest, orange this time, and there’s a snap of resinous pine. This is certainly more noticeable in the finish, which promises bitterness but never becomes overwhelming or astringent. It’s a beer in perfect balance.
The time of the West Coast IPA is well and truly now (again).
Matthew Curtis is a writer, photographer and editor of Pellicle Magazine. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @totalcurtis and @pelliclemag. Pick up a can of Elusive's banging Oregon Trail now, or sign up to our All Killer No Filler subscription box, where you'll find incredible beers like this every month plus more great writing from Matt and our food writer Claire Bullen...