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bottles

Magic Hat’s excellent IPA is no act

We’re past the days of reckless

IPAs.

Only a few years ago — in an effort to move beyond restrained American classics like Harpoon IPA — craft brewers rolled out kicked-up recipes, to borrow a phrase from TV host Guy Fieri, in which the primary path to making a better India Pale Ale was “more.”

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Many of the beers were a muddled mess — too bitter, too syrupy, too boozy. I liked some of them then — my first Globe beer column five years ago sung the praises of Oskar Blues Deviant Dale’s, an imperial copper-colored ale the brewery’s website still describes as “the Devil incarnate, with untold amounts of malt and hedonistic Columbus dry-hopping.” But that beer is hardly approachable, and I remain convinced the brand of extreme IPAs and double
IPAs of the early 2000s are why many people are still turned off to craft beer.

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Today’s en vogue IPAs couldn’t be more different. Some of them aren’t even bitter. Originating in Vermont and still associated with New England, beers like the Alchemist’s Focal Banger and Tree House Julius look like orange juice and don’t taste far off. Stylistically, they have very little to do with Deviant Dale’s.

There’s a middle ground, though, and it’s where many breweries have recently settled, introducing IPAs with bitterness long-associated with the style melded with fruity aromatics.

Magic Hat, which has been in existence since 1994, has never had a standout IPA. It’s a brewery known for #9, a light-drinking apricot pale ale. But the Burlington, Vt., company is entering the IPA fray anew with TFG, a new brew that is only the company’s 6th year-round offering.

“It’s representative of how much we love this beer,” says Christopher Rockwood, Magic Hat’s head brewer. “We had to make sure the rest of our teams knew how much we wanted, and needed, to have this beer around.”

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TFG is an acronym for Taken For Granite — a nod to the company’s deep roots — and Magic Hat sells merchandise associated with the new brew playing off this rocky theme. Pour TFG into a glass and you can immediately tell it isn’t an orange juice bomb, the giveaway apparent in the glass’s dark orange murk. I wrote “smooth”
after the first sip, but as I drink the beer becomes more persistently bitter. Tasting notes suggesting grapefruit, peach, pine, and cherry are spot-on, even down to that novel last one. There’s balance here very much attuned to today’s taste buds.

“Beers in the IPA category can range from herbal and staunchly bitter to bright, bursting with citrus, and drink like juice,” says Rockwood. “TFG strikes a balance between these two extremes.”

Initially available only in Vermont, TFG is making its way into Massachusetts this month.

Gary Dzen can be reached at gary.dzen@globe.com.