As a brewer, there’s that moment when you send that first case of a new beer out to the distributor or when you hand the first new pint over to a customer. You feel like a parent. You want the best because, after all, you created this beer. You want the beer to stand on its own. You want the beer to be a great representative of you.
If you’ve followed Piney River Brewing for any time, you know that we’ve had a few proud parent moments…the consumer demand for Black Walnut Wheat, the GABF Gold medal for Old Tom Porter, the packaging option we came up with to brew and package seasonal beers–Float Trip Ale, Sweet Potato Ale, Hot Date Ale and most recently, Masked Bandit India Pale Ale.
Masked Bandit India Pale Ale is another one of those beers that we began developing over a year ago. Brian and I are admitted India Pale Ale fans, but we also love black IPAs like Wookey Jack and Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale. Marshall Brewing in Tulsa makes a special release Black IPA, El CuCuy, that you need to try if you ever have a chance. There’s something wonderful about a roasty, dark beer with a thick tan head that reeks of hop aroma and has a wonderful balance of roasted malt and hop flavor.
As we began playing with roasted malt and hops in search of our own black IPA, I thought of a way to pay homage to one of my favorite Ozark animals–the raccoon. Thinking of animals that thrive in the dark of the Ozarks, my mind turned to the raccoon.
Raccoons and the Ozarks go hand in hand. They rob the corn patch. They steal the perfect watermelon the night before you plan to pick it. We even caught a mama raccoon and her six babies stealing peaches from our tree in broad daylight. If you frequent Ozark river banks, you’ll find empty mussel shells and crawdad carcasses littering the gravel bar where a raccoon or two enjoyed a little midnight dining. Those glowing eyes on the edge of the yard or on your porch eating cat food at 2 am? Hello Mr. Masked Bandit.
Little known fact–I was named after coon hunters.
My dad got college credit for raccoon hunting, and yes, he wrote a paper about it. The first dogs I ever knew were coon hounds. And some of my earliest memories involve sitting in the back of Aileen Hatch’s blazer while she and my dad listened to coon hounds howl in the Texas County hollows on cold, clear nights. I thought, “This is what all four-year olds do on a weeknight.” Right?
And just like the black mask that makes a raccoon face so distinctive, our Masked Bandit IPA is an IPA that doesn’t look like an IPA until it reaches your nose–a trickster of sorts, but a delicious one. In addition to dark malts we’ve added some rye for a nice spice punch, and the Citra and Amarillo hops shine providing flavor and aroma for Masked Bandit.
Due to the limited availability of the hops we use for Masked Bandit, it will not be produced after February of this year. We will have to wait to brew more Masked Bandit until next year when our new hop contracts become available. Meanwhile, Masked Bandit can be found in draft and Piney pints throughout our distribution area until it’s gone. Masked Bandit has been a featured beer at every tap takeover, tasting and beer dinner that we’ve done in the past few weeks, and it seems to be well loved.
Masked Bandit IPA is our newest offering to the craft beer world. We hope you enjoy it as much as we’ve enjoyed crafting it, brewing it and naming it. (And, as always, special thanks to Brooke Hamilton at Grindstone Studio for capturing our vision of the Ozarks with her graphic designs.)
In the Ozarks, the masked bandit is notorious for raiding the corn patch. Or, for finding—and eating—the perfectly ripe watermelon in the garden just before it’s picked. Our handcrafted Masked Bandit India Pale Ale is a black rye IPA that is raccoon proof…as long as the raccoon in your neck of the woods isn’t a hop head.