A Foray Into the Unknown
A Review of Happy Camper IPA by Santa Fe Brewing Co.
Posted on 8/12/2014 by Chops
                   
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When beer fans find themselves in strange new lands, exploring the local beer scene can seem a bit daunting. Who is the landmark brewery? Who is the wild child brewery? Who is the dependable brewery? You know what, screw all that. Let's just start with who makes good beer? Trial and error is part of every foray into the unknown. Sometimes you have to jump in with both feet and hope for the best.

This is the exact situation I recently encountered when I moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico. After polishing off the last of my North Carolina supply, I ventured to the nearest beer store. Knowing very little about the local scene, I simply opted for the most obvious New Mexican beer. It didn't take long for one can to stand out. It looked like an aluminum New Mexico flag folded into the shape of a beer can. Done. I shall try that one. As it turns out, I had selected the Happy Camper IPA from the Santa Fe Brewing Company.

In the glass, this beer had a rich golden honey coloration. It came with a big rocky off-white head that had great retention. On the nose, I was greeted by strong earthy malty aroma with notes of caramel, grapefruit, and peat moss. Wow, I was surprised to find myself on base after the first swing. This was a lovely introduction to what I could only assume was a savory earthy IPA, one of my personal favorites.

If I had to pick a single word to describe this beer, it would be ''presence''. Everything about this beer had great presence from the solid medium body to the moderately aggressive hop profile to the long prickly bitter finish. Not one aspect of this beer wanted for attention. And yet, it remained nonabrasive. Flavor wise, I found a base of earthy malts along with notes of pine, grapefruit citrus, peat moss, weedy herb, smokey caramel, toasted bread, and a mild spice. The beer had a great campfire vibe to it, which I can only assume is where its name comes from. As noted before, the beer had a prickly finish and exited with a lengthy bitter citrus aftertaste.

Overall, Santa Fe's Happy Camper IPA was a delightful brew with a strong flavor punch. I greatly enjoyed this beer and it quickly became a mainstay in my refrigerator. It has all the great characteristics that hop heads love along a meatiness that gives it great presence. I want to call the Happy Camper a solid baseline IPA, but it's really not. It floats in the murky nether region between baseline and imperial. It feels and tastes much stronger than it actually is, plus you can enjoy several in an evening without losing you wits. It's perfect for when you want big flavor without big headache.

This single beer has kicked off my obsession with the Santa Fe Brewing Company, the state's oldest microbrewery. I have even managed to visit the main facility up in Santa Fe and sample some of their more exotic nectar (all delicious by the way). Needless to say, this is brewery that I can easily recommend to any and all beer fans. I tip my drinking hat to the talented brewers and look forward to exploring the rest of the line.

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Happy Camper IPA by Santa Fe Brewing Co.
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