View From The Road: Champion Brewing’s Missile IPA
Champion Brewing’s beers had been on my short list for some time, beginning with the brewery’s grand opening in late 2012. But keg only distribution to markets a bit larger than my own town of Roanoke, and trips to the brewery’s hometown of Charlottesville that were a little too tightly scheduled for an actual on-site visit meant their beers remained on my radar far longer than I would’ve liked. So when I finally ran across Champion’s “Stickin’ In My Rye” IPA in Richmond at a cozy neighborhood type restaurant – the morning after a New Year’s Eve concert no less – I figured the stars had aligned just a bit. As a steady stream of what looked like Richmond natives and VCU students steadily flowed in and out, over what I’ll call one of those very early “lunches” (consisting of breakfast food) that hits the spot after a very late evening, a moment of all too careful consideration came over me. For a split second, I thought, “too early in the day?”. To which my wife, sitting across from me, just tilted her head sideways and answered with a “you’re really second guessing this?” kind of look. Yes, I’ll take one of those Champion IPAs, please. Looking back at some notes I took, my first beer of 2014 only reinforced what I had heard about Champion’s solid beers, as I wrote down “slight spiciness, citrus burst, great body”.
A few months later, we both found ourselves in Charlottesville with about an hour to spare before another concert. A couple friends had recently been to a restaurant near the venue, and since the spot featured around forty taps, we figured there would be plenty of good stuff to find. We quickly located the last two seats at the bar, and started scanning the draft list. Hoping for at least one or two Champion beers, it turned out the restaurant had hosted a Champion tap takeover event the night before. Lucky again. Close to fifteen or so of the brewery’s beers were on the list. Sampling at least two or three each, my wife went nuts over an imperial coffee Porter appropriately called “Melgadon”. For myself, among a couple others, I finally got to taste the brewery’s flagship, their Missile IPA. Aromas and flavors of sticky pine cut with juicy orange or maybe tangerine, held up by a confident malt backbone, I enjoyed Missile as much as I had hoped I would, and wondered if I would be able to ever get this readily in Roanoke.
Fueled by the knowledge that Champion had fairly recently announced plans to expand, when I returned to Roanoke, I reached out to Hunter Smith, owner and Head Brewer at Champion. His reply was hard to keep to myself. The brewery would begin canning their beers soon, and would eventually make their way to Roanoke by mid-year. A couple weeks ago, a keg or two of the brewery’s Killer Kolsch showed up around town, the first sign of things to come. Just this past week, true to his word, cans of the of both the Kolsch and Missile began showing up around town, no less stamped with freshness dates of no less than around eleven days or so. Finally I was able to pull a can of Missile from my own fridge. A great tasting, easy drinking IPA from just up the road in Charlottesville poured into my glass, and as took that first sip, I thought…I wouldn’t have to rely on luck any longer.
Champion (Charlottesville, VA) Missile IPA, 7% abv, 65 IBU.
It’s always exciting when I pour a particularly aromatic IPA, so much so that I can smell the pine and/or citrus within the first couple seconds, at arms length no less. I know chances are I’m in for a solid beer at the least. Missile’s double edged sticky pine and orangey aromas not only reached me from the just poured glass sitting on the counter in front of me, but were not lost in the taste either. Each sip brings both a healthy dose of both, held up by the malt. As I read over a couple of additional tasting notes supplied by Smith, it’s no wonder that I care for this beer so much. One of my favorite hops, Simcoe, is apparently well used in the dry hopping of the beer:
“…part of what makes Missile so special is the Simcoe dry hop, along with Cascade. Cascade’s intense citrus components play with the piney, resinous notes of Simcoe. Our house ale yeast strand also adds some floral intensity that I think really highlight the overall dry-hopped effect”.
Cheers to Hunter Smith and Champion for the growing success! Check out their Missile IPA as well as their Kolsch, both of which are available around town now.
View From The Road: It’s been a more than a little while since I’ve written any sort of post that focuses on one particular beer, so I think it’s definitely about time to do so. Every once in a while, going forward, I’ll write up a singular beer, try to give it its due, yet I’ll focus on the great finds that are right around the corner, instead of the beers which are so rare that you have to refinance your house to buy any, or travel to the opposite coast to find. Cheers!