In the past, I’ve referred to St. Louis’ 4 Hands Brewing Co. as a “quintessential sort of American brewery,” in the sense that they don’t really put all their eggs in a single stylistic basket. Everything is fair game there—standard American pale ales? Sure. High gravity Belgian ales? Yep. Fruit-infused sours? Naturally. Most of these are solid, fundamentally sound brews.
Their latest, Snake Oil, is likewise solid, although it may not quite set the world ablaze. Described as a “red IPA,” it inhabits a hazily defined sub-style that hasn’t quite made an appeal for separate nomenclature just yet. There is no limit, after all, to the hue a standard “American IPA” can possess. Black IPA was able to build itself into a separate, recognizable style through being notably opposed to the norm, but red IPA? People have been making copper and amber-colored India pale ales for as long as the style has existed—it makes the case for a separate style a little bit more difficult to argue.
Regardless, this is a beautiful smelling beer. It’s very fruit forward, with lots of grapefruit citrus, some orange and a wonderfully peachy note that is pleasantly unique. Perhaps it’s the caramel malt’s presence, but the suggestion of caramel/honey sweetness in the aroma enhances the fruit presence and makes it seem very lush and “juicy.” I apologize for the lack of better descriptors.
In terms of taste, however, Snake Oil isn’t quite as assertive. Bitterness is surprisingly restrained, hovering on the low side of medium, which makes it very, very drinkable. It’s drier than expected, with not so much in the way of “caramel” sweetness and more of a crackery graininess that is wedged against a hop presence of bitter citrus zest and pith. It goes down easily, almost a thirst-quencher of sorts—one might actually argue that it goes down a little too easy because there’s just not quite enough to challenge the taste buds.
All in all, Snake Oil makes for a solid warm-weather brew in particular, but its flavor components can’t quite live up to the intensity and complexity of its beguiling aroma. It will primarily appeal to drinkers seeking well-crafted, easy-drinking IPAs.
Brewery: 4 Hands Brewing Co.
City:: St. Louis, MO
Style:: American IPA/”red IPA”
Availability: 22 oz bottles, fall seasonal