The OGs of Craft Beer | Bear Republic Racer 5
If you met me about a decade ago, you’d never think “this girl is into craft beer.” I could be found with anything from Coors Light to Hypnotic in my hand; yes, I was obviously very cool. It wasn’t until I was introduced to Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale that I started to right my drinking ship and start learning about what craft beer really is.
My boyfriend’s parent’s always had a stocked beer fridge, hashtag goals, and would always have Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Bear Republic Racer 5, among other tasty beers. Trying new beers in a judgment-free atmosphere was great – no beer snobs to scoff at me for my current faves and describing beer in terms I understood.
Racer 5 was one of the first IPAs that I tried and didn’t hate. It was hoppy, malty, and just the right amount of floral notes from the Cascade and Columbus hops. I had the pleasure of speaking with the Brewmaster and creator of the Racer 5 IPA, Richard Norgrove, about how Racer 5 came to be.
The Birth of Racer 5
The number one beer was the house IPA back when there were only about 500 American breweries. To put some perspective on that, there are currently 6,600+ in the U.S. Red Rocket was the original homebrew recipe and, since Rich is pulled in a lot of directions on the daily, he had grabbed the wrong hop profile (meant for Red Rocket) that he had pre-measured out the day before and put it into the House IPA by mistake. So, Racer 5 was born – at least in its first form. It took five recipes, tweaking and feedback from the patrons at the pub to settle on what is now known as Racer 5. So it stemmed from a mistake and it’s Rich’s best recovery, in his opinion, which goes to show that making mistakes is okay and something great can come of it in the end.
They also source their hops and create their own blend, so that the beer and hop profile stay consistent for the entire year. They contract the farmers out for about 5-8 years and search around the globe for the right hops.
Why Name it Racer 5?
Rich originally wanted to name it Speed Racer but couldn’t get the copyright to use the name. Someone had mentioned why not call it Racer, it doesn’t have to be “Speed Racer.” So it became Racer 5 – Rich himself races cars and flies the 5 on his car; Racer 500 was brewed for a special distribution for Indiana.
Defining West Coast IPA
Racer 5 defines the IPA category for the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) – it’s won many awards. After the beer won two years in a row, the IPA category split based on Alcohol By Volume (ABV) percentage, and the styles are consistently switching and evolving. Racer 5 became the benchmark of West Coast-style IPA, and if it ever changed (residual sweetness, malt, hoppy) loyal consumers would be up in arms!
Richard not only brews great beer, but he also does the label artwork! He went to school for Graphic Design, so his partners (his father and his wife) got a package deal when they founded Bear Republic in 1995 (pun intended – all of the packaging design and lettering were created by Richard himself and a small team that helps convert the sketches and watercolors to printable formats).
We at Porchdrinking.com thoroughly enjoy covering craft beer trends and showcasing the newest and beers. But, before terms like Brut, Milkshake, New England and even BBA entered the brewing-industry lexicon, beer fans were thrilled to taste Ambers, Pale Ales and some mysterious beer that may or may not have arrived from India. So, for one month, we are going to take time to remember some of those OGs of Craft Beer — the brews that made it all possible. While we can’t cover all the OGs of Craft Beer, we want to take this time in August to pay homage to several of them. If your favorite “classic” isn’t on the list; don’t fret. Let us know what you loved back in the day (or still do), and bring attention in the comments section below or via our social media channels.
All photos courtesy of Bear Republic Brewing Co.