(Not So) Far Above Cayuga’s Waters

Poor Cornell. Never has a school’s song suffered so much at the hands of so many as has that institution’s “Alma Mater.” — Ed Cray

As for me, I have nothing but the deepest respect for my Alma Mater; here, let me illustrate:


Far above Cayuga’s waters,
There’s an awful smell,
Some say it’s Cayuga’s waters,
Others say “Cornell.”

I lived in Ithaca for five years, and unfortunately the Ithaca Beer Company wasn’t around then . . . which means it was more than 17 years ago and I’m not admitting how many more. The brewery is down in the valley near lake level rather than far up on the hills. In any case, they would have improved the whole experience and greatly raised the quality of the swill that the fraternities served. The tasting at the Growler & Gill showed how.

Ithaca WheatThe Ithaca crew led off with the Apricot Wheat Ale, described thusly:

Our easy-drinking wheat beer is light in color and body…perfect for those looking for a lighter taste. The combination of wheat and barley gives Apricot Wheat a different malt character than our other ales. The hint of apricot gives this beer a pleasant nose and fruity finish.

My impression was of a very pale ale where the nose led with a slightly musty apricot and candy, followed by a creamy mouthfeel with nuttiness and a hint of apricot cookie, with the apricot getting stronger on the finish. This was a bit like starting the meal with dessert, but very pleasant indeed and suitable for a session at 4.9% ABV.

Next up was Green Trail Easy-Drinking India Pale Ale, which pours a light amber with a light white head that holds a ring for quite a while. It has a mild piney nose. On the palette it leads with malt, a touch of herbs and a hint of pine. The hop bitterness sneaks in subtly. It’s a mild IPA which might be a good offering for friends who do not yet worship at the altar of Hops. I don’t know if telling them “it’s Easy Drinking” is necessary, they should figure that out. At 6.0% ABV it falls in between the “sessionable” IPAs and the heavier varieties. By the way, this ale plays well with Beemster cheese.

Next up was Flower Power IPA, the offering that I’ve seen the most. They describe it this way:

Ithaca FlowerEnjoy the clover honey hue and tropical nose. Simultaneously Punchy and soothing with a big body and a finish that boasts pineapple and grapefruit. Flower power is hopped and dry-hopped five different times throughout the brewing and fermentation process.

I found it to be fairly deep amber, flowery like a garden with herby notes, not sweet in the nose but complex. Hops take the lead on the palette, and then a sweet malt spreads through. This gives a mix of complex hops compared to the spare Green Trail. It’s easy to see why this is their flagship. I’ve had this before but it seems more complex and fresh on tap. It also tames hot salami.

They wrapped up with a new offering: Cruiser Berliner-style Weisse. This pours a straw color with a light head. It’s quite light at 4.2% ABV.  The nose seems almost like something is wrong as the sourness of the style announces itself. I’m sorry, but the mouthfeel is a little harsh and the flavor reminds me of, well, bile. This will be better with food as its acidity would cut through things like creamy Brie cheese. As a style, sour ale has not won me over and if I’m going that way I’d rather go all the way with Rodenbach.

All in all, it’s clear that beer in Ithaca has come a long way in [mumble] years.

While at the G&G I also had the Rushing Duck Naysayer Pale Ale. This is a medium amber with a light caramel nose. It’s a gentle sipper, a true session beer, malty with a certain warmth almost like touch of cinnamon. Pleasant and holds up well in the glass.


Images courtesy of the Ithaca Brewing Company
“Lake Cayuga” by Original uploader was Cornellrockey at en.wikipedia
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