Ginja Ninja

Ginga’ Ninja Red IPA
One pint, $4, 6.5% ABV

At the Spigot, Hartford

gingaWelcome to the Connecticut beer scene, Black Hog. And (he sarcastically writes), welcome to CTMQ Beer Reviews, where I talk out of my butt and often forget to write about the beer itself.

And people love it!

And by “people,” I mean seven of them.

Which, if I were to guess, would be how many people love Black Hog’s Ginga’ Ninja!

I’m kidding… totally kidding. This is a bold and unique beer that has rave reviews on the raving mad beer review sites. As you can guess, it’s not one of my favorites, but I get why it exists and I can’t front on its execution or back story.

The first part is that the brew master brewed this beer at his previous gig at Portsmouth Brewery in New Hampshire. So I guess if you’ve ever wondered how such things work, here you are. A brewer can take his recipes AND cleverly named beers with him, wherever he goes.

Another part of that back story is the fantastically beautiful artwork Black Hog commissioned for this beer. Really, it’s just wonderful. (It annoys me that I’ve sort of set a template in stone for these beer reviews and the top picture is mine from the dark recesses of the darkest bar in Hartford instead of Black Hog’s great artwork, but scroll down a few inches and there it is.)

Part Ralph Steadman, part Quentin Tarantino, That ginger Ninja is rockin’ some throwing stars and a fresh $40 American Apparel tee-shirt. Delving deeper into the Ginga’s story, we have the following…

Black Hog says:

once upon a time there was a young brew master who fell in love with a ginger haired maiden. he loved her fiery locks, quick wit and samurai sharp personality. he proposed marriage and crafted a beer for her, an original red ale brewed with refreshing fresh ginger and a touch of hoppiness that typified her personality. when she took her first sip at their wedding she knew she had made the right choice. try tyler’s ginga ninja red ipa brewed with 6 lbs of fresh ginger in every batch and hopped with centennial, cascade & bravo hops. if not at your wedding then on a hot afternoon as you wait on your pig to finish roasting, or while chompin on a crisp apple and a creamy wheel of camembert.

Yeah, I retained the hipster e.e. cummings prose from their website. It’s expected, as the brains and money behind Black Hog also own and run Ordinary Bar and Caseus in New Haven. And while both get rave reviews from the raving review sites, both annoy me in different ways.

Ordinary is as hipster as the lack of capital letters above and Caseus, I’m sorry, there is such a thing as too much cheese. Scale it back, brothers, scale it back.

ginga_webBut – and this is a big but – I do love Black Hog’s description of this beer. It’s poetic and cute without being trite or over-the-top and – wait. “chompin on a wheel of camembert?” Has that ever happened? Can one even “chomp” on gooey soft cheese?

I know, I know, I’m being trite and over-the-top. Black Hog’s Sobocinski brothers can make all the cheesey cheese references they want, as they’ve written books and had Cooking Channel shows and, of course, run Caseus.

You see? This red-headed silent assassin is pretty hot, isn’t she? But what about the beer she inspired? Officially called a “red IPA,” I’m not really sure what the base beer truly is. It’s full of hops and retains a hoppy bite, but it’s dark and a bit muddled with malts and yes, the ginger.

I’m well aware of ginger beers and I don’t like them. I’m very aware that this beer references its ginger in its name, so of course I wasn’t surprised by the ginger. But ginger is a feisty mistress. It sneaks up on you after a while and sort of lingers on the palate. The Ginga’ Ninja is not ginger-forward at all. In fact, it’s ginger-linger. About halfway through my pint, the ginger just sat there on the back of my tongue and in my throat.

I’ve certainly come to appreciate ginger, being married to a Vietnamese woman and all. I even eat the pickled stuff that comes with sushi now. But for me, it’s way too herbaceous to use in a beer, no matter how cute the story of its genesis is. And, quite frankly, the base beer – be it a red ale or black IPA or some mishmash in between – would probably be rather pedestrian without the ginger burn.

Fortunately for me, The Spigot runs a constant Sea Hag line, which quickly allowed me to move past the ginger-linger.

Note: “ginger-linger” is as annoying to verbalize as “Ginga’ Ninja.”

Overall Rating: C-
Rating vs. Similar style: n/a

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