While only about 9 months old, Bellingham’s Structures Brewing is proving to be very prolific, cranking out new beers on what seems like a weekly, if not even more frequent, basis. From coffee Stouts, to Porters, to CDAs, to saisons, and to what seems to be turning into their calling card, IPAs and Pale Ales that aren’t quite typical. Following siblings like Blanc Generation, Juice on Juice, Splash, Empress, Lhazy, and Vivid, comes Rubus Blackberry IPA. Like most of the brewery’s hoppy offerings, Rubus is not the IPA you’re familiar with. Opaque, or nearly so, low grain presence, and soft hops are the calling cards of this branch of the family tree.
The blackberries used in this beer come from Viva Farms, in the Skagit Valley. Viva is a farm incubator, helping folks overcome some of the barriers that are present in trying to start a farm. If someone doesn’t come from a history of family farming, trying to obtain the land, equipment, and knowledge to run a farm can be quite daunting. You need to understand the earth, the plants, the equipment (stuff breaks, mechanical knowledge is helpful), and the paperwork side of things. As with any business, keeping good books, and keeping the government happy are important things. Viva is helping folks learn all these things and more.
Upon receiving a stemmed goblet of Rubus, the most striking thing is the color; it’s somewhat hard to define. Three-quarters of an inch of purplish-pink tinted foam at the top of the glass gave way to a beverage that changed with the source, and angle, of light striking it. From one way, slightly purple. From a second, a murky, almost brown, hue. Looking from slightly above produced pinkish edges with a solid deep plum center. I think I’m going to go with Pink-Amber. Let me know what yours looked like, I likely won’t argue.
The grain profile was very soft in the nose of this brew, virtually unnoticeable, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it were just a base 2-row malt. If you’re looking for a fruity punch in the schnozzola from the black berries, Rubus catches you off-guard. The berry scent is subdued, and might be better approached the way grapes are in wine sometimes: not liquid fruit, but more the background essence. The word musty kept coming to mind, and not like Aunt Edna’s attic either. Rather more like the deeper grape skin flavor some beers pick up after aging in wine barrels. What subtle hop scents there were seemed more floral and fruity, enough so that a bee on a pollination mission might get distracted.
The Lupulin aspects showed through brighter on the tongue, reminding you that, yes, this is indeed an IPA. They weren’t the big in your face hops of a “typical” NWIPA, but rather a fruitier, and slightly floral, citrus flavor, that paired nicely with the depth of the musty berry accents. A slight bit of lemon bite was noticeable at the back of the palate. Which makes me think that a Lemon-Blackberry coffee cake (perhaps with a scoop of Mallard’s Super Vanilla ice cream?) would pair nicely with this brew.
The body was the light-medium that will be easily recognizable at the family reunion of the Structures Beer Family. The beer coated nicely, and had a medium-dry finish. There was a hint of berry sweetness that registered on the end of the palate. Drinkability on this 7.4% ABV brew was nicely easy. I could see a couple sneaking up on you, if you weren’t paying attention. Which, I’m sure, you always do.
Overall, a nicely pleasant brew. On my 1-10 point scale, Rubus earns a 5.9.