Over the past several months I’ve had the opportunity to try a lot of different beers from Polish craft breweries. While some of them have been rather good, I’ve found that a lot more have missed the mark. Sometimes wildly. As a result, I’ve been rather uninspired to write about beer. There’s only so much I can complain about old hops being strangely utilized with uncomplimentary malt.
But over the last few weeks I’ve found a brewery that is well ahead of its peers. Raduga, a small brewery with strangely alluring Gatsby-esque label art, has been putting out beers that give me hope for the Polish market. In Lost Weekend, they managed to introduce rye into their IPA without creating an undrinkable mess, and Underwater did a fine job balancing Belgian yeast characteristics with tropical fruit notes without having one dominate the other. Based on a lot of the beer I’ve had here, that’s a big ask.
Two on the Road, however, has completely won me over. It’s an American Stout exemplifying a healthy wallop of coffee, a touch of chocolate, and a very well rounded hop profile (but not so much that this could be considered a Cascadian IPA). It looks a little cloudly, like the sludge off a French Press, and has a delicate thin, brown, persistent head.
The coffee is the shining star here. Very obvious presence and imparts some strong nutty/roasty notes. There’s just enough vanilla to kind of temper that coffee from being too much. And behind that, Two on the Road reveals some citrus tang and recalls sweet green apples. To be honest, I can’t tell which fruity aromas come from the hops and what comes from the coffee. And that’s what makes this beer exciting. The recipe asks “What works?” rather than “What can we throw into this beer?” Maybe it’s a tad over-carbed, and there’s a weird alcohol-astringency on the nose (that didn’t come through in the taste), but these are minor execution errors that the brewers can perfect over time. They have a strong base, however, and if the brewers at Raduga continue to learn and improve I don’t think the rest of the market will be able to compete with these guys.