Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Trail Head

Few beers are brewed with a purpose but the Fat Head's Trail Head Pale Ale is one of them. The purpose is clearly set forth on the can: get your can off the couch, find a Trail Head, and give back some good vibes.  A "trailhead" is, as the word suggests, the head of a trail.  There is more to the word than its obvious meaning.  A trail head is not simply the beginning of a trail.  It is the start of an adventure through the wonder that is Mother Nature. 

The Trail Head Pale Ale is dedicated to the adventures that one can enjoy in the Cleveland Metro Parks.  The Metro Parks are a ring of connected nature preserves encompassing more than 21,000 acres.  That ring is also known as the "Emerald Necklace," providing a deep green that contrasted with the brownish image of a once-proud steel town that became part of the Rust Belt.  The necklace is invaluable to local residents, offering an escape where people could hike, boat, fish and observe all sorts of nature.

The Metro Parks
I know the Metro Parks well.  Having grown up outside of Cleveland, I have memories of riding my bike with my father along the trails.  I also have memories of fishing in Baldwin Lake with my grandfather.  Even after I left the Cleveland area, I would still return to visit family and friends. Inevitably, I would find myself in those parks, walking the trails, taking pictures and enjoying the beauty that is nature.

The head brewer of Fat Head's brewery, Matt Cole, is also familiar with those trails. He brewed the Trail Head Pale Ale and a portion of the sales of every pint and growler goes to help maintain the 270 miles of trails of the Metro Parks.  Just as I visit the Metro Parks, I also visit Fat Heads.  I've had this beer on a few occasions.  However, Fat Head's now bottles and cans its beers, which allows me to take some home to enjoy ... and, of course, write a beer review.  

Matt Cole and the other brewers at Fat Head's brew this beer with a variety of ingredients.  The hop list is four-fold: Citra, Mosaic, Simcoe and Amarillo.  Each hop has a reputation for its aroma or taste; but together, the hops provide a chorus of pine, citrus, and tropical fruit.  The malt list is also four-fold: pale, Munich, Crystal and Carapils.  The end product is an American Pale Ale with a 6.3 ABV and 55 IBU.

The Trail Head pours a dark orange, copper color, with a thin cloud of foam that floats on the surface of the beer.  As the beer sits in the glass, the aromas of lemon and other citrus, wrapped with pine needles greets the nose.  The taste of the pale ale gives hints of each of the hops used in the brewing process.  The citrus notes are well developed and complemented by piney notes that follow.  With each sip, there is a pleasant bitterness that accompanies the beer.  That bitterness gently grasps the edges of the tongue, holding through the finish.  This is a pale ale for hop heads, and, it is definitely a great beer.  

As with any American Pale Ale, the Trail Head pairs well with shellfish dishes, such as Sauteed Shrimp with Shrimp Hummus or Grilled Soft Shell Crabs.  The pale ale also pairs well with any grilled or roasted meats, such as a grilled porterhouse or grilled ribeye.

The Trail Head is available for sale at the Fat Head's restaurants or tap room.  It might also be available at grocery stores in the Cleveland area, but I could not say that for certain.  If you happen to come across a six pack, it is definitely worth the price.


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