The Stats: 7.0% ABV; 45 IBU
The Brewery: Alpine Brewing Company, a small craft brewery found in the mountains just outside of San Diego, is absolutely beloved by the beer community. The small brewery's beers were always relatively hard to find, however, so experiencing an Alpine beer was considered a special treat. The brewery's acquisition by fellow craft brewery Green Flash Brewing Company in November 2014 has given Alpine a much broader reach, so these days it's much easier to find this much sought-after liquid.
The State of the Union: When talking about Duet or Alpine in general, one has to talk about "BGF" and "AGF" — as in, "Before Green Flash" and "After Green Flash." As Valley residents have probably noticed thanks to the acquisition of our own Four Peaks Brewing Company, there's been increased activity in the craft beer scene of small companies being bought out by larger ones. In most cases, the company purchasing the smaller brewery is usually a major worldwide conglomerate. In the case of Alpine's purchase, the brewery was bought by another well respected craft brewery — a brewery a lot like Alpine, only bigger. This acquisition was met with cautious optimism in the beer community for those who wanted to see Alpine's beers more readily available but still presented in the world-class way they always were.
It didn't take long though before Green Flash took over brewing several of Alpine's key beers, including Duet, and putting their own spin on the brews. The resulting "new" Duet is a great beer without question. Unfortunately, though, it is not the Duet that craft connoisseurs have come to love and appreciate as one of the country's absolute best.
Aroma: Grassy and straw notes coincide with the pine and tangerine citrus hop blast from the Simcoe and Amarillo hops. Malt is definitely a supporting character in this West coast-style IPA, as is traditionally the case. Subtle bread-like aromas add some additional character to this hop showcase.
Flavor: Aromatically, tangerine came through as one of many aromas, but in flavor it definitely leads the charge. The tangerine hop character is quite strong and somewhat sweet on the front of the palate, drying as it passes through. A low alcohol warmth creates an additional level of sweetness. Green plant-like flavors from the hops also provide background notes of hop complexity. Duet finishes crisp and clean as expected for an IPA, just not with the same pleasant bitter intensity of the Duet of old. At 45 IBU, the beer is nicely balanced but not overly dry.
Look and Feel: Duet is deep gold in color with a very slight haze, likely from dry hopping (which provides additional hop aroma) with micro-sized bubbles of everlasting persistence. Medium bodied with medium-high carbonation, Duet drinks and feels the way a traditional IPA should. The beer has a moderately creamy character to it at the beginning before finishing fairly dry from the bitterness of the hops.
Overall Impression: Whether it's the old Duet or the new Duet, the beer is definitely a winner, even if the former Alpine-crafted version was superior. The good news now is that due to Green Flash's wider reach, Alpine's beers have become much easier to find. Alpine's beers are available at any reputable craft beer location in the metro Phoenix area, this particular beer was found at Desert Rose Chevron in Gilbert. For more information about the brewery, check the Alpine Beer Company website.
Dave Clark is a Certified Cicerone, Nationally-Ranked BJCP Judge and all around beer geek who lives in Gilbert, Arizona.