Hoppy session beer from one of the Queen City’s great new craft brewers.

Zen

Rhinegeist brewery, Cincinnati, OH

By Bill Lau

Posted July 5

As noted in my previous post, my preferences in beer have turned in a sessionable direction for the summer and our typical midwest heat and humidity. I’m looking for less filling beers of modest alcoholic strength, so that I might enjoy more than one without becoming impaired or feeling full. Yet I am an unrepentant hophead and love heavy doses of those great Pacific Northwest hops. Thankfully, craft brewers around the country have answered the bell and are providing the perfect solution – heavily hopped session ales.

What qualifies as a session beer? 5% ABV or below seems to be the generally-accepted range. And yes, it is still possible to pack a lot of flavor into a beer of that modest strength. Packing lots of flavor into their beers is something that Rhinegeist has demonstrated  a great ability at doing. Literally the “ghost of the Rhine”, Rhinegeist brews in a former Moerlein bottling plant in the historic Over-the-Rhine brewing district near downtown Cincinnati. It’s wonderful to see the brewing tradition there revived and carried on. Their brewing philosophy is self-described as hoppy/sessionable, which is exactly what I’m looking for right now. So, with that background, let’s explore Zen, shall we?

Zen pours from the can a brilliant, clear honey-golden hue. A short-lived head of near-white foam dies down to a thin cover and ring.

Aroma is of citrusy hops – orange zest with a bright lemony note. A very fresh, floral note in there as well.

Body is on the lighter side of medium with  fine carbonation bead and a fizzy quality.

Flavors start out hops-forward with delicious citrus notes of orange peel and grapefruit rind, with a tartness and bitter bite. Lightly caramelized malt underneath has some fresh graininess. Loads of flavor yet very drinkable and moreish. Big hoppy finish with a touch of lime zest late and a lingering resinous aftertaste. Gets my bitter beer face on (which happens to be a big-ass smile, BTW). Nicely hoppy session ale, thirst-quenching and flavorful.

Rating:     Appearance: 4/5     Aroma: 8.5/10     Palate: 4/5     Flavor: 8/10     Overall: 16.5/20

Rhinegeist Zen

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