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Northern Lights IPA | Starr Hill Brewery

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Northern Lights IPANorthern Lights IPA

Brewed by:
Starr Hill Brewery
Virginia, United States | website

Style: American IPA

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 6.50%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by OldFrothingSlosh on 09-19-2004

User Reviews
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Reviews: 247 | Ratings: 923
Photo of OldSwampy
4.08/5  rDev +12.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Attractive ruby-amber with off-white head leaving some lacing. Balanced nose of floral and piney hops. Taste is a good balance of hops and mild toffee malts. Mouthfeel slightly creamy but also a little thin. A fine IPA, hoppy but not bitter to the point of overkill. Quite nice; the more I drank the more I appreciated the balance.

Bottle date 2/29/16.

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Photo of WesMantooth
3.03/5  rDev -16.8%
look: 4 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3

Bottled 2/1/16
A foggy, reddish orange color. Big off-white foamy head. Some lacing.

Little to no aroma. A tocuh of citrusy hops, but mainly subdued malts.

Some sharp rind and all lemon a d grapefruit. An orange like sweetness. Bitter, slightly aspirin like aftertaste with floral hops.

Body is kind of syrupy and oily.

I know this is not the freshest of bottles, but I can't imagine 10-12 weeks having that much of an effect that it makes it a borderline average ipa. Just doesnt offer much.

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Photo of FriedSlug
3.37/5  rDev -7.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

Reddish orange beer with a quickly fading white head. No lacing left behind. There is really very little aroma to this one. The faint smells are a little onion and citrus with malt. The taste is a bit better than the smell but mainly it is mildly sweet, slightly fruity and a little bitter. This just did not turn out to be one of my favorite IPAs.

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Photo of Buck89
3.03/5  rDev -16.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Pours a hazy amber-orange color. Thin white head. It was packaged 7 weeks ago, but little to no aroma, other than some bready malt. The taste is thin, with some pine and faint citrus. Mainly bland. Thin mouthfeel.

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Photo of Bacardi222
2.4/5  rDev -34.1%
look: 3 | smell: 2.25 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 1.75 | overall: 2.5

Poured from a bottle into a chilled Samuel Adams Perfect Pint glass.

Look: A clear amber color which appears pale upon inspection up to a light source. Minimal, lazy head which quickly dissipates. Light carbonation rising steady and slow through consumption. Little to no lacing on the glass.

Smell: Generally underwhelming and not full of character. Slight pine with some overtones of citrus fruits like orange and grapefruit.

Taste: Entirely average taste which reflects the underwhelming aromas. Pine is immediate and persistent through the course of consumption. Slight citrus elements coming through primarily from grapefruit. Slightly bitter and balanced by light malt. While balanced, I find the flavor to be dull and almost one-note.

Feel: Mouth-feel is thin and watery with little body. Carbonation is minimal.

Overall: I give this a completely average rating of 2.5. Clean and smooth with little to upset newcomers to the category, but almost nothing to make it stand out from the over-saturated category of IPAs. Mouth-feel is the most offensive part of this beer. Loose and watery with a slight lingering taste of pure bitterness after swallowing. Improving this aspect of the beer would likely boost its overall rating.

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Photo of vabeerguy
4.04/5  rDev +11%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a bottle into a nonic glass. Hazy amber color. Minimal head but some lacing. It seems my rating is on the high side but I thought this beer was very good. It is definitely going to be on my favorite list of APAs and IPAs.

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Photo of dbl_delta
3.89/5  rDev +6.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle dated 8-23-15 into pint glass. Pours a reddish amber with an eggshell-white head. Initial impression is roasted malt, with a hint of sweetness, followed by a dry, earthy hop finish. Medium mouthfeel and moderate carbonation. Quite drinkable, but not remarkable.

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Photo of sulldaddy
3.04/5  rDev -16.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Sampling a cellar temp 12 oz bottle poured into a snifter. The beer pours a clear amber color with a bit of ruby highlighting around the sides of the glass. Eggshell white head foams up 1 cm and fades quickly to a sturdy edge layer with a few lazy streams of bubbles rising to the surface. Aroma is mild overall with some grainy caramel up front. This rolls to a mild hoppy nose that features some rindy citrus and hits of general herbal tea. Very mild nose overall, nothing offensive.
First sip reveals an average body and gentle carbonation. the flavor is as the nose advertises with some grainy malt and a bit of toffee. This rolls to some astringent hops with rindy grapefruit and bitter tea leaves. Not too strong of a hop bite and a bit drying on the finish.
The alcohol is hidden very well and the beer is easy to drink. Not an incredibly interesting beer but not tragically flawed either.
I think there are better IPAs out there but dont hate this beer.

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Photo of HotBeerJosh
3.86/5  rDev +6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

I've enjoyed this beer more than 4 different times. It's available at most package stores in the Richmond area, which helps its rating in my mind.

Lighter in color and in taste. Not much punch so easily drinkable for anyone who is new to IPA's, or someone who just likes flavorful beers.

I'll usually buy it because its one of the few IPA's above 6% that my local food lion sells.

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Photo of Cavanaghty
3/5  rDev -17.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Poured from a bottle into a pint glass.

Appearance: Amber color with a thin white head.

Smell: Light hops and pine notes with citrus.

Mouthfeel/Taste: Smooth medium bodied. Taste of bitter hops and pine. Mild citrus.

Overall: This was an ok IPA, but not the best I've had.

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Photo of chamberscreek
3.34/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

A fine, but undistinguished IPA. Had a nice hoppy punch up front, but lacked the follow through and body that I personally prefer. Had a decent citrusy push, with some piney and orange notes, but again, didn't seem to have much ooomph after that. Quite drinkable, but left me unexcited.

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Photo of hopphead31415
3.94/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Look-It pours a clear dark golden amber color with light gold hues in the light. The head is thin, like a quarter inch, and lingers for most of the time. The lacing is white and delicate and thin.

Smell-The aroma is piney and bready cereal.

Taste-I get a piney and citrus hops-like grapefruit and orange peel taste. The floral notes are subtle but present and the lemon peel comes out after a few sips if you pay attention. I also get a peppery hop component on a resinous bed.

Mouthfeel-This medium-bodied IPA has a muted syrupiness to it and mild carbonation content. It is also oily and moist with a clean finish. The alcohol is definitely noticeable, but not distracting.

Overall-I’d say that this beer brings a lot to the market, but I had to hunt a bit too much for the floral components which I really love usually. The pine and citrus were nice, but seemed a bit too standard. However, it was so well presented and drinkable that I’ll give it a good score.

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Photo of MUTINY
4.13/5  rDev +13.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

12oz bottle into a solo cup.

A: Brilliant, clear copper/caramel with 1/2" of off-white head. Retention is OK, lacing is nice.

S: Straightforward & mellow, some pine, floral notes, cereal, just a touch of citrus.

T: Resinous hops on a bed of flowers. Some more pine (not much), lemon peel, grass, graham cracker. The more you hunt, the more depth of flavor reveals itself. Almost a peppery hop-bitter punch on the finish.

M: Oily & slick, medium carb with a burly malt body. Super-drinkable.

O: This is just flat-out one of my favorite IPAs on the market anywhere. This brew has deep flavors, a solid hop-kick & major quaffability. I'll take the Pepsi challenge with this IPA v.s. almost any other on the market right now.

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Photo of Pantalones
3.8/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Second bottle of this one from the Starr Hill Loadout variety pack; bottling date is December 15th, 2014.

[most of old review trimmed to make room for the new one.]

Overall, while this isn't *bad* by any means it's also definitely my least-favorite from the Loadout variety pack. While the Grateful pale ale grew on me quite a bit between my first and second glass, my opinion on this one hasn't shifted much (though letting the beer warm a bit so that "leaf/grass" sort of flavor began to blend in with the bitter and more of the toasty grain sort of flavor came out was a slight improvement over drinking it right out of the fridge.) I won't have trouble finishing my last bottle of this one, but I'd still rather just have another bottle of the pale ale instead.


July 27th 2015: New version of this beer means new review. This is the 5th bottle out of the current six-pack, bottled-on date of June 18th, 2015. (For reference, previous version's scores -- Look: 4, Smell: 3.25, Taste: 3.5, Feel: 3.5, Overal: 3.5)

Look is similar to the older version -- dark golden/orange color, with lots of bubbles visibly rising up from the bottom when I shine a light through. Nice fluffy-looking white head on top, shrinking into a fairly substantial coating with a thick ring around the inside of the glass. As noted in the old review, a good bit of lacing is left behind around the edges as the beer level in the glass gets lower and lower. As appearance goes, it's a nice-looking but not a drastic change from the previous version, so I'll be leaving this at a 4.

Smell is a significant step up from what I remember of the old version. There's still a definite pine element present, but there's a stronger "something fruity" going on (I almost want to say pineapple... definitely something tropical-ish) and also a bit of a caramel-like sweetness in the background that blends in very nicely with the hoppy smells. A nice step up from the relatively faint smell of the previous version.

Taste is a bit different -- the pine isn't as immediately apparent, instead I'm getting a nice malt flavor at first and then the piney and fruity flavors coming in afterward, with the sweetish pineapple-like flavor being the last to arrive and then everything fading into a blend of almost caramel-like malt and leafy bitterness on the end. Very piney burps coming up after drinking just a little of this one. Seems to play nicely with food as well, not changing too much after I've had a few bites of my fettucini. Not as drastic of a change as the smell was, but still an improvement over the old version.

Mouthfeel is pretty nice but doesn't stand out in any particular way, so I'll leave my score as-is there.

Overall: I've got to say that I prefer this new recipe over the old version, though I'm not 100% sure how much of that can be attributed to the changes to the beer and how much is my taste buds being more fond of IPAs now than they were the last time I had the old recipe. Either way, this is a pretty nice beer and I'm finding myself enjoying it much more than I did the last time I had it (before the recipe change.) The smell of the new recipe is especially nice -- the old version came across as a little weak in that area to me, while this one had me sniffing it for several minutes before I started drinking because it just smelled so good.

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Photo of uvachief
3.67/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Poured 2 12 oz bottles into a room temperature glass boot. Full 3 fingers of head that lingered with lacing. Traditional golden brown IPA color. Not much on the smell side other than hops and a little pine. Citrus in the tongue probably a mix of lemon and orange. Subtle pine with no metallic bite back like your other IPAs. Very mellow and smooth. Like it a lot.

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Photo of bmeehan
1.72/5  rDev -52.7%
look: 2.75 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 1.25 | feel: 1 | overall: 1.75

This beer is awful. Just dreadful. I bought it hoping it would be an IPA that could get me liking IPAs (don't worry, that mantle was taken up by another beer and it was successful), but this is garbage. Its bitterness is overwhelming, its aroma is forgettable, and if given the choice between drinking it and eating my own toenails, I'd go get the clippers myself.

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Photo of rjs246
3.84/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Starr Hill redid their recipe so I am re-ranking their beer. It's better! It has a nicer nose and tends more toward the west-coast style than it did previously while still holding on to some of the earthy, east coast hop flavors. Between this, the Soul Shine and Reviver ales, Starr Hill has upped its game on hoppy beers for sure.

Original: I like, but don't love this IPA. A totally drinkable hop blast, but the Grateful Pale Ale is a better beer.

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Photo of Zach136
4/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

New Recipe reviewed 9/5/2015
A - Clear gold body with an off white head.
S - Stone fruit, hop over light graininess.
T - More assorted stone, citrus fruit. Medium intensity.
M - Medium bodied.
O - An improvement over the last recipe, but still really just doesn't live up to the rest of the fantastic IPAs SH has put out or other year round IPAs.

Bottled on 4/29/14 Reviewed live.

A - Deep orange, thin white head.
S - Faint notes of citrus and grass. Actually having to really get my nose in there to discern.
T - Light hop flavors of grass, pine, a citrus peel. Fairly astringent.
M - Medium bodied, refreshing finish.
O - Nothing particularly wrong with the beer, but far from being intense enough to be a go-to American IPA.

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Photo of Ozzylizard
3.57/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Bottled 5/21/14 at 40 degrees into standard pint glass
Aroma of conifers
Head large (6 cm), off white, frothy, slowly diminishing to 6 to 10 mm uneven layer
Lacing OK, some medium islands and stalactites of various size bubbles
Body light orange, clear
Flavor begins very piney, short lived, leaving a bitter aftertaste, also short lived
Palate medium, watery, soft carbonation

Not a bad IPA.

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Photo of dacrza1
3.91/5  rDev +7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

DATE REVIEWED: July 17, 2014... GLASSWARE: Maudite snifter... OCCASION: the end of a beautiful summer day... APPEARANCE: an all-too-calm orange amber body; thick, nearly two-finger white head dissipates to a rocky, palpable ring; lacing is random soap spots... AROMA: citrus and candy predominate--watermelon and Boardwalk taffy... PALATE: full-bodied wall of bite that sizzles through the teeth; elicits a lasting, mouth-watering Pavlovian response...a bit warm, though for 6.5% ABV... TASTE: strong and clearly pronounced hops here--Cascade for certain, that West Coast varietal--and a nice underpinning of malts when exhaled; a classic IPA taste without too much confusion or interference... OVERALL: of the four choices in the Starr Hill mix pack, this one easily warrants the most return interest, with its style-adherent flavor and its sessionability--just short of outstanding, the beer refreshes and ingratiates with a full-bodied presence...

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Photo of damndirtyape
3.78/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

12oz bottle, bottled on 04/23/14, served in a tumbler glass.

Appearance: Clear copper-amber. Thin white skin of foam across the top with a thicker ring at the edge. Some persistent strands of lacing.

Smell: Floral with just a hint of tropical fruit.

Taste: Floral and tropical fruits with some notes of grapefruit citrus mixed in with some sweet tea flavors, with the tea flavors coming out a bit stronger at the finish. I'm not digging the sweet tea finish. However, as the beer warmed up the tea flavors get replaced with a bit more pine and stronger grapefruit bitterness at the finish.

Mouthfeel: Very smooth and a little bit creamy even in thickness. Light carbonation. Definite stickiness on the teeth.

Overall / Drinkability: Mild by most AIPA standards these days, but tasty. Easily drinkable - brings flavor but doesn't pound you over the head with it. Finished quickly and wouldn't mind a larger one, and yet it was best with food. I think because I had a longer meal is why I wouldn't mind another one. Without food I think I might get a little bored with this one. Glad I tried it though.

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Photo of hophugger
3.82/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

nice color, good head. A somewhat local beer for me, I have tried several from this brewery and this so far is my favorite. Nice hoppy bitterness, but not overdone. An above average beer, yet not quite one of the best IPAS I have had. Would definitely drink again and would recommend without hesitation. Good job, Starr Hill !!!!

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Photo of moysauce
3.75/5  rDev +3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Bottle poured into a snifter

A: Beautiful dark copper color - my favorite when it comes to beers. Left about 1 finger of head which dissipated rather quickly and left almost no lacing. Had the lacing been there and maybe a little thicker head, this would have received a 5. The color is just beautiful.

S: Nothing really to write home about here. Definitely a more floral smelling IPA. It's not off-putting, but very average.

T: This is what I would consider an upper-middle class IPA. You get all the bitterness of the hops without your palate taking any damage. At 52 IBUs and 6.5% ABV it is very standard to the American IPA genre. I don't really pick up very much in terms of malty qualities, but if I had to take a stab at it, I'd say I'm picking up some caramel. It;s very subdued, though.

M: Great mouthfeel! Nice and crisp, easy-drinking. Isn't too heavy or really coat your tongue very much, which is my preference. Great carbonation which adds to the crisp, refreshing sensation of this beer. Nice and smooth!

O: Overall, this is a very easy-drinking, refreshing, IPA. There isn't really anything that jumps out at you or grabs your attention, so to speak, but I definitely enjoy it. Pick it up and give it a try if you have a chance!

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Photo of godlessape
3.6/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Starr Hill Northern Lights IPA
The body has a light clear amber hue to it topped off with a thin but creamy white head.
The aroma is somewhat floral and grassy, with some sweet fruitiness, finishing off with just a little grapefruit.
As far as taste goes everything seems rather subtle. Nothing jumps out and slaps you on the kisser. The caramel malt is there, as is the expected hop bitterness on the tail end. The balance in this is great.
The Mouthfeel is high in carbonation, with a juicy aftertaste.
Overall this is a decent brew, a solid IPA.

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Photo of ThePaintedGrey
3.41/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

12oz. bottle poured into pint glass.

A: Pours a rich copper color with a creamy tan head that starts out two-fingers in height after an aggressive pour. Dwindles pretty quickly, leaving an acceptable amount of lacing down the sides. A roughly 1/4" creamy cap retains like a champion.

S: Floral hops with some citrus fruit. Grapefruit dominates the citric aspect with some tangerines floating around. A little bit of grassiness and some bready malts lingering. Aroma is intense, but lacks in complexity. Nothing astounding, but nothing that can be scored too harshly.

T: Those bready malts up front. A little bit of caramel malt maybe? There's a lot of malt presence in the initial sip. Some weak hop bitterness cuts through, but doesn't really do a great job of taking the driver's seat on the flavor bus. A little bit of medicinal-like bitterness in the end that's still overshadowed by the lingering malt presence. None of these flavors are bad, by any means, but they're very disappointing for an IPA.

M: Medium body, maybe slightly above, I'd say. Crisp carbonation. A bit chewy in the mouth, likely due to the strong malt presence. This one feels great and definitely has some session potential. It's overall a bit too chewy and clean in the finish for me though, given the style.

O: I want to clear up that even though my score for this infers mediocrity, that's not particularly the case. Starr Hill's Northern Lights is a quite enjoyable brew. It's flavorful, it's smooth, it's a great grab for sessioning, BUT it's not a good example of what I look for in an IPA, and I scored accordingly. The malt presence is too dominant and the hops, for the most part, take the backseat. Like I said, this brew is enjoyable and sessionable, but not what I look for in an IPA. This would serve better as perhaps an American Amber Ale, perhaps?

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Northern Lights IPA from Starr Hill Brewery
82 out of 100 based on 247 ratings.