The Great Return
Hardywood Park Craft Brewery

The Great ReturnThe Great Return
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IPA - American
Ranked #1,327
Ranked #9,658
3.97 | pDev: 10.58%
Hardywood Park Craft Brewery
Virginia, United States
Very Good
The Great ReturnThe Great Return
Notes: Bold, resinous and bursting with bright grapefruit aroma, this IPA is a tribute to the decades of hard work by conservationists to restore the James River as a bounty of vibrant aquatic life, eco-friendly recreational activity, and in our case, fresh brewing water. These efforts have culminated recently with the symbolic return of the endangered Atlantic sturgeon, a prehistoric, yet majestic behemoth of a fish, spotted as far up the James River as the fall line in Richmond. Your purchase of this beer supports the James River Association. Thank you for being a part of The Great Return.

In our commitment to James River conservation, Hardywood will contribute $10 per barrel of The Great Return to The James River Association, to support their mission to be the guardian of the James River. The JRA's core programs include Watershed Restoration, Education and Outreach, River Advocacy and the Riverkeeper Program.
Reviews: 87 | Ratings: 653 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of teromous
teromous from Virginia

4.02/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This is a review of the stubby bottle version of the beer. The tall can version was available but the beer was out of date. After searching high and low on the bottle, a date code was uncovered only after the bottle was empty. On the low-edge of the sloping shoulders of the glass, in dotted black ink was the following: "DEC03 2020 15:35:22"

Appearance: The body of the beer has an orange-gold color and is hazy to the point where only light can pass through and not shadows. The beer looks extremely active with bubbles climbing to the surface, as they agitate medium and small chunks of suspended solids. Turbidity is quite high in this beer and it has a snowglobe effect when rotating the glass. The head is off-white colored with a short rocky surface. The beer has great lacing. Aside from the larger chunks in the beer it would look great.

Aroma: Pine comes through at first, then a bit of cumin. Lemon pops in when deeply inhaled. Onions and garlic pop in as well. There is a large undertone of cooked succotash which undermines some of the better qualities of the beer. The lemon and pine characters elevate it a lot though.

Taste: Pine and a very light caramel flavor mixed with a strong resin flavor. Towards the middle of the palate it has more of that pine but a bit of an old ice in the ice tray flavor. Towards the back of the mouth there's more pine with only the lightest touch of caramel. The beer as a whole is a pine bomb. While drinking the beer it has a ton of spruce character that comes through the more you drink it. There is a bit of lemon in the aftertaste. It feels like drinking a winter forest.

Mouthfeel: First and foremost, the beer has an extremely strong bitterness. It has this resinous character that drapes over the tongue. The body is what feels like the medium-light range. Carbonation is good if not a bit high. It has a tempered drinkability do to the extreme bitterness.

Overall: For the overly-bitter IPA lover, this is a must. The pine character is great and it brings in this lemon-like character and spruce flavor which is great. The beer doesn't look the greatest in the glass due to the turbidity and the larger chunks of suspended solids, but don't let that stop you if you enjoy a strongly bitter beer with a punch of pine. I would definitely drink it again, as long as I can verify the date code (it is very hard to see on the stubby). The bottle states that this is "7.5 ALC./VOL." and it does a great job of masking it. The highlight of this beer is the massive pine character laced with notes of spruce and lemon, which gives a nice woodsy feel without feeling too earthy. The next highlight of the beer would have to be the robust hop bitterness. The beer would be awesome on a camping trip, provided you could find cans that are fresh. For reference, at just under 3 months in the bottle it tastes fantastic. The beer would pair well with something equally as strong, like a spicy chili or a heavily smoked plate of BBQ. I plan to buy this again and take it on a camping trip. I highly recommend it to those who enjoy a well made, pine-centric, bitter IPA.

Feb 20, 2021
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GarrettB from Colorado

3.33/5  rDev -16.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

April 8th, 2016 - The Great Return comes back with some powerful fruit and ester notes, and a smell that is unmistakably redolent of strawberries. The palate is smooth and soft, with more of that powerful, fresh strawberry and a milder flavor. A light nuttiness complicates the flavor, and while it sounds discordant it's actually quite nice.

Aug 04, 2020
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BeerAndGasMasks from Virginia

3.94/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

From the stubby bottle, it pours a hazy amber with a modest, though long lasting head. In the nose, it is piney and citrus. IN the mouth, it is citrus sharp with a nice malt base.

Apr 05, 2020
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daliandragon from Maryland

4.24/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

This is a cool little brewery in Richmond I recently found out about. This pours amber with a creamy head and healthy citrus and pine nose with only minimal malt.

The flavor is more balanced than I was expecting, and the hop bitterness is never truly withering, although this isn't a bad thing. This is a tasty, medium strength hop bomb. The seven point five abv could be a little scary as this goes down very easy.

Jun 16, 2019
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JerzDevl2000 from New Jersey

3.79/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Traded for this quite a while ago, as the date on the bottom of the can read 11/1/16. Sure, this was old but I kept it in my basement and it held up pretty well as this was quite a sticky and resinous beer that was indeed, something reminiscent of the West Coast.

Not a bad pour to this as the liquid was a muted golden with a moderate amount of haze and fine sediment floating in it, with a ton of frothy head topping it off. Copious lacing was left behind as each thick ring connected down to the one below it. Lots of grapefruit, Caramel Malt, and resinous pine in the nose as the taste had all of those in it as well. The taste was enough to make this feel like something from Humboldt or Green Flash as there was a decent amount of dank, skunky weed underneath all of this with plenty of bread and body to balance out the aromatic and oily hops. The carbonation was light as this felt heavy and lingered for a while as such once I finally finished this off...

Just the right amount of booze was present here as this had a mild amount of heft to it that warmed me up a bit on this abnormally cool spring night. IPA's are a dime a dozen but one like this showed how they can be enjoyable, even when they're not that impressive to me. Just as good as something from California, this held up well over time and gave me plenty to literally and proverbially chew on at the same time!

Apr 29, 2019
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hman43 from North Carolina

3.84/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Look: It pours golden and clear. The head is white with good head retention.

Smell: There are strong grapefruit and stone fruit aromas. The stone fruit is closes to peach. There are very low grainy notes.

Taste: There are strong stone fruit flavors with grapefruit. There are some dank elements that are in support. There are very low pine notes with some floral and grainy notes.

Feel: It has a moderate body and the finish is quick bitter, but not in a harsh way although it does have a certain sharpness to it.

Overall, A combination of very hoppy elements that blends well with minimal in the way of malt or other elements

Jan 26, 2019
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chinchill from South Carolina

3.85/5  rDev -3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

16 oz can from ATL with an 18 May 2018 canning date.
Pours with a very lightly hazy, pale amber body topped by a frothy white head that has very good retention and leaves plenty of sudsy lacing on the glass.
Aroma: resinous and fruity (citrus).
The flavor has moderate strength but with bitterness that is a bit mild for style. Notes of tropical fruits and bread, but primarily resinous hops.
Medium body with lively, medium carbonation.

Nov 12, 2018
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jazzyjeff13 from England

3.87/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

A 16oz can with a canned-on date of July 2018. Acquired recently from a webshop. Described on the label as a West Coast style IPA; brewed to benefit the James river association and named after the return of the Atlantic sturgeon to said river.

A: Poured into an IPA glass. Can-conditioned. A deep, hazy amber hue with intense carbonation and tons of fine suspended sediment. Yields a large head of creamy white foam that lasts for a while before settling as a persistent surface layer. Some lacing.

S: Aroma of insanely resinous hops with hints of pine, weed, citrus peel, grapefruit, leafiness, caramel malt, subtle grain, ale yeast and earthiness. An avalanche of hops - very nice.

T: Tastes of zealously aromatic hops with notes of pine resin, dank weed, citrus peel, grapefruit, leafiness, caramel malt, mild barley sugar, ale yeast and earthiness. Slightly sweet, followed by a strident hop-driven bitterness upon swallowing.

M: Mouthfeel is smooth and tingly, with lively carbonation and great body. Quite astringent; hop oils stimulate the palate. Aftertaste of bitter aromatic hops, pine resin, weed, citrus, caramel malt and ale yeast.

O: Very nice - a massive hop bomb with exceptional bitterness. Looks superb, while the aroma and flavour are stuffed with bitter resinous hops, caramel malt and ale yeast. Lovely body. Very drinkable - goes down like a dream. Worth sampling if you have the chance.

Oct 21, 2018
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southdenverhoo from Colorado

3.64/5  rDev -8.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Nice beer. Hops are piney, more than citrusy or dank. On the malty side—bready, honey, like a baklava—I wouldn’t call this a West Coast IPA, at least not in 2018. Maybe a west coast IPA in 2006. But quite nice all the same. Kind of like a (very technically proficient) English craft brewer’s take on an American IPA, to me.

Aug 25, 2018
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avalon07 from South Carolina

4.04/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

L: Poured from a tallboy can to a pint glass. Had an amber color and a hazy consistency. There was a half inch of foamy / rocky, fairly long-lasting head. Fantastic lacing.

S: A nice aroma of hops, citrus, malt, pine, and a bready quality.

T: Tasted of a moderate amount of tropical fruit (passion fruit, perhaps?), a good shot of hops, light malt notes, a tinge of the bready quality, pine resin, and citrus (grapefruit). A very focused and well-balanced flavor. It's not overly hoppy or fruity, but strikes a good balance between the two.

F: A well-carbonated beer with a lively, prickly finish. Medium-bodied.

O: While this isn't a brilliant IPA, it is incredibly solid and well made. Definitely drinkable.

Jan 09, 2018
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tucl from Virginia

4.55/5  rDev +14.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

This is perhaps my favorite IPA right now, incredibly fresh and creamy - complex and hits in all of the right ways. I would absolutely recommend to anyone looking for a local brew.

Dec 03, 2017
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obywan59 from Virginia

4.06/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a hazy tropical golden orange, like pineapple juice. A 3 finger off white head leaves great lacing.

The aroma is hop dominant, yet there's a fairly strong syrupy malt backbone. Biscuit, grapefruit and tropical fruits, especially pineapple.

Light piney hops upfront becoming more citric in the middle. Moderately sweet malts last the duration.

Medium+ in body. Light syrupy coating in the middle then drying in the end.

Possibly the best canned beer I've had. I'm generally not a fan of canned beers, but I'll be trying this again.

Nov 21, 2017
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haines710 from Delaware

4.31/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Poured from 16 oz can into a pint glass. Nice orange color with a pretty good head. Smell is fruity and pleasant. Taste was not quite as good but still very good. A little maltier than some other IPAs. Beer is hazy and definitely not a session beer. This has a lot of flavor and I will definitely have more.

Oct 15, 2017
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Eamonn-Cummings3 from New York

4.02/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 16oz can into a can style glass.

Look is a slightly hazy orange amber with a thin frothy head.

Aroma is extremely malty, wonder if this is a little hop faded.

Little bit more hops in the taste but it might be slightly faded. Still not bad.

Aug 13, 2017
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HattedClassic from Virginia

4/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Strong metallic gold and clear appearance. Light pine with moderate grapefruit notes in the smell and taste. Medium body and smooth. Light carbonation. Pretty good ipa.

Jun 24, 2017
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Cavanaghty from Maine

3.42/5  rDev -13.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Served on tap in a pint glass.

Appearance: Golden with a thick white head.

Smell: Hops and citrus.

Mouthfeel/Taste: Smooth medium bodied. Taste of sweeter citrus with bitter pine notes.

Overall: Good IPA. I would have this one again.

Jun 09, 2017
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Riff from Virginia

3.77/5  rDev -5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Pours a cloudy yellow orange color with a white head about two fingers thick. Smells of grapefruit, pine, and malts. Tastes of oranges and pine, leaning towards the rind. A little on the bitter side but certainly in line with a west coast IPA. Touch on the thinner side to the feel. Flavors fade quickly but the bitterness lingers. Overall it's fairly nice, probably quite good on tap.

Mar 30, 2017
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Lingenbrau from Oregon

3.99/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours slightly cloudy yellow orange, with a nice fluffy and sticky white head. Smells of grapefruit rind and pine. Tastes similar, with an emphasis in the rind, along with some sweet and crackery malt, with a tiny bit of a buttery finish. Feel is very bitter, low medium fullness, well carbonated, and slightly slick. Overall, this is a pretty good interpretation of a west coast IPA, and was very happy to try it. Cheers!

Feb 19, 2017
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Semh57 from Virginia

3.82/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Bought 4 pack 16 oz cans at Kroger's Grocery Swift Creek Midlothian 1/20/17. Bottom of can states 1/10/17. After drinking the first 3 cans I am finally reviewing beer today! Pours light golden color and you can smell the hops right away! Pine resin and citrus moderately bitter (70 IBU's). Very good mouthfeel but slightly thin Watery!? on the finish! Very good IPA especially refreshing in the Summer months (It being very humid in Richmond area!) Must be Great on Tap! Recommend wholeheartedly!! Enjoy Fresh Beer!!

Feb 13, 2017
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sjones5045 from Pennsylvania

3.59/5  rDev -9.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

11/18/73 Penn Taproom

Pours and smells ok but let's cut to the chase. It's very dry and bitter. Very dank and the aftertaste is hard to enjoy. Kind of a dumper. Would not drink this again.

Nov 18, 2016
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woemad from Washington

3.62/5  rDev -8.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

oz. can from a box of mostly VA beers from Gopens44. Canned on July 27, 2016 (at 0905, for those keeping score at home). Apparently this is brewed in support of a non-profit organization devoted to the restoration of the James River, a cause I would be happy to support if I lived where this beer is sold.

Poured into a Mad Bomber IPA glass, this was a chill-hazed, golden shade of amber, with a large, sudsy white head that left lots of lace.

Initially the aroma consisted of a somewhat restrained grapefruity hop scent. I was frankly surprised how much came through considering it's age. Sadly, as it warmed, a caramelly scented malt backbone arose from the depths, verging on butterscotch.

The mildly citrus hop flavor led the charge, seemingly more lemony than the nose foretold, but was closely followed by a coating, cloyingly sweet maltiness that almost, but not quite, drowns out the hops. Mildly dry finish.

Fairly light bodied for the style. Normally, I'd say it's too light for an IPA, but I think it actually helps fight off the diacetyly maltiness enough to keep the beer drinkable.

I suspect when this is fresh, it's a nice, lighter bodied IPA with a lot of appeal on a warm summer day, which my one visit to the region (1989!) told me they can be humid in that vicinity. It's still drinkable now, but it's definitely turning against the drinker at this point. Hopefully, at some point I can make it back there (and actually check out Richmond and some Civil War sites in the area), and drink it under such circumstances.

Oct 09, 2016
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jakecattleco from California

3.67/5  rDev -7.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Can dated 08/03/2016 into a tulip. Pours golden yellow with finger of medium density white head that left minimal lacing. Nose is piney and earthy. Taste matches the nose but with way too much malt sweetness for my taste. Wasn't dry enough for me, too much malt backbone, nor bitter enough. Finish lingers, very earthy. Mouthfeel had good body, carbonation low. Meh.

Aug 28, 2016
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rdoggg from Pennsylvania

3.9/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Poured from 16oz can, dated 8/3/2016
A: hazy, orange, nice lacing
S: maybe mild grapefruit, but definitely not bursting for me
T: follows nose; I want it to be great, but something is missing.
F: crisp, yet smooth bitter finish
I feel like this has the making of a great IPA, but it's missing the citrus/grapefruit aroma and taste. I'd try it again.

Aug 26, 2016
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stevoj from Idaho

3.72/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Draft at Yard House-Springfield. Hazy medium golden body, small soft head, tons of lacing. Hops first on the nose, followed by minor citrus notes. Taste pushes the citrus up closer to the front, hops close it out with a short, sharp bite.

Jun 28, 2016
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garymuchow from Minnesota

3.9/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Thanks cjgiant for this as part of NBS BIF #3.
Maybe it's because I brewed but there is a fresh wort character with a nice rounding off of hop character that leans towards the more recent "classic" west coast aroma with grass with fresh fruit tending towards citrus but not exclusive to that. A little soft spice too. It's appealing.
Rather cloudy golden amber and a dense tan head is also appealing. So let's get to the drink already.
Bitterness shows first starting soft and growing through the drink. There is a little tartness/grapefruit to the bitterness too. A fair amount of complexity with hits of caramel sweetness that blends with some hoppy fruit flavors. Some additional sweetness up front too. The grass hop character is prominent and shows frequently.
At first this seemed to drink small but in time is more towards moderate with ample carbonation.
In sum it drinks nicely. The bitterness push but doesn't cross the limits towards excess. It's rounded out nicely for a satisfying drink.

May 15, 2016
The Great Return from Hardywood Park Craft Brewery
Beer rating: 89 out of 100 with 653 ratings