M-43 Tart Strawberry | Old Nation
Since being “invented” in 1971, 4/20 has taken a life well beyond five high school students in San Rafael, California. Now standardized as the number or time for smoking marijuana and legal in a wide swath of states in the US, companies are quick to associate themselves any way they can with anything to do with April 20th. Similar to Black Friday – when breweries now typically release their most sought after barrel-aged beer (thanks Goose Island) – April 20th has become a celebration of the dank IPA some breweries like to release. Although not in the least bit dank, Old Nation has joined the 4/20 party with their M–43 Tart Strawberry IPA.
Old Nation opened in 2015 in Williamston, Michigan by Travis Fritts (brewer) and Rick Ghersi. I won’t retell the story fully (Guys Drinking Beer covered it very well), but Old Nation was floundering until M-43. The success of M-43 led to other hazy beers released under their New Orthodox umbrella, which led to out-of-state distribution, which led (naturally) to variants of M-43.
In addition to M-43, Old Nation has released a mango, peach, pineapple jalapeno, and Williamston water version of its crazy successful IPA. (They also released a really damn good double dry-hopped version of it as well.) Of all these fruited variants, the Tart Strawberry one is the only one to have a wide release and a release day associated with it. First canned and released on April 20, 2018, M-43 Tart Strawberry has come out every year since then on 4/20. The only reason I picked this beer up to review was due to how damn good both M-43 and the DDH M-43 were (which is really saying something given the dearth of hazy options Chicago has).
M-43 pours a burnt orange or dark yellow color. I would say it looks like a West Coast IPA in color, but you can’t see through it. A solid finger of white, puffy head forms and meticulously reduces to a thin layer atop the beer. A slight gradient exists, but it never goes too far in that “milky fat” territory other hazy IPAs have gone.
I honestly can’t recall having a fruited hazy IPA. I’ve had fruited IPAs before, but a hazy one – where the hops and yeast usually assume any fruit flavors the drinker would need – hasn’t crossed my path. So smelling M-43 Tart Strawberry was a new and kind of wild experience. Strawberries hit the nose first and in a big way. Digging deeper brings out the base M-43 IPA aromas – particularly juicy orange and a little bit of tangerine. Somehow, someway all the fruit and aromas combined to form something unmistakeable in my mind – Fruity Pebbles. M-43 Tart Strawberry straight up smells like Fruity Pebbles. (I checked for flavor confirmation of the different Fruity Pebbles colors and all I found was that they had “fruit” flavor.)
With that in my mind of course M-43 Tart Strawberry tastes like Fruity Pebbles. Strawberries provide a nice bit of tartness to the beer along with strawberry flavor. The beer itself brings citrus notes of orange, tangerine and mango along with a sliver of bitterness at the end. It finishes fairly dry and with a creamy, pillowy mouthfeel supporting things. The strawberries don’t take over the beer and still let the base beer provide some flavors to your mouth unlike, say, Strawberry Jacket from Revolution.
Thankfully the carbonation plays well with the M-43 Tart Strawberry. It stays in the medium range and doesn’t make the beer too sweet. The strawberry and orange notes stay around a bit after the sip. Combine that with the the bitterness and you dive in for more. Follow the instructions on the can (roll it!) as even when I did the amount of strawberry on the tongue varied by sip.
While I prefer the DDH M-43, M-43 Tart Strawberry comes close. The fact that the strawberry compliments everything I liked about M-43 instead of overpowering it makes it impressive in its own right. How that combination results in a Fruity Pebbles delight is beyond me, but it does work. As long as Old Nation keeps it as a yearly 4/20 thing it will be highly anticipated and well worth your purchase. In other news, I’m in the market for Old Nation hazy beers. I don’t need to be in another market!