Beer Review: Rubicon Monkey Knife Fight Pale Ale
A couple of weeks ago I received a 22-ounce bomber of Monkey Knife Fight Pale Ale. Monkey Knife Fight is an American Pale Ale coming in at 5.4% Alcohol By Volume (ABV). Rubicon Brewing Company calls it a “quintessential session beer” despite it’s >5% ABV (I’m not complaining) and an “example of the Modern American Pale Ale.” They say it is brewed with 2 Row light crystal malts, Mt. Hood hops for balance, and then dry hopped with Cascade hops, which is common in West Coast pale ales to give it a dry, crisp, floral taste.
I poured this into my favorite snifter and was blown away by its appearance. Monkey Knife Fight poured a beautiful copper in hue with a thick, creamy white one-and-one-half finger head. This beer was very hazy and I noticed plenty of yeast left in the bottom of my glass. I adored the retention of the thick head and lacing throughout my entire tasting. This is, without a doubt, one of the best looking beers I’ve had the pleasure of tasting and earns a 4.5/5 in its appearance rating.
The aroma on this brew was very fresh, yet subdued and citrusy in the initial nose, but turns more floral the further into the beer you get, courtesy of the dry-hopped Cascade hops. Though it was a pleasant scent, I was not blown away by it and would have liked the initial nose to carry throughout more of the tasting. Monkey Knife Fight gets a 3.5/5 for its aroma.
My first sip was a bit confusing. I tasted some sweet biscuit or bready malts and it was nothing like the nose led me to expect. The hops hit you up front, but the malts sooth you on the back end. Overall, Monkey Knife Fight had a very balanced malt/hop profile as neither take a real commanding role in the flavor, which was strange based on my understanding that West Coast pale ales are generally much more hop dominant, oozing with citrus and floral notes. I’m all for refusing to be confined to arbitrary boundaries and categories, but it just wasn’t what I was expecting. Like the aroma, it was pleasant, but I wasn’t blown away, so Monkey Knife Fight receives a 3.5/5 for its taste as well.
Monkey Knife Fight felt crisp and exceptionally carbonated for the first few sips, but eventually started coating my mouth. A little further in, the coating grew stickier and thicker, before thinning out. And then towards the end I noticed that it was getting stickier and thicker than before. I’m usually not for beers coating my mouth, but the fluctuating waves from full and sticky to dry and crisp was a neat experience. In the mouthfeel department, Monkey Knife Fight gets a 3.5/5.
Overall, I was torn in many directions during my tasting of this beer. Since Rubicon Brewing Company is from Sacramento, I expected a much hoppier, citrusy, piney, floral taste, but was given bready malts. With a name like Monkey Knife Fight, I was expecting absolute chaos on my palate, but that was not the case. Instead, this was a very mellow, easy drinking, sessionable brew, like Rubicon advertises! Maybe the inspiration for the name was drawn from the play between hops up front countered by the malts on the back end. Regardless of what I was expecting from the name, Monkey Knife Fight, as Rubicon claims, truly is a “quintessential session beer” and earns a 3.75/5 for its overall rating. I look forward to trying more brews from Rubicon Brewing Company!
Ryan Moyer is a graduate of Indiana University. If you’re interested in more of Ryan’s beer musings, check out his and his friend’s craft beer exclusive Instagram account @maltedhopballs .
Note: Rubicon Monkey Knife Fight Pale Ale is now available in a six-pack of 12-ounce bottles in the greater Sacramento area.