When a thing is really popular, there's usually a similar but lesser-known thing that some people insist is better: The Rolling Stones had The Kinks, "Star Wars" had "Battlestar Galactica," the PlayStation had the Dreamcast.
And at Prison City Pub & Brewery in Auburn, the smash hit Mass Riot IPA has its predecessor, Riot in Vermont. When Mass Riot emerged on top of Paste Magazine's blind tasting of 247 American IPAs this summer, several people who either work at the Auburn brewpub or frequent it said the same thing: "Riot in Vermont is better."
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Such statements are usually just plays for credibility or contrarianism. But those who say Riot in Vermont is better than its Massachusetts-style brother may have a point. It sports the same golden haze and packs the same fruity wallop, but its citrus flavors come through even more intensely. In that regard, it tastes a little more like Prison City's Nope on a Rope IPA than the Mass Riot. It's also not quite as cloudy or "chewy" as its first batch back in early June, but it still stands with the Alchemist and Fiddlehead IPAs that inspired it.
Still, there's only one way to discern whether Riot in Vermont is really better than Mass Riot, whether it deserves the national fanfare of Paste's No. 1 ranking. And that, of course, would be a side-by-side tasting — something that may not be possible until Prison City can build the production facility it needs to meet the surging demand for brewer Ben Maeso's IPAs, sours and other award-winning beers.
Until then, you'll just have to enjoy this deep cut on its own.
Prison City Pub & Brewery's Riot in Vermont IPA is currently on tap at the brewpub, 28 State St., Auburn. (Given how long Prison City's IPAs stay on tap, though, maybe try to get there before November.) For more information on Prison City, call (315) 604-0763, visit prisoncitybrewing.com or search for the brewpub on Facebook.