Rich Norgrove on Racer 5
Rich Norgrove on Racer 5
You can’t tell the story of a beer like Racer 5 IPA without knowing about the folks who make it.
Bear Republic Brewing Company was founded by the Norgrove family in 1995. We come from humble beginnings, third and fourth generation Sonoma County residents in the heart of California, and started off as homebrewers before growing to meet the demands of commercial brewing. As we grew, we developed a process and style that took us to the next level— and helped us master the distinctive flavors and aromas we’re known for.
Our President and founding Brewmaster, Richard G. Norgrove, started brewing Racer 5 IPA just a year after we opened. It quickly began to lead the pack of newer IPAs coming out of the west coast and helped define the style of Bear Republic’s award winning, hand crafted ales and lagers. At a time when most brewpubs produced copper and amber ales lacking the big flavors we enjoy, we turned our attention to something a little different, a golden colored IPA brewed with Cascade, Columbus, Centennial, and Chinook hops which went on to become Racer 5, one of the defining beers in a new generation of west coast IPA’s.
Racer 5 is still that flagship IPA we all know and love. In 1999, it won its first gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival and it has continued to win awards ever since. We offer it in both cans and bottles, 12 and 16 ounces, so you can grab this award-winning IPA in whatever package you prefer.
Richard G. has always called Racer 5 one of his greatest recoveries. The beer came about while we were brewing a batch of our House Pale Ale, and like a house wine, it was just a basic ale and Red Rocket – a bastardized Scottish Red Ale that’s hopped like an IPA – was our flagship.
Back then we would pre-weigh our hops and Rich accidentally grabbed the wrong set. Exhausted after an 80-plus hour week and realizing he had made a mistake, there was no turning back, so he decided to just go with it.
We released the beer as Summertime Strong Ale, and frankly, it was too hoppy, big, and bitter, an out-of-balance beer not a lot of people liked. An avid motorcycle rider and amateur race car driver, Rich has always loved cars and racing and wanted to call it SSA and use a Chevy-style SS logo. Eventually we settled instead on Racer as a natural fit, and over the next year we produced Racer 1, 2, 3, and 4. Then when Rich finally felt that the beer was perfected, we settled on Racer 5.
Our original brewpub was located in historic downtown Healdsburg, California. The goal was simple: to create and cultivate a pub that locals could call their own. In Healdsburg and Rohnert Park, the local community did more than just support us, they made us who we are today, turning the Bear into family. We currently operate our brewpub location at Rohnert Park, where our family just keeps on growing.
To many Racer 5 IPA is more than just some award-winning West Coast style IPA; it’s the first beer they shared with friends, an adventure in discovery.
It is the IPA that pulled them into the craft beer world and that rebelliously hoppy beer that defined their tastes for the big and bold. It has so many ‘first time’ stories that it has become almost a rite of passage to find our booth at a beer festival and relate your story. In a way, it’s more than just a beer; it is a key to the memories and places and times we have shared, a hoppy golden connection to our friends and our Bear family.
Racer 5 is a hop-forward west coast style IPA with a light touch of crystal malt— not too little, not too much. With an IPA of its style, you want bitterness, a crisp finish, and a hoppy aroma, and trust us when we say that this beer delivers. We hand select each lot of hops that goes into making Racer 5, and work with our barley growers to ensure that every ingredient is not only top quality, but also fit for a classic beer like this one.
We like to think that when you drink a Racer 5, you’re not just in good company, you’re in the Bear family, and our family is as strong as ever. For that we can thank Racer 5, without which we couldn’t have grown to reach so many people from across the US and around the world. Racer 5 is more than just our Flagship, it’s our passion project and each batch is as special to us as was the first.
Flagship beers were chosen by the individual writers with no input from the #FlagshipFebruary partners or sponsor breweries.