Monday, March 4, 2013

Indian Pale Ale Review

This a an India Pale Ale (IPA) review of six brews I enjoyed just the other day.  This review is in the category of just a regular beer drinking type, but I will say, I am a nth degree expert as I have been drinking beer weekly since 1968 and have considerable experience.  Not only that, I have travelled much, enjoying the beers of what used to be Great Britain and Ireland. 

Pale ales have been around a long time.  The basics; the term pale ale originally denoted an ale that had been brewed from pale malt. The pale ales of the early 18th century were lightly hopped and quite different from later pale ales. By the mid-18th century, pale ale was mostly manufactured with coke-fired malt, which produced less smoking and roasting of barley in the malting process, and hence produced a paler beer.  Paler than the more red, or amber, coloured beers common to that era.

Like all good things, there is controversy over the creation and reason for the India Pale Ale.  I shall not go into that, but the facts remain that India Pale Ale developed in England around 1840 and India Pale Ale became a popular product in England.  Those are the salient points.  I was introduced to this lovely beer in 1978, in Taunton, Somerset, in the West Country.

It is my favourite type of beer, hands down.  Now I do have a beef with many American craft beer companies that produce IPA.  Many make it too damn sweet.  I do not enjoy sweet beers, I like a Dry type of beer. American IPAs to my tastes are often sweeter and heavier than UK IPAs.  With that as the starting point I had six IPAs recently: Diamond Bear Presidental IPA, Shiner Wild Hare IPA, Widmer Brothers Drifter IPA, Lazy Magnolia rye Timber Beast IPA, Sierra Nevada Torpedo extra IPA, and Tommyknocker Hop Strike Black IPA.

The beers and how I rate them on a scale of 1 to 10 and my observations:
1. DB Presidential IPA; a good IPA, nice hops, a tad on the sweet side; 5 on the McCain scale.

2. Shiner Wild Hare IPA; excellent, could use a bit more hops, but a lovely dry tastes, it was my favourite of the group; 10 on the McCain scale.

3. Widmer Brothers Drifter IPA; above average, nice balance of hops to malt flavours, 7 on the McCain scale.

4.  Lazy Magnolia rye Timber Beast IPA; this one quite unique, strong with 9.0% alcohol, nice flavours, nice amount of hops, a little too sweet for my tastes, still, it is such a unique beer and the high gravity is interesting, a 9 on the McCain scale. 

5. Sierra Nevada Torpedo extra IPA; very good, the extra hops in this its best feature, again, a tad on the sweet side for me, if it were more dry it would be perfect, a 7 on the McCain scale.

6.  Tommyknocker Hop Strike Black IPA; this one a little like Timber Beast, very unique, made from dark rye malt with a lot of hops.  It had almost a licorice like flavour, the dark rye and high hops I suppose, I really liked it, again just a tad to sweet for me, but very good, a 9 on the McCain scale.

I drank all in the course of one evening so the comparisons were done with the memory of each on my tongue and in my mind. If I were getting a six pack, I would go with the Shiner IPA, if I wanted something special, heavier alcohol, etc., I would go with the intriguing Timber Beast or Tommyknocker Black IPA.  At my local here in Oxford, I normally get the Sierra Nevada on tap, as it is always available and I enjoy the hop level there.

Well, hope this guide to IPAs will be of some service to any and all making an upcoming purchase. I posted the John Wayne beer advertisement above, because it uses 'extra dry' as a selling point of the beer.  The appreciation for dry beers seems to have fallen from favour of late. Not with me however, I still love dry beers.

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