Good afternoon all. Friday was International IPA Day (shortened to #IPADay for Twittering purposes), a social-media driven event with the sole purpose of celebrating one of the most popular beer styles of all time, the India Pale Ale. Regardless of their often-disputed history, there's no denying the ubiquitous nature of IPAs and their continuing influence in the brewing world, with various countries constantly adapting previous incarnations to add their own unique twist and, in most cases, create another beer style. In the last few years we've seen waves of new classifications, from Belgian IPAs and Rye IPAs to the confusing yet always satisfying Black IPA, and in addition to this there is the never-ending quest and rite of brewers to lash our palettes with colossal-IBU DIPAs. It seems that everyone has embraced the hop with enthusiasm, hence the reason for devoting an entire day to its most extreme utilisation. I chose three IPAs from three different countries for my IPADay experience, and for clarity's sake I've chosen to resurrect my capsule review system for each of them. The first beer was 2012 Double Black IPA, a Black IPA from Arbor Ales (Bristol, UK). Weighing in at 7.5% ABV and with a suggested theoretical IBU of 2012 I was expecting a bitter beast, so let's see what it was like after the pic....
Appearance: jet black, light brown head that retains itself well on surface of beer.
Aroma: Cocoa powder, caramel, coffee, pine, acetone/alcoholic smell. Very subdued, was expecting more roasted malt character to come through. Some grapefruit in the background but this wasn't immediately apparent.
Taste: Medicinal hop flavours, bitterness sets in and soon overpowers. Roasted malt gradually makes itself known towards the finish with light fruits and some chocolate/coffee hints. Subtle sweetness. Some esters (pear drops), finish isn't too dry but bitterness does linger.
Mouthfeel: decent carbonation, slightly thick.
Verdict: Quite unique, definitely not a beer for all occasions. Despite being lowest ABV percentage, I probably should have had this one last! Worth trying at least once.
After the intense bitterness of that offering I was looking for something with a bit more sweetness to balance out the alpha acids, and luckily I found that quality in the next beer- I Beat yoU, a DIPA from Mikkeller (Copenhagen, Denmark). This bottle had spent a fair bit of time in my cellar prior to opening so the tasting notes give might not be representative of a fresh bottling, but the review can be found after the pic....
Appearance: Amber/orange colour, slightly opaque, off-white head that settles to a patchy covering over the surface of the beer. Light lacing in early stages.
Aroma: Resinous pine, very herbal/vegetative hop character, caramel richness. Reminiscent of BrewDog's IPA Is Dead Motueka- new world earthy hops but backed up with a more pronounced caramel sweetness. Slight hint of mango, other fruits hard to determine due to overpowering herbal hops.
Taste: Pine, resin, earthy hops, acetone, estery (pear drops), caramel/honey sweetness, some mango, candy gloss, grapefruit. Surprisingly there's not a lot of bitterness, finish isn't too dry and sweetness lingers. Some grape flavours in aftertaste as sweetness diminishes. Slight sense of alcohol on palette, fortunately hop flavours balance this out so it's not too harsh.
Mouthfeel: Well carbonated, thick, compliments flavours nicely. Can cloy every so often, requiring some time between sips to allow palette to recover.
Verdict: This beer is like an amplified version of Green Gold, another IPA from Mikkeller that I had about 1.5 years ago. I'd like to try a fresher bottle of I Beat yoU to see how significantly the hops have died down, but overall I was impressed with this beer and would get it again. Recommended.
The concluding beer in the triumvirate of IPAs was Hercules Double IPA, a DIPA from Great Divide Brewing Company (Colorado, USA). Again this beer had been in my cellar for a few months, so any tasting notes regarding bitterness and hop character might be inaccurate. Review after the pic....
ABV: 10.0 %
Appearance: Amber colour, slightly opaque, short-lived white head. Bit of yeast ended up in glass despite careful pouring. Small quantity of lacing in early stages.
Aroma: Piney, sweet, grapefruit, tropical fruits, slightly herbal hop character. Ethanol in background indicative of higher ABV percentage. Some light peach notes.
Taste: Piney, peach, mango, passionfruit, caramel sweetness, grapes come through during dry finish. Slightly alcoholic but not too much bitterness- occasionally a slight bite in back of throat. Sense of pithy fruits. Hop bitterness offset by alcohol content, no real malt character detectable.
Mouthfeel: Moderately carbonated, slightly thick- compliments higher alcohol content. Alcoholic burn builds on sides of mouth during drinking.
Verdict: Nice DIPA, relatively well balanced and not overly bitter. Alcohol can become noticeable towards the end of drinking, but fresh offerings might have sufficient hop character to counteract this sensation. Recommended.
And with the end of that beer, my IPADay experience was over. Although I wasn't able to attend any special events or share these beers with friends, I still had a good time and will happily participate again next year. When that time finally rolls around, it'll be interesting to see just how many new IPA styles will have been created (for example, Farmhouse IPAs seem to be replacing Black IPAs as the "in-thing" right now) and whether the boundaries of IPA brewing will finally be reached.
Until next time....