The Month of IPA’s, 2010

Last November, I decided to dedicate the month to sampling IPA’s. There were two reasons for this: One, they’ve been making a big comeback in recent years, thanks in part to the rise in craft brewing and their reputation as both a historically relevant and venerable brew. And two: I really, REALLY like IPA! Here’s what I found:Ever since the Scotch-Irish Brewing Company released Sgt. Major’s IPA, a true IPA that was both strong, really hoppy and powerful, I’ve made it a point to try them whenever a new one comes out. To begin this month’s theme, I’ve chosen another obscure title that I had just the other day. Le Freak, by Green Flash Brewing Co. Well, obscure is a relative term. I mean to say that this number is hard to find here in Victoria. It’s brewed in San Diego, where apparently, they are also in the tradition of brewing IPA’s. Weighing in at 9.2% alcohol, it’s a triple fermented beer that combines Belgian-style trippel and IPA traditions.

And that’s exactly where they went wrong. While it is a good brew, I think combining these disparate traditions was a mistake. For one, IPA’s and trippels really don’t taste much alike, the former being very hoppy and bitter, the latter being more subtle, complex and semi-sweet. There is some potential for crossover given that both are often fruity and always complex, this beer ends up tasting very strong, bitter, tawny and dark, almost like a stout.

It’s strength also makes its a little hard to handle, but then again, with a name like Le Freak, that’s what you’d expect. Still, the heavy, tawny taste combined with its alcohol content makes it a tad unappetizing. I’d say going with a strong IPA or a strong trippel would solved these problems for them. All in all, I give it a 3 out of 5. Good potential and I’d like to try more of what Green Flash makes, but this one I might avoid in the future.

Here’s a link to the Green Flash Co’s website:
Green Flash Brewery

Honourable Mentions: I also want to take a minute to mention the two IPA’s that schooled me on what this beer is all about way back when. Back in the summer of 2002, in Ottawa during a rather hot day, some friends and I went to the Beer Festival which was being held just outside City Hall. This festival coincided with the Chicken and Ribs Festival being held just up the street, so my friends and I were awash in the smells of mesquite, bbq’d pork, chicken and ribs, and sweet, sweet beer! Wandering over to the Scotch-Irish Brewery’s tent, we came face to face with something we thought we knew but quickly we realized we hadn’t the faintest idea about:

An India Pale Ale! Not the Keith’s crap which I shall rant about later, but a genuine IPA made in the old, British and Maritimer tradition. The beer in question, a Scotch-Irish original, was named Sergeant Major’s IPA, and had a lovely logo of a British soldier on it with India in the background. The man tending to the taps, who I believe was Scotch-Irish’s brewmaster, explained the real history behind the beer to us and then let us sample the wares. We were blown away! As a big fan of hops, I couldn’t help but feel like this beer was made for me. Since that time, I’ve gone looking for it and made a home at any pub brave enough to serve it on tap. When they began bottling it, I was quite happy and would stock up whenever the chance arose. Whenever I go back to Ottawa, I make it a point to get my hands on it since it was only available in bottles for a short time before I moved. An original, and one of the first instance of IPA’s being made in the old tradition, something I see every micro-brewery on the face of the planet doing now, I’ve often credited this brewery for reintroducing the world to this venerable vintage! I could be wrong of course, and I now know that Hart did it before them (see above), but to me, they were the first! 5 out of 5!

Another great maker of the IPA was Magnotta Brewery, a company located in the Niagara area that is, interestingly enough, known for their wines. Back when I was a drinker of their wares, they had only two beers to speak of: their True North Altbier, and their True North IPA. The former is an interesting brew, being both smooth, clean and tawny. But it was their IPA which I was a particular fan of. While not as good as Sergeant Major, it was nonetheless a clean, crisp, hoppy and aromatic beer which I enjoyed quite thoroughly. It’s strong gold colour and nutty aroma were also very pleasant, and I wouldn’t shy away from pouring many bottles into a large stein and enjoying it throughout an evening. A nostalgic favorite for me, high in quality and rich on memories! 4 out of 5.

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