November 2010, the month that was dedicated to India Pale Ale’s. Here was my second post for that month, encompassing all the beers I managed to find, sample, and review. It was a perfect cross-section of the obscure (at least to me), the new, and the enduringly famous. So here they are, in sequential order from least to most appealing:
Thunderhead IPA:(3/5) By Pyramid Brewing, from California, this IPA is pretty light by Canadian standards. While the overall alcohol and hop content is consistent with a regular IPA, it is smooth in a way that is typical of many west-coast US beers. This can be a good or bad, depending on your preference. For those who love hoppy beers, it can be a bit of a letdown, but it makes for a more accessible, drinkable beer.
Shipwrecked IPA: (4/5) By Lighthouse Brewery, made here in Victoria, this beer is part of their Small Brewery-Big Flavour line. At 10 percent alcohol, it is truly strong, even for an IPA, and only for those who are already familiar with this type of brew. Much like a true IPA, it combines strength with heavy malts and a floral, even piney, aftertaste taste that lingers quiet nicely. I recommend it, but only for people looking to sample outside the mainstream of IPA’s, or the experimentally minded.
Brutal IPA: (4/5) By Rogue Breweries, from Oregon, this is yet another big hit by Rogue who are known for their signature microbrews and are committed to excellence in everything they do! As you might guess, I’m a big fan and found this beer very enjoyable. It lives up to the name, being both strong and very hoppy. With floral notes and a strong, crisp taste, its very much in keeping with the tradition of IPA’s. Keep in mind that the name is no idle boast. It is strong to the point of brutality and should only be enjoyed by those who know (and love) their IPA’s!
90 Minute IPA: (4.5/5) By Dogfish Head, located in Denver, this brew was declared by Esquire magazine as being “possibly the best IPA in America.” Having tried it more than once, I can honestly say they may very well be right. Crisp, clean, hoppy and strong, this beer lives up both to the IPA tradition and the high standard set by Dogfish Head. Much like Rogue, they are a brewery that can do little wrong in my eyes and I’m always interested to see what they’ll make next.
Fat Tug IPA: (5/5) As they say, save the best for last! This customer, brewed by Driftwood Brewery right here in Victoria, is the best IPA I’ve had in awhile. It is a true IPA, bringing both strength and a powerful, fruity palate to the table. The result is a crisp, clean taste that both smells and tastes like grapefruit and melon. I was pleased not only with the beer itself but also to find out that this new release is now a permanent part of their repertoire! Challenging, not for everyone, but that’s the point of IPA. Much like the Lord, it hates a coward!
(Dis)honourable Mention: Alexander Keith’s IPA. (1/5) Okay, I know knocking this beer is like knocking a proud Canadian tradition, not to mention the beer of choice for millions of undergrad students, but I got to speak my mind here! For years, I have sat idly by in bars and pubs and watched people order this beer, thinking they were sampling an actual IPA. But they weren’t! From the moment I tried Scotch-Irish’s Sergeant Major, I knew something had to be said. While Keith’s may have started out as a true IPA, brewed in the Maritimes for export to British Troops in India, it has since evolved (or devolved) into its current form.
While it is drinkable and certainly inoffensive, it doesn’t constitute an IPA by any stretch of the imagination or even the definition. IPA’s are supposed to be offensive! They are by their very nature brews that are tough to handle and should only be enjoyed by people who know their stuff! It is not a beer that was ever intended for mass production or accessibility. And quite frankly, if “inoffensive” or “drinkable” are the best things you can say about a beer, then you know there’s something wrong! It generally means that the beer is tasteless, being brewed in mass quantities for consumption by people who don’t care about quality and taste, just getting drunk. “Get’s the job done” is another indicator of quality-less beer, which usually translates to “cheap and easy-drinking” (aka. gets you drunk!)