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Wednesday, March 2, 2016

New IPAs


By Rick Sherman
It never ceases to amaze me how people can be such sheep when it comes to celebrities. Beyonce mentions Red Lobster in a song during the Superbowl half-time show and Red Lobster reports a 33% increase in business. Really? There are that many people who base their culinary decisions on a celeb shout-out? Did they expect that Beyonce might just show up at their local East Hicksville Red Lobster? 

Hey Bud, this Shill's for you!
Look, I appreciate artists and athletes of all stripes for their various talents be it in music, writing, painting, or threading a spiral between two defenders for the winning touchdown. But I really could care less about who they sleep with, what they eat or what they drink. Which brings us to...

Peyton Manning and his blatant shilling for Budweiser - not once but three times - during his post-game remarks. The worst thing was how cringingly awkward the whole thing was. Nothing about the
remarks sounded organic or off-the-cuff. He shoe-horned the references to Bud into his comments in such a glaringly deliberate manner that even the most naive of Peyton supporters couldn't help but see them for what they were: free advertising for a company in which he has a vested interest. He is, after all, part owner of two Anheuser-Busch distributors in Louisiana.  And how long before Manning is not only singing "Nationwide is on your side" but also "Budweiser is paying my bills," as he adds Bud to that insurance giant and Papa John's
as their pet celebrity spokesperson. Hey, I have nothing against a guy trying to make some money - heaven forbid the poor guy should try to raise a family on the paltry NFL salary he receives - but he plays for the Broncos, a Colorado team for God sake, a state loaded with terrific craft breweries. If he can't give them a shout-out, the least he could do is shill for Coors.

Meanwhile A-B continued their undisputed reign as King of Hypocrites with another couple of Bud ads mocking craft beer while busily buying up actual craft breweries. The latest one is somewhat more subtle than last year's obvious pandering to Bud lovers. This one has shot after shot of manly things like a big powerful horse, or a grizzled guy sitting at a bar with a bud, or sweaty guys lugging around kegs of Bud all the while flashing graphics proclaiming what Bud is NOT.

We learn that it is NOT A HOBBY this beer brewing thing. You know, because I'm sure that those guys at, say, Dogfish Head or Sierra Nevada all brew beer in their spare time after they get home their real job.

We also learn it is NOT SIPPED. Well of course not. You only sip something if it tastes really good and you want to savor it a bit.

It's also NOT IMPORTED. Did someone fail to mention to the Bud PR guys that A-B is owned by InBev - a company formed from a merger of a Belgian and a Brazilian company, while craft beer is not an import.Craft brewers are smaller brewers right here in the USA. Most imported beers sold here are from foreign mega-breweries, not craft breweries.

They also tell us it's NOT SMALL and NOT SOFT. Wow! Talk about insecurity issues.

It's also NOT FOR EVERYONE. Ain't that the truth. As much as A-B would like it if there was no choice out there, thank heavens craft beer gives us many.

The other anti-craft ad from Bud has a horse (they do like horses over there at Bud, don't they) suggesting to a man that he should eschew the craft beer he was about to pick up and grab a good ol' Bud instead. Sorry, but just as I won't take beer advice from a man who generally doesn't drink beer (the most interesting man in the world) I'm certainly not taking beer advice from a horse.

And so the beer wars continue.

I will give kudos where kudos are due, however. I thought the Helen Mirren anti-drinking and driving ad was a good thing. 

"Put your sweet lips a little closer to the foam..."


The Beer Facts: BREWER: Oskar Blues Brewing, Brevard, NC; STYLE: IPA; ABV: 6.43%; IBUs: 70; MALT: malt barley, red wheat; HOPS: Enigma, Vic Secret, Ella, Topaz, Galaxy.

What the Brewer Says:  "A Metamodern IPA conceived of hand selected hops from Down Under...The hops strum juicy and sweet aromas with headline notes of passion fruit, raspberries, pineapple and citrus. This straight-up strain is Oskar Blues IPA. To each their own til we go home."

Color: Unfiltered wheat.

Pour: Decent head

Aroma: Fruity, floral hops

Body: Medium

Taste: Strongly toward the hop/bitter end of the scale with solid notes of citrus, grapefruit.

Overall Impression: Can't Get Enough!

Comments: "Big nose; Pops your mouth right off the bat; Clean finish, will become a regular part of my fridge beers; Big taste; What you want an IPA to taste like; I always said that Oskar Blues Pale Ale was better than many IPAs out there so they didn't need an IPA. I'm glad they decided to make one; A burst of refreshment; Has that nice citrus/grapefruit taste you look for in an American IPA; Really nice."


The Beer Facts: BREWER: Avery Brewing Co, Boulder, Colorado; STYLE: India Pale Ale; ABV: 6.5%; IBUs: 69; MALTS: Munich, C-120, 2-Row; HOPS: Cascade, Chinook, Centennial, Columbus (Dry Hopped with Chinook); YEAST: London Ale

What the Brewer Says: "Avery IPA features a citrusy, floral bouquet and a rich, malty finish."

Color: Unfiltered wheat

Pour: Near Decent Head

Aroma: Tropical fruit - pineapple

Body: Medium

Taste: Toward the bitter end, with notes of pineapple and butterscotch

Overall Impression: Between "I Could Drink This" and "Can't Get Enough!"

Comments: "Very good, but not as hoppy as the can would lead you to believe; Bitter finish; Complex flavors; Nice beer - I like it; Goes well with the meatballs; It's not an IPA that will blow you away, but it's a good, drinkable beer; Pretty balanced between the malt and hops."


The Beer Facts: BREWER: Frost Beer Works, Hinesburg, VT; ABV: 6.5%; IBUs: 70;

What the Brewer Says: "This is a balanced, aromatic IPA showcasing nuances of flavor without going to extremes. Hops contribute citrus and tropical fruit aromas that complement a smooth malt profile."

Color: Golden

Pour: Big full head with nice lacing

Aroma: Fruity, spicy

Body: Medium

Taste: Hoppy/bitter with citrus, grapefruit and tropical fruit notes

Overall Impression: Can't Get Enough!

Comments: "Tastes like another: Nice, rich head; Delicious; Smooth; No bite; Beautiful deep aroma and taste with a smooth finish; Need to distribute to Central New York!; Not a big beer, but it tastes big."


The Beer Facts:  BREWER: Green Flash Brewing, San Diago, CA; STYLE: IPA; ABV: 6.5%; IBUs: 75; HOPS: Citra, Simcoe, Cascade

What the Brewer Says: "Our brewers rip-creating huge and complex double and triple IPAs at the pinnacle of craft beer enlightenment. Soul Style is their effortless and pure manifestation of the Single IPA...hops are layered, allowing bright tropical waves of flavorful citrus and floral notes to break gently on the palate. Get stoked on a laid back single and ride a wave to soothe your soul."

Color: Golden with orange tinge

Pour: Better than Decent Head

Aroma: Spicy hop as well as fresh bread

Body: Medium

Taste: Nice balance that opens somewhat malty followed by tropical fruit: pineapple, lemon, mango

Overall Impression: Just shy of "Can't Get Enough!"

Comments: "A little brighter flavor; Bitter on the end, aggressive at the end; Long-lingering; Get you in the mood for some James Brown; There is a nice underlying tropical fruit taste along with citrus - I don't know, maybe pineapple, mango; I get a little hint of lemon or orange there too; It's very refreshing; This is a nice find, usually can't go wrong with Green Flash; It's definitely got a different vibe than most American IPAs, but I've noticed a number of them lately with those tropical fruit notes."


The Beer Facts: BREWER: Westbrook Brewing, Mt. Pleasant, SC; STYLE: IPA; ABV: 6.8%; IBUs: 65; MALT: Pale, Munich, Carapils; HOPS: Blend of four American hop varieties

What the Brewer Says: "A base of Pale, Munich and Carapils malts is just enough to contain the massive hop flavor and aroma packed into this highly drinkable IPA. A blend of four American hop varieties is added four times in the  kettle and twice in the fermentor for a complex and layered hop experience. Best served at 45-50 degree F in a tulip or English style pint glass."

Color: Unfiltered golden wheat

Pour: Big Guinness class head

Aroma: Floral, tropical fruit

Body: Medium

Taste: Toward the bitter side of balanced with notes of butterscotch, a bit acrid

Overall Impression: Just shy of  "Can't Get Enough!"

Comments: "Sweeter (malty) aroma mixed with floral initially; Maltier beer at the outset, then a lingering bitterness; Malt backbone, bitter finish; Impressed by the taste; Nice beer, a bit sweeter than the others today."


The Beer Facts: BREWER: Wolf Hollow Brewing Co., West Glenville, NY, STYLE: American IPA; ABV: 6.8%; IBUs: 69

What the Brewer Says: "A clean and drinkable West Coast style American India Pale Ale that is brewed to be light in color, dry-hopped for a big floral aroma, and just bitter enough to remind you that you're holding an IPA. In a market flooded with IPA, this one is brewed to stand out with its rich malt profile and bright dry-hop"

Color: Copper

Pour: Big, lingering, near Guinness-class head. Meringue-like head with tight bubbles.

Aroma: Not strong but some malty aroma detected

Body: A bit more than Medium

Taste: Initially malty with hints of toffee and melon

Overall Impression: Between "I Could Drink This" and "Can't Get Enough!"

Comments: "Sweetish beer; Different balance between hops and malt; I like it; Aroma hops are not there, but nice flavor hops; Perhaps more of a big ale; Floral on the end; Nice beer and tasty; Not a knock-your-socks-off IPA, but very good."


The Beer Facts: BREWER: Ellicottville Brewing Co., Ellicottville, NY; STYLE: American IPA (Flagship beer); ABV: 7.0%; IBUs: 77

What the Brewer Says:"Stuffed with hops, this flagship IPA pays homage to the material all beer is born in - Stainless Steel. Combining a traditional pale malt bill with a modern and aggressive hop profile, this new age American IPA is carrying EBC into the future."

Color: Copper/ buttercup honey

Pour: Decent Head

Aroma: Soap (Fels-Naptha)

Body: Medium

Taste: Toward the sweet side of balanced, malty, with taste of cider, horehound candy

Overall Impression: Between "Leave It On the Shelf" and "I Could Drink This"

Comments: "Very different, a lot of disagreement with the taste; I wouldn't have pegged this as an IPA; Tastes like an older type IPA, like old style East Coast where it wasn't as hoppy; Back bitterness; Malty aftertaste; Tastes like an English Ale to me; Not tasting that piney/grapefruit you look for in an American IPA; A bit disappointing, I've had some very good Ellicottville beers."


The Beer Facts: BREWER: Two Roads Brewing Co, Stratford, CT; STYLE: Double IPA; ABV: 8.0%; IBUs: 65; HOPS: Summit, Palisade, Cascade, Magnum

What the Brewer Says: "A big, hoppy IPA with plenty of bite! Our assertive, hop-centric Double IPA has a lean malt backdrop and is brewed with four American hop varieties...Piney, citrus, floral, not-for-the-timid."

Color: Unfiltered golden wheat

Pour: Decent Head

Aroma: Soap, floral

Body: Medium

Taste: Toward the sweet side of balanced with a hint of lemon and pine

Overall Impression: Between "I Could Drink This" and "Can't Get Enough!"

Comments: "Nice label!; Tastes new and fresh; A little bitter; Not as nice a finish as some of the others tonight; Warm alcohol presence after a minute - doesn't seem to be very high ABV at first, but...: It has a little of that sort of soap aroma and taste that you find in some IPAs, though it's not overpowering. Still I prefer the grapefruit/citrus/pine vibe."


Let's face it, we sort of used a loaded deck with this month's theme. Since we opted to look at IPAs that were new to the scene (or at least new to us) we weren't likely to have too many losers. As such, we judged them relative to each other to a certain extent. Given the choice between any of these and a mega-brew lager or, God forbid, a light beer, there would be no contest. Even the weakest of the eight would be far superior. However BOTB tradition dictates we rank today's Tasteful Eight, so here goes:

++++ OSKAR BLUES IPA - Oskar Blues (Brevard, NC) flagship beer, Dale's Pale Ale, could easily be marketed as an IPA, so when they decided to produce an IPA - delicious! With hops that pop from first pour to last sip this is a terrific IPA.

++++Another VT IPA - Frost Beer Works, Hinesburg, VT. The other "Can't Get Enough!" rated beer of the evening. The only down side with this fabulous IPA is that it is tough to get outside of Vermont. That's a shame.

+++3/4 Soul Style IPA - Green Flash Brewery, San Diego, CA. Another great new IPA. This fell just shy of  "Can't Get Enough!" May well have landed there if it hadn't followed Frost's IPA. Bright, fruity flavor with a big nose. Definitely not a (Green) Flash in the pan.

+++3/4 Westbrook IPA - Westbrook Brewing, Mt. Pleasant, SC. Very tasty IPA out of South Carolina. A bit sweeter than the other three, but not unpleasantly so. Along with the grapefruit-hop taste, we detected hints of butterscotch and bready malt. 

+++1/2 District 6 IPA - Wolf Hollow Brewing Co., West Glenville, NY. We didn't get much of a nose from this one, but it was nonetheless a tasty beer. More malt than most of the others with some hints of toffee and melon. A solid IPA.

+++1/2 Avery Brewing IPA - Avery Brewing, Boulder, CO., Good beer, but not as hoppy as we expected. More of a malt profile with some of that butterscotch/malt taste. 

+++1/2 Road to Ruin Double IPA - Two Roads Brewing Co., Stratford, CT. The biggest beer of the evening at 8% ABV. Had a pleasant alcohol warmth to  it but a hint of soap taste that kept it from scoring better.

++Stainless Steel Obsession - Ellicottville Brewing Co., Ellicottville, NY. This one had a distinctive soapy aroma that, unfortunately, carried over into the taste. Otherwise we noted hints of horehound candy, malt and a taste akin to apple cider. It came off as more malt heavy than what you would expect of an IPA.

Next month: Porters


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