Another 6 days of IPA’s – A Hop Bomb Comparison: Part II
A few months ago, I posted an article that examined some solid I.P.A’s from North America. It was certainly my most successful article to date, so I thought, why not do it again! In that article, entitled Six Days of I.P.A’s – A North American Hop Bomb Comparison, most of the beers were Canadian, although I had managed to get my hands on two bottles from the states. Because the Quebec government doesn’t seem to have any interest in beer beyond it’s own boarders, living here doesn’t allow you to expand your non-Quebec tasting horizons. Now, like anything else, if there is enough motivation, you can find a way. As I have mentioned in previous articles, I am very fortunate that I have friends that support my hobby, so I’m often able to get bottles brought to me from certain locations when these friends travel. Being such a craft beer “pusher,” I’ve also managed to convert (or alienate) some of my friends into also becoming beer geeks. T.J. Blinn, a close friend of mine who also collaborates on Beerism, decided to go on a Beercation through the states, finishing off at Dogfish Head in Delaware. Needless to say I was jealous. But the generous bastard was kind and patient enough to bring with him a meticulously crafted list I conceived, and returned from his adventure with a couple of cases of hand picked beers for me. Look out for reviews soon from Hill Farmstead and Dogfish Head!.
As I was whining about earlier, it’s really hard to get beers from outside the province. That being the case, coupled with the fact that I have not been to the states in years, made for a real lack of American beer experience on my part. This is quite frustrating, as virtually all the beer geek sites are American based, where they discuss the latest in American beer news, and the latest releases. So, I remained just a bystander, unable to properly participate, shedding various single tears from my beer-less eyes. Until now! As you can presume, the six IPA’s I are going to talk about today all hail from the US. There is representation from Brooklyn NY, San Diego CA, Escondido CA, Newport OR, Lakewood NY & Petaluma, CA.
In my first article I talked a bit about what IPA’s are, and the history behind their inception – again, if you’d like to back track, click here. In this batch, most are larger then average examples of the style. What I mean by this is that there are several Double / Imperial IPA’s, which have a higher alcohol content, and are basically extremely hopped versions of the style, with a higher grain bill as well. Being bigger beers, balance plays an huge role in keeping the intense flavors in check. Sweetness and bitterness are often at play here, with one hopefully not outweighing the other too much. Being thicker and sweeter (on average), the carbonation needs to be on point, lighting up the mouthfeel enough to balance the big grain bill properly. All this to say, that although this is certainly the case with any beer style, big IPA’s can particularly fall short if one piece of the beer puzzle is out of whack.
BallastPoint; located in San Diego California, was started by a couple of home brewers. One of which first owned a homebrew supply shop before expanding into producing beer on a commercial scale. I wasn’t aware of their offerings until doing a bit a research for T.J.’s epic beer run. Sculpin India Pale Ale is a 7% American IPA that poured out a clear, orange color, with hints of amber. A small but ample head rested nicely on top. Wow, these were some amazing aromas. Lots of strong and tart fruit, with general zestiness flooded my nostrils. It also had this really sweet profile, with candied cherries emanating in the aromas. There was that earthy freshly cut grass smell as well, with just an amazing bouquet of flowers mixed in with the rest.
On to the actual tasting. This was Impressively bitter, with a bombshell of a taste. It had such a melange of flavors; lots of citrus fruit, flowers, grass, vanilla, and even a sharp alcohol presence. Buckets of strawberries. So much going on here. Each sip brings out more and more, I’ve never had such a floral IPA, the hops are incredible. This whole thing was packed with flavor, very impressive. Carbonation was average and the mouthfeel worked well with all that was going on with this one. I have to say, this is the first in my American IPA assessment, and now I’m REALLY excited to keep going.
Lagunitas Brewing Company; although originally from Lagunitas, they are now making beer out of Petaluma California. They started in 1993 and are expanding at an exponential rate, with their current expansion being in the process of getting them to a 600 000 barrel capacity. At 8% and 108 IBU (International Bittering Units), this leads me to think I’m going to have a hop explosion on my hands. It’s made with hop oils, instead of whole flowers, which according to them, make for a cleaner hop profile.
Hop Stoopid pours out a clear orange color with a nice two finger head that sticks around. My nose is hit with a big citrus punch right off the bat, mixed with zesty strawberries and a lemon-lime-orange-grapefruit combination that’s not quite describable. So fresh, it’s like fruit juice. A nice sweetness carries though as well, reminding me of candied cherries.
After the first sip, an orange tanginess comes though, and the frothiness helps bring up the hops. This one is not too sweet, and has a great bitterness that’s not too overpowering. It is exceptionally light and drinkable considering the high ABV – this makes for a dangerous beer. It is superbly balanced. There is a great tangy herbal hop character going on here, which could be from Saaz hops – which are generally found in German beers. Alcohol Is there, but not abrasive and balanced well against the hops. This is really something special.
Sixpoint is located out of Brooklyn, NY. Born in 2004, they produce an array of well regarded brews. Resin is their Double IPA; it is brewed to celebrate the resinous oils found inside hop cones, which are rendered during the boil, and are responsible for the hop character and bitterness of the beer. There is a great video that Sixpoint created about this specific beer, I recommend watching it – click here.
It’s all hops up front with a big bitter punch. And punch is quite an appropriate word as this tastes like tropical fruit punch. Getting all kinds of fruit, like oranges, grapefruit, lemons, strawberries and so on. Big fresh pineapple. There is a sweetness here that works nicely with some big boozy flavors. The bitterness is quite intense, and quickly cuts everything down, leaving a long fruity bitter finish that lingers nicely on the back of your tongue until the next sip. The balance here really is exquisite, the bitterness, sweetness, and booziness are often flavors that can overpower each other. But here, they really work in conjunction, working off each other to produce an amazing taste experience. This is dangerously drinkable. I loved every second.
Southern Tier; a brewery located in Lakewood New York. It was established in 2002. Like most modern craft breweries, they started off small and grew substantially as the public demanded more beer. A couple of the beers are available in Ontario, but otherwise only in the US.
2XIPA is an 8.2% Double IPA that pours out a clear golden color, with a small foamy white head resting on top. On the nose, I was first hit with some strong soapy hop aromas, mixed with lots of candied fruit. It had a big citrus kick, with loads of lemon and orange qualities. There were hints of earthy yeast components mixed in there as well.
After taking the first sip, I was hit with some big sweet & fruity tastes to start, followed by a hefty bitterness, which made itself present, but by no means overtly aggressive or overpowering. The fruitiness of the nose came out in taste form even more as my palate adjusted to some of the more assertive flavors; in particular I’m getting lots of strawberries and oranges. There is certainly some Alcohol is there as well, but again not too much and it’s not overboard by any means. It actually works quite well with the hops and the malty sweetness that this big beer provides. This is a solid Double IPA, one that I would seek out again given the chance.
Rogue Ales is a craft microbrewery located in Portland Oregon, and since the late 80’s, they have been producing forward thinking beer. In the past I reviewed a couple of their other fantastic offerings, click here to check it out. They have grown quite substantially and are currently one of the larger craft breweries in the states.
Brutal IPA poured out a foggy orange color with a foamy, one finger head. The aroma leads with some soapy hop character and a lot of lemon & grapefruit citrus fruit smells. It didn’t have too much of those usual earthy freshly cut grass notes, but there were some herbal elements there for sure.
On the taste front the first thing that hit my palate was a relentless bitter punch to the face. It was kind of dry, with not much of a big, malty base. The Mouthfeel was pretty heavy, but was still quite an easy drink. It went down smoothly. There was something missing for me on this one, kind of muted on the malt front. This would certainly be a good session IPA though, but I would not seek it out again. This could very well be because in sat on the shelves for too long, I’m generally a big fan of Rogue.
Stone Brewing Co; located in Escondido California is the brain child of Steve Wagner and Greg Koch, and like a lot of the breweries on this list, they have grown their business into one of the largest craft breweries in the US. Ruination IPA, at 7.7% kind of lands in between a regular and double IPA; at least on the alcohol spectrum. It pours out a crystal clear orange tangerine color with a small ring of carbonation that hugs the sides of the glass.
The aromas begin with sweet candied fruit; Apples and strawberries in particular with an almost cotton candy undertone. There is some pine and enough citrus as well, but the sweet hops are the predominant aromas here. Hidden amongst the rest were some hay & grains smells coming through.
Well, this one is certainly quite bitter and dry, with some lingering tartness. As my palate adjusts, the citrusy grapefruit is now apparent and some of the fruity sweetness comes out a bit more. Strawberries for sure. Some alcohol as well, mixed in with the bitterness, which gives that potent double IPA feel. Oranges a candied grapefruit. Apples & pears – general fruitiness all around. This was delicious.
So there you have it, 6 more days of IPA’s, and I’m officially impressed. But there was some part of me that didn’t want to believe that the Americans were really that brilliant when it comes to creating IPA’s. I guess I didn’t want to listen to people when they said that Quebec can’t compare when it comes to the production of the India Pale Ale. Not that I have any issues with Americans or their beer, but rather because a big part of me really does love this province and likes seeing it kick ass when it comes to beer – and it generally does. This all being said, the above line up beers blew me away. The use of hops were out if this world, balancing fruitiness, bitterness and sweetness like nothing I’ve had before; a true testament to the way beer should be brewed. So I guess one could say that the people might have been right with regards to Quebec – well at least they were, until this week when I tried a collaboration IPA from Benelux (located in Mtl) called “Catapulte“. This one was every bit as amazing as any of the bottles listed above, and I think one could argue that it surpassed a lot of them. So what this all means to me is this: although Quebec is certainly not leading the pack when it comes to the world of IPA’s, we will get there, just like we did with our Belgian offerings. However, sometimes I’m still going to go to the states and get me some beer.