Showdown : IPA Standard Bearers

I like IPAs. My Pit Bull turns his note up at them (his name is Porter…)

I know I said in my previous post that I drink more IPAs than anyone really needs to, and that remains true. However, thinking about that got me yearning for a good IPA. As I was lingering in my grocer’s beer aisle, attempting to find something new and interesting in their standard grocery store* beer selection, a showdown was conjured in my mind. I wouldn’t drink one IPA, no, that is for the lot of you who drink sensibly. No, I would have three (my max if you know me well enough), on a school night, and pit them against each other in a winner take all of our IPA elders.

I’ve had the three here multiple times but none of them recently since I don’t get back to the standard bearers as often as I should. Are these IPAs standard bearers? I don’t know. Honestly, I don’t care too much, either. They are all classics, which have been brewed for more than a decade each and all are wildly successful year-around beers. I know that the recipes have been tweaked some over the years, but these are the beers that launched thousands of imitators.

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Bitter Grandpa

Stone IPA : Introduced 1997 : 6.9% – We’ll start with the oldest of the group, Stone IPA. It’s classic clear orange body topped by a white hat. Powerful citrus hop notes for sure inspired a multitude of IPAs in the last 20 years. Damn, it is bitter. Ya know how lots of the new tropical IPAs are full of bright fruits (which I totally dig, btw) but the bitterness seems a bit restrained? This IPA harkens back to those days when everyone cared about IBUs more than anything else. The flavor is almost masked by the bitterness! Still, it has tons of citrus and pine hop notes. Crystal malt adds some sweetness and rounds out the body. This is a full-on bitter powerhouse of an IPA.

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Even-Keeled

Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA : Introduced 2003 : 6% – I’ve moved on to Dogfish’s 60-minute IPA, which I’ve had the longest relationship with out of these three. I remember it being smooth and grassy, but either my memory has failed me or the beer has changed some over the years. The grass is still there but only in the background with pine and citrus elbowing their way to the front. The malt is muted but aides the overall balance. Not nearly as bitter as the Stone but still having a nice bite throughout. A well-balanced offering.

 

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Not GF free

Ballast Point Sculpin IPA : Introduced 2005 (originally named Northstar) : 7% – The relative newcomer, Ballast Point’s Sculpin IPA is a big time player especially on the west coast. I don’t remember drinking much of it when I was back east, but I can’t escape it out here. This is a grapefruit bomb and I’ve always enjoyed grapefruit in my IPAs (I don’t like grapefruited IPAs, however). Strong citrus notes throughout with a decent helping of crystal malt sweetness. A zesty, fruity, sweet IPA that many breweries seem to be emulating (cause, duh, it’s a huge success so why not emulate it). Tangy and bitter. Good stuff, here.

So what’s it gonna be from the elder three? My pre-tasting guess was Dogfish Head had the winner but after this little get-together Stone came away as the clear winner. DFH and BP are brewing great IPAs but they are both solid seconds, for me. If we care about where our money goes (and I do) then I’d put the 60 Minute second and relegate Sculpin to third, but that’s a moral decision and not an enjoyment based outcome.

This was a fun grocery-store threesome. I haven’t had any of these in years and it was nice to get reacquainted with them. And damn, that Stone IPA is still fighting my tongue. Nice.

*I may need to remind you that I live in the heart of a good beer black hole. The local area is trying to improve but we still don’t have a good bottle shop in close vicinity. I buy more of my beer from the chain grocery than I’d like to admit.

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Yokohama Green Fresh

Found myself aimlessly wandering through Yokohama recently and just happened to be in the Pivovar/Yokohama area (how lucky…). I was parched from spending the better part of the evening trying out my new camera lens and was sure a bottle of water wasn’t going to quench the thirst nearly as well as a pint of something cool and hoppy.

Hand held, new lens, night.  Feel free to cut me some slack.
Hand held, new lens, night. Feel free to cut me some slack.

I knew from past research that Yokohama had anew beer out they called Green Fresh and assumed it was going to be an American style IPA. After their successful crossover ale I’m not surprised to see them stray a bit from their roots of the Czech beer styles. Saddling up to the bar I ordered a tall one. I was pretty surprised by just how cloudy this brew was. Doesn’t look like they did any filtering to it. I’m alright with that, I sometimes would prefer more breweries to ditch the filtering process all together, but that’s a discussion for another time. Now, I’m not positive it’s dry-hopped, but I’m positive it’s dry-hopped. The aroma was very grassy, something that comes from the process of dry-hopping. It had a nice grapefruit and citrus hop aroma to go along with it as well as a light caramel malt sweetness. The flavor is what convinced me it was dry-hopped. Intense grass hop notes on this bad boy. Grapefruit and light lemon hops are quite noticeable/enjoyable as well.

Green Fresh, now in W I D E  A N G L E
Green Fresh, now in W I D E A N G L E

Luckily it had a medium strength malt foundation to stand up against all of it, otherwise it wouldn’t have worked so well. What really got me was the bitter finish. Very West Coast IPA-ish. My notes aren’t very thorough, but I remember reading it was primarily cascade hops (again, USA IPA) giving the bitterness. I cought myself thinking another pint would really feel nice, but forced that thought out of my mind and got back to the lens trials. I hope it’s around for a while, though, I really enjoyed this one.

IPAs for the rest of us

I’m generally not first in line when hearing about a new Japanese IPA.  Why?  Well, If I drink an IPA I want it to be hopped to the eXtreme! and I’m sorry to the amazing brewers in the country, but I’ve never been slapped across the face by a Japanese IPA the way I’ve been physically assaulted by American brews of the same variety.  Baird does have a couple beers out there that have impressed me, though.  Their Hatsujozo Double IPA cracked a whip across my tongue when I had it last- so I know it’s possible.  That is why I will be attending Baird’s IPA Festival 2009, starting, well, two days agao if you are near the Fishmarket Taproom.  From Jan 7th – Jan. 17th, the Fishmarket will be offering ten different IPAs and double IPAs.  The same ten hoppy ales will be on tap at the Nakameguro Taproom starting Jan. 17 and running through the lines until the 26th.  IPAs, Imperial (double) IPAs, and even a couple on hand-pump will be quenching the thirst of us hop heads.  

The lineup is as follows:

Teikoku IPA – This is Baird’s year-around IPA.  Should be fun to compare the others to their standard.

Obama’s New Era IPA – Real ale on hand-pump.

Imperial Glory IPA – Real ale on hand-pump.

Columbus IPA – Using only the columbus variety of hop.

Horizon IPA – Using only the horizon variety of hop.  Should be fun to compare to the columbus.

Brewmaster’s Nightmare Rye IPA – Rye malt in an IPA?  Glorious.

Citrus IPA – An 8% ABV brew with fresh juice and peels of Heda mikans.

Bitter Cold Day Black IPA – A black body due to the darker malts used.

Hatsujozo 2009 Double IPA – An Imperial IPA.  I couldn’t get enough of the 2008 version.

Kinshu Domei Double IPA – 80 IBUs and 8% ABV.  

I know I’ll be there.