"An IPA A Day"
By: Chris Parrott
The long journey from England to India by boat was tough on the crew, and especially tough on their cargo. In this case, the cargo was large shipments of English pale ale, sent by the government to it's soldiers overseas, as they colonized India. The time it took to get to the new world, reaked havoc on the beer, leaving it flat and soured when it reached the shores of India. Eventually, brewers realized that the hop plant acted as a preservative, and by adding extra hops they could brew an ale that would make the trip without spoiling. This style of beer became known as India Pale Ale, and at that moment the IPA was born. Today, American craft brewers have taken the original English IPA and created their own bold and vibrant style, calling it American IPA. For those of you who call yourselves craft beer drinkers, IPA's are nothing you haven't tangled with before, but for some beer novices the IPA style can be a bit frightening. Do not fear the hop. Though it may be an acquired taste, hops are found in almost every beer, yes, even light beer. And so, for my inaugural craft beer column, I've decided to shine the spotlight on two American IPAs, both brewed in California.
If you haven't come in contact with any Greenflash Brewing Company beers, I strongly suggest you keep your eye out for them. Based in San Diego, Greenflash brews a variety of craft beers, ranging from double stout to farmhouse saison, but their flagship ale is called West Coast IPA. Weighing in at 7.3% ABV (alcohol by volume), this IPA is a testament to hoppiness. Brewers use five different hop varieties to attain hints of grapefruit, citrus and pine. Upon first sip, your nose is immediately met with a strong floral aroma, followed by a tart bitterness that quickly balances on your tongue. After inspecting the bottle, I find that this beer is ranked at 95 IBUs, which stands for International Bittering Units and is a measurement of how bitter a beer is. The more IBUs, the more hoppy a beer tastes. Yet, this isn't the type of bitterness that makes your face shrivel up. This is a fresh, crisp bitterness that most craft beer drinkers love. If you're into pairing your beer with your meals, West Coast IPA would go great with a spicey Indian dish or a Mexican inspired meal.
The second IPA that's worth checking out, is Sonoma County's, Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA. This beer is a bit hard to find in our neck of the woods, but not impossible. At 7.0% ABV, Racer 5 is comparable to the West Coast IPA, however, at 75 IBU's, the hop character is bit more subdued, making for a mellow, less flashy, golden IPA. The beer pours a bit cloudy, with a strong white head. The taste lingers on your tongue just long enough, showing off it's four hop varieties, and is sure to keep any hop-head satisfied. If you take a liking to Bear Republic, they also brew a Hop Rod Rye, which is a brassier IPA with a spicey rye character. As I finish my last sip, I'd like to tip my cap to the English brewers who discovered that hops could go the distance, and to the American brewers who have preserved the tradition of the ever versatile IPA. Slainte!