One day in 2004 Innis & Gunn changed my life when I stepped into a bar and order a Scottish pale ale aged in whisky barrels. Then in 2006 Innis & Gunn teased me with a limited edition India Pale Ale which at the time may have been the best beer I had ever had. I say teased because it was only available for a short period of time, then, gone forever. Or so it seemed. Three years later during the Christmas of 2009 Innis & Gunn brought to the LCBO a gift pack with three beers and a glass. The pack contained the Original, Rum Cask, and yes, the IPA.
With the opportunity to score some Innis IPAs again I grabbed six gift packs and cherished the IPAs that were now back in my possession. I still have a few friends who hold the IPA as the best Innis & Gunn, and some who claim it to be the best beer that they have ever had. I still debate the the Triple Matured is my favorite Innis & Gunn, and also the Rum cask after being left to age for a few months has a beautiful bouquet of flavors.
In either case, I love the IPA, and this weekend I polished of the very last one in my collection; a proud but also sad moment.
But we cannot focus on the sorrows of finishing the last of the IPAs, I would much rather resonate on the beauty and full character of the beer which made me love it so much in the first place. The first IPA was released as a special edition and came in a handsome golden brown box barring a more original style logo. Without a question is was an amazing example of what Innis & Gunn can do. It was created to mimic history as much as possible, and thus hops were added directly to the oak casks in which the beer was aged.
This did create an all new Innis & Gunn with the same smooth caramel and rich butterscotch character as the original, but now with a crisp and lightly zesty hop bite. This new Innis was distinctly refreshing and a welcome addition to the Innis & Gunn family. So how would the new 2009 IPA do?
I cracked open this IPA at about 8C (45F) and poured it into a proper Innis & Gunn glass. It poured smooth and softly built an airy white one inch head which faded slowly to a film on the surface of the beer. The beer glowed at me with orange and amber gold, and deep brownish red tones fully embedded into the body of the beer. It is very close to the original, but hazy and lightly opaque with more yellow and orange than mahogany and gold.
The nose was a crisper and herbal version of the original Innis. Light caramel comes through again with faint oak, vanilla, and soft berries. This time though, with buttery sweetness comes a zesty earthy hop character, new to the Innis & Gunn. It has now a refreshing aroma to it, more quenching to the nose but I must say, less appetizing.
A mouthful of this ripe IPA does open a huge flow of flavors and a newly quenching characteristic to an already fantastic beer. First warm oaky caramel glides over your tongue with pale malt sweetness and soft biscuits. Lighter less melty butterscotch flows in across the cheeks and still vanilla and malt sweetness show their presence. But here is now a new sensation – the malts are slightly lighter and less sticky; a smooth undertone of hop bitter is here balancing the sweet gooey flavors of the Innis & Gunn.
The original was so appetizing because it has these great luscious caramelized flavors and almost no bitterness to it. This IPA though is mouthwatering and supremely quenching new new flavors of earthy hops and zesty bitter notes. It quenches and satisfies like the original can’t, leaving you open for a huge range of foods.
The finish is crisp and clean leaving you with light vanilla and lemon zest. Again, a brand new sensation for the Innis & Gunn, and a very welcome one. I still don’t think that this is the best Innis ever. It is really delicious, and I do wish it was regularly available, however to me the hops remove some of the dense richness of the beer that I fell in love with. I love the original for the deep soft and sensual flavors – if I really want refreshing, I’ll grab an American IPA of sorts like the Southern Tier IPA.
In any case, I severely enjoyed my last IPA (for now), and something tells me that it will be back in Canada eventually.