The IPA is a steadfast backbone of beer in America, and in America more than anywhere else, the hop plant dominates its flavor profile. India Pale Ales from Coast to Coast are consumed by fresh, earthy, citrus and piny hop flavors and aromas creating unique and refreshing beers; and also massively potent ones as well. So if brewers all across America are becoming hop obsessed, why not brew with flowers? They are closely related, and have very similar aromatic characteristics.
Well, they are brewing with flowers! Specifically, Elysian Brewing Company from Seattle WA has created the Avatar Jasmine IPA; an India Pale Ale brewed with dried jasmine flowers. Jasmine flowers are intensely aromatic and are used quite often as an edible flower in cuisines. What a perfect compliment to a floral and aromatic IPA!
The Avatar Jasmine IPA is brewed with four malts, three hops, and the jasmine flowers. No Cascade or other such massively bitter hops were used, so hopefully the flavor of the jasmine will have a chance to shine.
The Avatar comes in 650ml bottles at 6.3% abv, and clearly depicts bright white jasmine flowers on the label. This bottle was served to me at the Beer Bistro in Toronto along with their famous duck fat fried frites. The pour was smooth showing life in both the beer and in the quickly forming white head. A deep and rustic golden orange beer built up in clouds of mist and carbonation eventually building to a lightly transparent, slightly foggy amber orange beer. Lots of gold and yellow was streaking through the beer giving way to densely carbonated off white one inch head.
The nose was gentle and floral with obvious notes of lemon zest, floral and earthy hop aromas, soft pale malts, and the gentle soothing whiff of sweet flowers. It was very elegant and relaxing. No overpowering citrus or piny hop flavors burst out; just fresh fields and warm breezes.
Without hesitation I went right in for a taste and the Avatar rewarded me with smooth and creamy pale malt sweetness and the immediate balance of gentle floral hops. The sweetness from the malt comes in with a very direct path to your tongue while subtle hop flavors play along the sides and into your cheeks. It carries an earthy tea-like character the whole way but finished distinctly with a lightly sweet flowery flavor.
The beer really is gentle and soothing on the palate – it caressed my mouth and soothed with light bitterness and creamy IPA flavors. Nothing too potent though as mentioned; it is soft with a wide range of gentle flavors. You can feel light citrus and grassy hops play off the lightly caramel flavored malts and a typical range of pale ale sweet bitterness.
The finish was soft and gentle leaving me pleasantly satisfied, but not superbly quenched for refreshed. There is bitter and there is malt, but it is gentle – which I did enjoy. In an effort to soften the beer, allowing the jasmine to flourish with soft and sweet floral notes, the normally crisp snap at the end of an IPA is missing. This really isn’t an issue though, it was a very relaxing beer to enjoy. Any tartness or heavy hop bitterness would have washed out the elegance and made it just another IPA.
It does show a lot of flavor, but they are all gently hidden and akin to show themselves. Open a bottle and invite your senses to play; they will have a wonderful time.