Tasting the Bell’s Two Hearted Ale

October 5, 2010

The American India Pale Ale, or American-Style India Pale Ale has become one of the most popular, widespread, and brewed beers in North America. The rich pale malt backbone found in the depths of an aromatically bitter and hop-crisp beer has enchanted people all across the continent. There is only one problem with this – there are probably close to 1,800 breweries in NA, and there are probably about 2,000 different Pale Ales! The Pale Ale craze is becoming a bit overwhelming; whether it is an IPA, Pale Ale, American version or a hybrid, there are just too many pale ales out there.

So what’s a beer lover to do!? Well, obviously taste them all and find your favorites. Because that may take to long, I’m going to start you off in the right direction with one of the most well rounded and best constructed American IPA’s on the planet. The Bell’s Two Hearted Ale. Too many pales are either one sided, to aggressively hopped, not hopped enough, or are poorly built. The Two Hearted Ale is at the top of my list because it hits all the right notes in perfect harmony. It doesn’t get carried away with this or that, it is just plain good. Read the rest of this entry »

Tasting the Alpine Beer Company’s Nelson

September 17, 2010

I don’t know about you, but I love San Diego. Not just for Ron Burgundy, but for its amazing breweries! There is a slew of big name craft brewers whose beers are flooding the U.S. market right now, but recently I got the chance to enjoy a smaller, more local brewery’s beer – the brewery is Alpine Beer Company – and the beer was Nelson. Yes, Nelson is a man, and a beer. A Rye India Pale Ale to be precise.

The name is representative of the hop variety primarily used in this brew; from New Zealand comes a citrusy and spicy hop called Nelson Sauvin. It is used in both the brewing and dry hopping for this beer, as well rye malt is used to add a smooth, uniquely malty character to the beer. I really had no clue what to expect; I had never heard of Alpine, nor was there much detail of the beer on the bottle. But I knew that this was a west coast IPA at 7% abv with 60 IBUs. How bad can it possibly be? Or better yet, how good could this be? Read the rest of this entry »

Tasting the Church-Key Black IPA

August 16, 2010

Do you know where Campbellford is? Chances are that unless you live in that area of rural Ontario, you don’t. But you may want to visit. Its the home of the Church-Key Brewery, one of Ontario’s most innovative craft breweries, but also one of the lesser known ones. Their beers rarely make it into the LCBO, and pub distribution is relatively limited. Their regular lineup of beers is great, but its their seasonal beers that I love. The first Church-Key I ever had must have been the Holy Smoke, a peat-smoked scotch ale, and it is still among my favorites.

This though is one of Ontario’s first attempts at the Black IPA, or Cascadian Dark Ale – however you want to classify it. And really, I couldn’t be happier with it. Not only is this a great example of a Black IPA from Canada, but I think it better suits the style than most of the American versions I have had! The Black IPA is supposed to be exactly that, a dark, roasty IPA. So it should still have hoppy fresh flavors, but exhibit roast, toast, dark malt and nut or cocoa flavors. Most of the American black IPAs are a Black American Pale Ales – very hop focused, black, but medium to soft on the roast, with almost no creamy nut flavors. This though strikes a better balance in my mind, and should set the precedent for the style. Read the rest of this entry »

Sam is Keeping Dogfish Head On Point! This 120 was Not Up to Par.

August 3, 2010

Myself and many other beer aficionados, as well as Dogfish Head lovers have been waiting anxiously for the next release of one of Dogfish’s most extreme beers, the 120 Minute IPA. The 12o is an extension of the 60 and 90 Minute IPA which have both received worldwide acclaim. The 120 though is a different beast. This beer is boiled for 120 minutes rather than the typical 60, is aged for over 2 months, is 18% abv with 120 IBUs, and sells out faster than any other Dogfish beer.

Today Sam Calagione, DogFish Head’s founder and BrewMaster, announced on the Dogfish Blog (BlogFish) that him, and the other quality control experts at Dogfish were not perfectly satisfied with how this batch turned out, so they will not be selling it to the public. Read the rest of this entry »

Tasting the Southern Tier 2XIPA

August 2, 2010

From upstate New York comes the Southern Tier 2XIPA; their Double IPA. Southern Tier was one of the breweries whose beers showed me that real flavor can exist in beer. Their line of Imperial Stouts, the Blackwater Series, has an astonishing range of flavors from Creme Brulee to Chocolate. But most impressively is that their core lineup of beers fit the styles so perfectly with magnificent flavors and character.

Southern Tier’s Standard IPA has been available at the LCBO for several years now, and as such has been one of my go-to IPAs. This though is their Double IPA, the 2XIPA. It is up to 8.2% abv from 6.5, has richer and more soothing flavors, but is not aggressively more bitter. Its a masterful combination of sweet juicy malts and wide round fresh hop bitterness. The beer shows great earthy character and a smooth gentle mouthfeel. Everything about it is right, from the bite to the quench – it all works. Read the rest of this entry »

Tasting the Beaus Screaming Beaver Oak Aged Angry IPA

July 28, 2010

A month or so ago the guys at Beau’s were kind enough to send me a bottle of their brand new Vrienden, as well as their Screaming Beaver Oak Aged Angry IPA. The Screaming Beaver is the third installment in Beau’s Wild Oats series of beers; all one off organic beers brewed with no regard for convention, and plenty of imagination. This one is an Oak Aged Double IPA – a beefed up version of their spring seasonal, the Beaver River I.P.Eh.

The Screaming beaver was dry hopped and oak aged, comes in at 8% abv, 60 IBUs, and when available was in a 750ml ceramic bottle. This version is no longer around, but I expect another Double IPA will find its way into Beau’s experimental lineup of beers at some point. Double IPA’s, or any hop-focused beers are really picking up steam right now, and in Canada we are just starting to catch up to the hoppy beer revolution that was spread throughout the United States. Lets see how Ontario will fair.

Read the rest of this entry »

Quick Tastes of the Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA

July 26, 2010

The Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA is a staple beer for me. Its a beer that I can look to when I need to be refreshed, satisfied, entertained, perplexed, relaxed, or when I just need a good beer. Cause it’s always good – thats why its a staple for me. I am always in awe of how Dogfish is able to achieve such a perfect harmony and balance of rich malty flavors and pungent fresh hops. Its just remarkable.

The 90 minute IPA is the 60 Minute IPA‘s bigger brother, both utilizing a continuous happing method made famous by Dogfish Head. Rather than the brewer adding 1, 2 or even 3 larger hop additions during the brewing process (in the boil), Dogfish Head adds small amounds of the hops once a minute, every minute, and in the case of the 90 Minute IPA, for 90 minutes! This creates an IPA that is perfectly bitter, amazingly fresh, and potently aromatic all at once in a sublime and seemingly effortless fashion.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tasting the Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA

June 14, 2010

When it comes to crisp, clean, malty refreshment, there are few breweries that have as much experience quenching our palates as does Sierra Nevada. Sierra Nevada set the presence for Pale Ales in America winning its first gold medal back in 1993 at the Great American Beer Festival. But they also have a bigger, richer more potent quencher on the roster; the Torpedo Extra IPA.

This really is a classic American style IPA with significant malt character and that undeniably fresh and citrus west coast hop flavor. The Torpedo comes in at 65 IBUs, almost double the Pale Ale’s 37 – so you should expect a good bitter punch from this beer, but still nothing crazy. Like all their beers, the Torpedo utilizes only whole cone hops; no pellets and no extracts. Sierra Nevada prides themselves on this, and thus they spent years developing the recipe for this IPA before it was finally released in early 2009 as a year round offering. Read the rest of this entry »

Tasting the Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale

June 13, 2010

Theres no question about it, I love the beers that comes out from the Stone Brewery in Escondido California, and I love their passion and unique enthusiasm for amazing beer. Among their most unique is the Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale, which also happens to be one of the coolest beers I’ve yet to come by. It is a black India Pale Ale.

Your typical IPA is golden yellow to amber in color, transparent to hazy and opaque, with crisp pale malts and a fresh bite of citrus, earthy or piney hops.  This Sublimely Self-Righteous Black IPA is pitch black! Literally, it is completely black letting not an ounce of light through it. Somehow the maniacs at Stone have crafted an IPA that still exemplifies so many IPA characteristics in an astounding fashion, yet is dark as night and creamy as sin.

This is one of the many reasons why I adore this brewery. They refuse to limit themselves to what is seemingly the standard and open their minds to a new world of flavor, color, and aroma combinations. Read the rest of this entry »

Wine’s Take on the Power of The IPA

May 28, 2010

Forever wine and beer aficionados have debated over beverage supremacy until no end. But there really isn’t going to be one “winner” in this sense. Both wine and beer provide the drinker with their own unique characteristics and drinking experience.

On Wednesday, Wine Enthusiast Magazine published an article online entitled “Top Beers of May 2010”. It is actually a list of their top 10 India Pale Ales for May, aimed at the idea that it is now hot outside, and we all need something to quench out palates. And very astutely, the author Lauren Buzzeo commends the power of the hop, and its bittering agent lupulin for providing exactly that sensation.

It is a solid top 10 list composed only of American style IPAs, all worth trying.

Tasting the Weyerbacher Double Simcoe IPA

May 11, 2010

How much to you love hops? Hops are the bittering agents in beer and are responsible for a wide range of weak to intense aromatic properties in beer. In the past decade hops have taken the beer world by storm and a huge hophead culture has developed all across the globe, but most predominantly in the United States.

So many people are seeking out massively hopped beers these days that U.S. breweries from coast to coast are producing new beers designed to emphasize the natural aromatic flavor characteristics of hops. The American Pale Ale almost by definition is now a richly hopy amber pale ale. Beyond that, beers like Double and Imperial IPAs are becoming more and more popular every day.

Double IPAs like the Weyerbacher Double Simcoe IPA have made their way on to the regularly available list for most breweries and pubs. These beers could certainly be considered an acquired taste, they are generally pretty intense, but those who like them like them a lot! Read the rest of this entry »

Tasting the 2009 Innis & Gunn IPA

May 4, 2010

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. Read the rest of this entry »

Tasting the Lagunitas Maximus IPA

April 15, 2010

Lagunitas was one of the first breweries which introduced me to true India Pale Ales with their standard IPA. The Maximus IPA is a beefed up version with more hops, more body, it is richer, stronger and more bitter at 70 IBUs (International Bitter Units).

The Maximus was originally released for the summer to help quench the heat away from your palate and sooth that need for big fresh hops. Lagunitas even warns that this beer will take the enamel off your teeth! It is 7.5% abv (their regular IPA is 5.7) so relatively strong, but I don’t think its going to show up on anyone’s dental claim. All I can comment on are the delicious palate quenching effects that I have felt to far.

It comes in with huge hops and crisp bitter mouthfeel, but a perfect balance of rich malts floral aromas. Read the rest of this entry »

Tasting the Rogue XS Imperial IPA

April 12, 2010

It comes in one of the most striking beer bottles available, and also one of my favorites. A tall, heavy, matte black clay bottle with a swing cap houses the Rogue XS Imperial India Pale Ale. Unfortunately Rogue is leaving this bottle for a smaller glass version, but I will always remember the big clunky clay bottles.

Regardless of what it is served in, this Imperial IPA is one of the best I have ever had. Its full richness of flavors and aromas are exactly what I look for in a strong IPA. India Pale Ales have been copied and modified by so many breweries over the years that the style really has become a mirage of peoples preferences of the style. Even the Imperial versions (a stronger and more robust IPA) are widening in scope and challenging the boundaries of the style. And I absolutely love this type of creativity!

As much as I do appreciate and enjoy creativity, I love to see the authentic examples shinning in brilliant perfection; that is exactly what the Rogue XS IPA does. Read the rest of this entry »

Tasting the Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA

April 5, 2010

Do you remember the Dogfish Head 60 minute IPA? All that robust and citrus hop character and the immensely crisp and refreshing bite? Well, the 60 minute was actually not the first continually hopped IPA that Dogfish Head made – before the 60 came the 90 Minute IPA; an Imperial IPA which was first brewed at the Dogfish Head Brewpub, and is now the Best Selling Imperial IPA in North America, and potentially the world.

The 90 Minute IPA utilizes continual hopping during a ninety minute boil to create a pungent hop aroma and flavor, rather than an overbearing one. Beyond that it is also dry hopped during conditioning to increase its lively fresh hop character.

Just like the 60 Minute, the 90 is not for everyone. People who claim to not enjoy the bitter bite of hoppy beers would not be impressed by the 90, or the 60 for that matter. But if you are a hop-head, or can appreciate the savory bitter and fresh characteristics of rich hops than this Imperial India Pale Ale is a magnificent treat! Read the rest of this entry »