Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Hooray for IPA's!

Beer: India Pale Ale

Brewery: Southern Tier (Lakewood, NY)
Type: India pale ale (IPA)
ABV: 6.5%

IPA's are one of my favorite styles of beer: they're robust, flavorful, spicy and memorable. Stored for long periods of time, IPA's are typically stronger and hoppier than other pale ales, which led to their immense popularity among the British Raj, as their strength and bitterness made the beer more palatable after its months-long sea journey to the Indian subcontinent. The style is continued today by a few British breweries, but the real giants of the IPA name are the Americans, particularly those on the West Coast, who have taken to the well-hopped brew with gusto. Due to their reliance on rigorous hopping, IPA's usually have a citrussy, or fruity quality to them that coincides with a potent bitterness. British IPA's are usually less bitter than American ones, while West Coast IPA's are usually more citrussy than East Coast ones, but these are just generalizations. There's a great deal of variety in the IPA world, and that makes them exciting. However, there is one important thing to remember about IPAs, and that is as follows:
Alexander Keith's is not an IPA. Period. It is a bland, uninspired macro-lager brew that bears little to no resemblance to the IPA style. Calling Alexander Keith's an IPA is like calling Leighton Meester a singer.

Moving on...

Southern Tier IPA pours a lighter amber colour, leaving about a half inch head. It dissipates quickly, but leaves a thin layer that just won't go away. Lots of lacing too. Looking good so far!

The smell certainly classes this one in with the eastern IPA family. Aside from astringent hops, I also get a bit of maltiness coupled with fruit - either peach or apricot. Pretty inviting aroma.

The taste is excellent: the hops aren't too powerful (some American IPA's are ridiculously hoppy to the point of insanity: Dog Fish Head's 120 Minute IPA is like drinking pure, unadulterated bitterness), and so the bitterness is offset by a lovely taste of peaches. Actually, the flavour I get, strange as it sounds, is a peach variety of those little 5 for a dollar candy cane sticks you can pick up in souvenir shops. Bizarre, I know, but taste and smell are linked to memory, and that's the one that stands out. A nice spiciness to the finish; the beer leaves on a bitter note, but it doesn't linger unnecessarily.

Mouthfeel is a bit thin, which is something I've noticed with Southern Tier in general. Must be their thing; I'm not sure. Carbonation is about right for an IPA of this variety.

A nice little brew from Southern Tier, and a good introduction to the American IPA style. I've seen this one in the LCBO a few times, so if you happen across a bottle, I encourage you to pick one out. It's not nearly as hoppy or bitter as some of the other American IPAs out there, but this brew is flavorful enough to carry its weight. (Grade: A)

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