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I, PA: A Drinkers Guide to India Pale Ale

January 11, 2013
Something new here, 2012 for me in alcohol terms at least, would be the year of the IPA or India Pale Ale, I became a fan in mid-March I believe and carried it through to 2013. Previous favorite ales have included German Weißbier and Belgium Trappist ales (see potential follow-up articles, maybe).

I.P, eh?

What is it? It’s India Pale Ale but not the stuff your Granddad’s mate drinks i.e. Greene King – which I’ve never tried. Traditionally made hoppier for export to India and hence they developed the distinctive taste.  The old-fashioned English IPAs tend to be weaker than the American-craft counterparts.  Which have seen a resurgence in the American micro-brewery revolution of the last 20 years. The American style is a development of the original recipe from the 1800’s. When the craft beer movement kicked up proper after years of prohibition, the first beer to reach infamy would be the tepid pilsners such as Budweiser. Brewers had little to draw on to begin with apart from historical ales of England and lagers from Germany and alike. Gradually as Americans started experimenting with homegrown ingredients they developed something which no longer fitted the original definition, thus American craft beer as we now know it was created.

Why P.A?

India Pale Ale was originally created in the first place for successful, delicious transport to the colonies of India from England, the problem facing the British was that beer did not keep well on long ocean voyages and would often arrive flat, spoilt or sour. The beers lacked shelf life furthermore the darker ales such as Porter that were fashionable in London at the time weren’t, it is said, as popular in India.  Step forward George Hodgson, brewer at the Bow Brewery in East London,  who deduced that more hops and a higher alcohol content  would protect beer from the souring associated with trans-Oceanic travel. Hodson was resoundingly vindicated in assertion and the East India Pale Ale was born.

My P.A

Top five American style IPA’s for your consideration, in no particular order, are as follows:

  1. Brooklyn East India Pale Ale – 6.9% (New York) – The Brooklyn take on the IPA is an excellent one, more rounded and reminiscent of their lager than the other IPA’s but a very drinkable effort.
  2. Goose Island IPA – 5.9% – (Chicago) The premier IPA as far as I’m concerned down in part to its ubiquity but also its versatile drinkability (see food below) there may be better IPA’s on the market but this is resolutely my favorite. I would also urge fans of this to try the excellent Goose Island Honkers Ale.
  3. Brew Dog Punk IPA – 5.6%  (Scotland) The only non-American entrant in to the top five and a noble effort however it taste slightly watered down in comparison with its American counterparts, a decent beer but probably the least of the set.
  4. Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA – 7.0 % (California) An excellent brew, it’s hard to find (you can get it here) but definitely worth as far taste goes it ranks only behind Goose Island and if it were more readily available on this side of the Atlantic it’d no doubt be as popular.
  5. Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA – 7.2 % (California)  Sierra Nevada also specialize in the Traditional Pale Ale but this has the edge, it weighs in at an impressive (for non-Belgian Trappist standards at least) 7.2% but in fact what you can taste is a very bitter, pine-like and citrusy ale. It’s better than it sounds but incredibly distinctive and not one you’d drink in great numbers.

Try P.A

I accidentally combined a few Goose Islands with blue cheese over Christmas and it was a taste sensation and one that I will soon be repeating. Other recommendations are available on the Goose Island website.  I am also looking forward to sampling the La Chouffe attempt at an IPA, if you haven’t tried their excellent blonde beers you should.

Happy Drinkin’…….

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