August 7th is international IPA day and to celebrate last night we had a little get together with our friend Allan to sample a few and pick our favourites. I have mentioned IPA’s before in a few other posts but here is a recap of a few notes about the style. It originated when beer was being transported by sea from Britain to India during the times of British colonization. In order to survive the long voyage the beer was strongly hopped. Hops, as well as the slightly higher alcohol content, act as natural preservatives and would ensure that the beer would make it to its final destination. The average IBU‘s (bitterness units) for an IPA can be anywhere for 40-120, the highest numbers are going to be double IPAs or imperial IPAs (containing higher alcohol content). The ABV (alcohol by volume) can range anywhere from 5-7.5% for standard IPAs and anything above that for double or imperial IPAs. Typically IPA’s will be a rich copper or amber colour, on the nose they will be perfumed with fruity, alcohol and strong hop characteristics (citric and grapefruit notes depending on the hops used). They stand up well to rich and hearty entrées, strong cheeses and spicy dishes. Here is a fun cheat sheet to help you to describe and discern the flavours you can taste coming from the different hop varieties in your beers:
What We Tasted :
I picked up some local Ontario IPAs and Allan, our guest, graciously brought over a fresh poured growler from the newly minted Stone City Brewing, which just opened up in Kingston, ON. We had spicy grilled sausage, some jalapeño gouda and crackers to help balance the beers. The strength of an IPA pairs well with the fatty sausage and the spicy cheese because it has the capability to remove the oils left behind by the food on your tongue and in your mouth and is also able to stand up to spice. Here are the beers we had, in the order that we had them:
Dead Elephant India Pale Ale (LCBO# 272104) by Railway City Brewing, St. Thomas, ON
Colour: Golden amber.
Smell: A very subtle nose.
Taste: Honey, more subdued hops and bitterness. Smooth finish, very easy drinking.
Fisheye IPA (LCBO# 336990) by Kensington Brewing Company, Toronto, ON
Colour: Dark amber and cloudy.
Smell: Floral, parfume.
Taste: Sharp and bitter in the front, with a clean finish. Lots of grapefruit citrus in the front.
Hopbot IPA (LCBO# 383240) by Hop City Brewing Co., Brampton, ON
Colour: Amber, copper.
Smell: Citrus, orange juice and mint. *We all noted that Hopbot had the best smell of the four.
Taste: Slow and subtle start that builds into a big and heavy finish. Leaves your mouth smacking and saliva production kicking into full gear. Heavy mouth feel, almost oily/pine.
Watchtower Conspiracy Imperial IPA (not available at LCBO) by Stone City Brewing, Kingston, ON
Colour: Deep, dark amber.
Smell: Both floral and sour occurring at the same time.
Taste: Grapefruit, pine, sour and tart. A slow and subtle start for an imperial, with a harsher, rock your socks finish. Very unassuming and easy drinking for such a high percentage beer.
My pick for best IPA of the night was Dead Elephant. I have an appreciation for the style, but don’t always gravitate to it. I was pleasantly surprised by all four though and I can say I am developing a greater appreciation for the style. This also ended up being Tyson’s fav as well. We both noted that this IPA walked the line between hoppy interest and drinkability. You could tuck a few of these away, where as some of the more intense counter parts are a one pint kind of brew.
Allan’s favourite of the night ended up being the Hopbot because of the nose and the building capabilities of the beer, starting out subtle and finishing strong.
Let me know what IPA’s you were celebrating IPA day with in a comment below and vote for your favourite of the four beers we tasted! Cheers!