Saturday, 30 July 2011 11:53

International IPA Day

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IPA. Its very mention can inspire visions of acres of hop fields.  August 4th marks the first annual International IPA day. On Thursday August 4th, craft beer drinkers across the globe will raise a pint in a collective toast to one of craft beer’s most beloved styles: the India Pale Ale.

In an effort to collectively unite and promote craft beer, this “grassroots” movement was started by a handful of bloggers here, in America. But you may be surprised to hear that #IPADay was actually a direct inspiration from the wine industry.  The social savvy community has been celebrating by creating days dedicated to varietals, such as #Chardonnay Day.  But why IPA?  This iconic beer style is the most entered category in the Great American Beer Festival and World Beer Cup.  The stories surrounding the creation and rise of the IPA are legendary.

You likely already know that IPA’s are hoppy.  What is a hop and why should we care?

This is why, to name just a few: Stone IPA, Deschutes Brewery Inversion IPA, Dogfish Head 60 or 90 minute IPA, Troeg’s Nugget Nectar, Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA, Green Flash Imperial IPA, Avery Maharaja, Victory Hop Devil IPA and Boulder Beer Company’s Hazed & Infused Dry-Hopped Ale.  

Hops, with their brash attitude, inspire legend. Hops contain two types of acid known as alpha and beta acids, which both act as natural preserving agents by killing or hindering the growth of various bacteria. Legend is that British brewers took advantage of this by brewing intensely-hopped beers (which eventually became known as India Pale Ale, or IPA) in order to prevent spoilage on their long journey to British colonies in India.  The beers then survived the three-month sea journey to Bombay and Calcutta. Hops become a component of British beer in the 17th Century, and it was another century until hops showed their flower in the states.  So, in relation to the age of beer, hops are still a relatively recent thing.  I’m happy (or should I say, hoppy?) about this particular evolutionary development.

This and similar myths have grown up around the IPA. There are of course some truths to these fantastic stories. One popular story was that it was invented by London brewer George Hodgson in 1785.  While he did have major influence and involvement, there are records of ‘Burton and pale ale’ being drunk in Madras as early as 1717.  For more IPA myth-debunking, see these great articles by Pete Brown: http://allaboutbeer.com/learn-beer/history/2009/11/mythbusting-the-ipa/1 and Martyn Cornell http://www.beerconnoisseur.com/the-origins-of-ipa.


A beer of considerable strength, some IPA’s are almost sadistically packed with hops. There are American and English IPA’s, Double IPA’s, Triple IPA’s, Belgian IPA’s, and now the new Black IPA, one of my personal favorites.

Following are just several noteworthy IPA’s worth raising your glass to on International #IPA Day:

Russian River Pliny the Elder Santa Rosa, 8% ABV – This world class beer is clean, and well-balanced and fairly light-bodied for a Double IPA. Awesome floral and citrus scents are unequivocal. Pine and several tropical notes make their presence known, while the hops remain on the palate viciously.  There's a hint of kaffir lime leaf, dancing on what seems to be a bubblegum backbone. This super-dry beer is quite simply incredible.  

Ballast Point Sculpin IPA San Diego, 7% ABV - Holy $%@!  This is a great beer.  The World Beer Cup thought so too, when it won a gold medal in 2010 in the International Pale Ale category. Pouring a golden-rod color, it imparts huge floral notes, and tastes of huge grapefruit, pine, mango and white grape gives it a beautiful complexity. The hops don’t exactly smack you across the face, but it does a little more than tickly you under the chin, too. The maltiness rolls in like a low tide, with just a hint of fruity yeast.

Southern Tier IPA Lakewood, 7.3% ABV - This brassy amber beer is sharply bitter as it enters, with a nice balance of sweet caramel malts, grapefruit & tangerine hops – reminiscent of Juicy Fruit gum. Yum. Medium to light bodied with excellent carbonation, Southern Tier is definitely quaffable.

Ninkasi Tricerahops Double IPA Eugene, 8.8% ABV - Chances are, this particular breed of herbivorous dinosaur would rather eat a shit load of hops than tuff leaved plants and trees.  This double IPA pours dark amber orange.  The aroma has a nice hop-fruit core, focusing on ruby-red grapefruit, candied lemon, lychee and orange, with a touch of pine, herbal and cracker like malt notes.  Beautiful flavor combinations mask its strength of a whopping 8.8% alc./vol.  Sharp enough to satisfy the masochists, it’s fiercely flavorful. What you will find here is an abundance of hops, and then more hops.  Dry-hopping techniques after the brewing process is completed, giving it a unique and refreshing citrus aroma flavor, which complement the slightly heavy bite.  The malt profile is sweeter than you would think, but is just dark enough to stand up on its own with the superfluity of hops, but not too dark to cloud the delicate balance of flavors.  A modicum of notable cheesiness adds another interesting plane of flavor.  The finish brings on a healthy dose of non-abrasive bitterness, with some sweetness to balance.  Unlike its evolutionary challenged namesake, I have a feeling Tricerahops is a long way from extinction.

So, raise a glass on Thursday.  Hell, raise a glass today. Every day has the possibility to be IPA Day.

What will you be drinking?

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