Valentine’s Day for the Beer Lover

Posted on February 11th, 2010

Although traditional gifts like chocolate and flowers usually dominate the gift giving on Valentine’s Day, there are plenty of creative ways you can incorporate beer into your gifts for the beer lover in your life.

Chocolate ales – A box of chocolates are the gift probably most closely associated with V Day. A great companion to chocolate candy is of course chocolate ale. There are lots of great chocolate flavored beers out there. Young’s Double Chocolate Stout is a personal favorite. It’s brewed to be velvety smooth and silky with a light but rich dose of chocolate taste. Another great one to try by an American brewer is Rogue’s Chocolate stout. While not nearly as smooth in taste as Young’s, it has the chocolate aromas and flavors to make this one a must try

Floral beers – Flowers are another great gift on February 14th. Roses and tulips look and smell terrific, especially in this cold time of year. Fortunately there are plenty of beers with distinctly floral aromas  courtesy of their hops that will go along great with any bunch of your favorite flowers. Most pale ales and IPAs will have floral notes to them, but for my money no ale captures that fresh floral hop aroma better than Brooklyn Brewery’s East India Pale Ale. The best part is that this beer tastes just as good as it smells. Lagunitas IPA and its stronger cousin Lagunitas Maximus Double IPA also have a distinctly floral aroma to them thanks to their massive amounts of Cascade hops.

AleSmith’s My Bloody Valentine – If the whole Valentine’s Day thing isn’t your thing, perhaps this beer is more your speed. It’s a delicious ale with a distinct blood red color and an alcohol percentage of 6.66% ABV. After a few of these you won’t care if it’s Valentine’s Day or Arbor Day. Be sure to drink with caution.

What do you get for the beer loving Valentine in your life? Hit us up in the comments or on twitter to let us know you thoughts.

Style Profile: The India Pale Ale (IPA)

Posted on July 20th, 2009

In the first of our Style Profile series we’re going to look briefly at the India Pale Ale or IPA. This is a classic style that anyone who’s interested in beer should try out, even if it’s not for everyone. The highlight of any IPA are the hops, the small, green plants which give beer much of its spice and flavor. Although the yeast, water and grains used in an IPA are important as they are in any beer, these other ingredients really take a back seat to showcasing the beer’s hop flavor.

The spicy flavor of hops isn’t the only benefit they provide beer. Hops are also a natural preservative, a quality which lead directly to the creation of the IPA style. During Great Britain’s occupation of India in the 19th century beer would be shipped from England all the way to India for British soldiers stationed there. To ensure the beer survived the long and perilous sea voyage brewers loaded the beers with extra hops, resulting in the hoppy taste that was a hit in India as much as it was at home in the UK and a style was born.

Hops are grown in many regions throughout the world and come in dozens of different varieties which fluctuate in their bitterness, flavor and aroma. Regardless of which hops an IPA features, it can be counted on to feature the spicy bitterness which are a hallmark of the style. Many hops grown in England such as Kent Goldings have a mellow, spicy quality to them, which is reflected in the pale ales of England such as Samuel Smith’s India Ale.

On the West Coast, where most American hops are grown, Cascade is by far the most dominant variety; it’s a style famous for its strong floral and citrus-like qualities. West Coast Brewers, such as Stone, Rogue and Sierra Nevada have experimented with the these hops creating a unique take on the IPA tradition that’s American through and through- the Double or Imperial India Pale Ale.

In craft beer the terms ‘double’ or ‘imperial’ generally refer to a extra strong version of a more traditional (and timid) style. ‘Double’ simply denotes twice as much of something (such as hops) as been used, while ‘imperial’ refers to the Imperial Russian Stout, a particularly strong stout brewed for Catherine the Great (but that’s for another style profile.)

As you might guess, the Double India Pale Ale is a much stronger version of the IPA, both in terms of hops and alcohol (typically ranging around 8-9% alc./volume while a standard IPA is just 5-6%) Rather than simply being a more intensified version of the IPA the DIPA takes on unique qualities all its own.

Serving Suggestions:

Glass: IPAs do well in your standard pint glass, while I would recommend a snifter for DIPAs to take advantage of the intense hop aromas.

Food Pairings: The spicy flavors of IPAs and DIPAs pair great with spicy cuisines such as Cajun, Mexican and Indian. Alternatively, a the sharp hop flavors can provide a nice counterpoint to more savory flavors such as barbecue chicken or pork.