Beer, There, and Everywhere #3: The West Coast

Posted on May 26th, 2011

The second leg of my beer journey took me to the West Coast, visiting San Diego, Los Angeles, and the San Francisco area (Seattle and Portland had to be saved for a separate trip).  But as far as California is concerned, the craft beer culture is thriving and the level of innovation and experimentation is high.  It seems to be the trend in the West; in a culture of hop-heads and extremists, crazy big beers reign the tap lists.

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Beer of the Week: Stone Cali-Belgique IPA

Posted on March 1st, 2011

 

About The Beer: This brew from the famed Stone Brewery takes their classic IPA and mixes it up by brewing it with Belgian yeast rather than the typical American strain. The result is a hybrid IPA that draws in equal parts of old Belgian tradition and new American experimentation.

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Try These Five Barrel-Aged Beers

Posted on October 27th, 2009

Barrel-Aged Beer

Barrel-aging is nothing new in the world of wine and liquor; aging beer in barrels, however, is a relatively new practice that’s gaining in popularity. Today, we’re going to take a look at how it works and some barrel-aged beers that everyone should try.

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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.