Bring the Bitterness

Today’s update is going to be about my favorite style of beer, India Pale Ale. Not just the style but the overwhelming and often off-putting bitterness that comes from the copious amount of hops used in the production of the style. I’d also like to make a foray into creating an IPA gateway where newer beer drinkers can be introduced to the style gently to gain an appreciation for it.

Red ChairBitterness, sweet bitterness? In North America ‘bitter’ is not a celebrated quality in food, typically, certainly not as celebrated as ‘sweet’ or ‘salty’. Children are not often encouraged to enjoy something in the bitter range and I think this needs to change. I believe that extreme ends of flavour offer something to the palate that nothing else can; depth. Bitterness often has a long and lingering effect and it’s this effect that adds excitement and character to food and beverages. We have to learn how to taste beyond any ‘undesirable’ aspect in order to gain an appreciation for something that is bitter.

Espresso is a relatively popular beverage that also has bitterness as its base flavour quality. Well prepared espresso can bring a multitude of flavours past what most people would believe; fruity, citrus, floral, musty, berries, chocolate and well into the sweet side of things. Much like espresso IPAs have a bitter base flavour that lingers on the tongue well after the beer is swallowed. IPAs require the drinker to look past the initial bitter nose and into the backing malts to taste what is being offered. And a well done IPA is offering balance. What do I mean by balance? Well brewers know that their hops have a certain character and they ensure their malts highlight that character; Mosiac hops are known for their intense fruity and pineapple like character, SauvinNelson Sauvin has a grape like quality and renders a very juicy profile, while Ahtanum hops tend to be very forward and aggressive with the denser citrus and pine like flavours. The drinker has to know what to look for to taste these flavours by preparing your mind you prepare your palate. It’s good to get advice from a more experienced enthusiast to point you in the right direction so that your tongue is queued to taste the description. It’s not often that you will be able to describe a certain flavour without some assistance. Recently Mikkeller and several other brewers have started releasing single hop IPA series on the same malts. These offerings are great to taste what the different hops bring to the table without having to worry about differences in malts character.

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Here is my attempt at trying to create a list of most drinkable to least drinkable IPA. Most of these should be available at most stores in Alberta and for sure at Sherbrooke Liquor. I really hope to generate some discussion with this but maybe when I get a larger group of followers. I’ve done it mostly in order for my tastes and followed the “heat” scale used for the world’s most popular condiment, SALSA!!! Happy Friday everyone.

MILD

  • Tree Brewing, Cutthroat – Mild and Smooth
  • Phillips, ISA – Brighter and easy drinking
  • Deschuttes, Red Chair – Very balanced and sweet
  • Red Racer, Pale Ale – Balanced, grapefruit more malts

MEDIUM

  • Tree Brewing, Hop Head – Piney and Citrusy
  • Phillips, Hop Circle – Hop forward with a non overwhelming aftertaste
  • Red Racer, IPA – Bright, citrusy, piney but milder
  • Lagunitas, IPA – Citrus, Grapefruit and fuller body
  • Lagunitas, Sucks – Think orange crush with a more lingering after taste(also one very sought after)

HOT

  • Tree Brewing, Double IPA – Floral with grapefruit on the finish
  • Lagunitas, Maximus – Big heavy bodied IPA little backing malts
  • Phillips, Amnesiac – Tannins, grapefruit peel typical west coast
  • Central City, Imperial IPA – Loads of hops and good backing darker malts
  • Lagunitas, Hop Stoopid – Grapefruit!(very good consistency as it’s made with hop extracts)
  • HUB Organic, Ace of Spades – Dark, high ABV and bitter for the sake of bitter

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