Tag Archives: IPA

10 Damn-Near-Perfect IPAs All Hopeless Hop Heads Should Try at Least Once

Cascade Hops IPA

I love India Pale Ales. All kinds of ’em. And I’m proud of my obsession with hops and hoppy beers. In fact, I make it a point to try just about every IPA I can get my hands on. The result of this hop quest, besides a thinner wallet and my fair share of hangovers: I know my IPAs.

I appreciate all kinds of hops, and I’ve tried to learn their specific tastes and what sets them apart from other families of Lupus Salictarius—that’s right, fool, I just dropped a Lupus Salictarius on your ass.

While perusing Reddit.com/r/beer the other day, I saw a conversation about the best IPAs. Most of the beers mentioned were solid. (Those fucking Reddit beer nerds know their shit.) But the thread got me thinking about my own personal favorite IPAs. I don’t usually like to think of individual beers as the “best,” because I don’t really think it’s that simple; there’s no “best IPA.”

But here is a list of some of my current favorites. I mostly think of all IPAs as part of the same big (hoppy) family, single, double, whatever; some just have higher ABVs. So you’ll find a wide variety of IPA types in my list. Which IPAs are your favorite and why?

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  1. The Alchemist Heady Topper IPA
  2. Russian River Pliny the Elder IPA (Read more about Pliny)
  3. Ballast Point Sculpin IPA
  4. Alpine and New Belgium Super IPA
  5. Maine Beer Co. Lunch IPA (Check out my Maine Lunch IPA review.)
  6. Dogfish Head 75 Minute IPA
  7. Pretty Things Meadowlark IPA
  8. Bear Republic Racer X IPA
  9. Drake’s Aroma Coma IPA
  10. Ithaca Flower Power IPA

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Image via TheGranarySA.com

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An iPhone Case/Bottle Opener for the True Beer Nerd

Russian River Pliny the Elder iPhone case and bottle opener

One of my favorite IPAs on the planet: Russian River Brewing Co.’s Pliny the Elder. One of the best smartphones on the planet: Apple’s iPhone. (Full disclosure: I’m an Android/BlackBerry guy, but I realize Apple makes great smartphones.)

I came across the Pliny the Elder iPhone case/ bottle opener you see above while visiting Russian River’s website to order one of the company’s goblet glasses.  It costs $25 plus shipping, which is reasonable. Unfortunately the Pliny iPhone case/opener is only available for the iPhone 4/4S—no iPhone 5 model yet, though I’m sure iBottleOpener.com, which makes the case, will update its product line soon.

Man, I wish I had an ice-cold Pliny right now. Oh well, this Maine Beer Co. Lunch IPA will have to do. No themed bottle opener to crack it open with though… 😦

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I Haz Pliny, Motherfuckers

Russian River Pliny the Elder bottles

If you’re a true beer nerd, you know Pliny the Elder. You may not have actually tried it, but you know Pliny.

The double IPA from Sonoma County, California’s Russian River Brewing Company is easily one of the best and most complex IPAs ever made. And it’s extremely difficult to find, especially outside of northern California.

Whenever I’m in the Bay Area, I make it a point to track down Pliny. And I usually find it in the strangest places; it’s never in the beer bars I visit, and in the bars that do normally have it, the keg was just kicked or something. I found today’s bottles in a weird little wing joint that was featured on The Travel Channel’s Man v Food, called SmokeEaters. (My Plinys—yes, I had two, I had to—were bottled less than a month ago, and they were super fresh.) When I was in San Francisco earlier this summer I found Pliny on draft at a sports bar near Union Square, the 4th Street Bar & Grill.

But it really doesn’t matter where you drink it, Pliny the Elder never disappoints.

From Russian River:

“Pliny the Elder, born in 23 AD, was a Roman naturalist, scholar, historian, traveler, officer and writer. Pliny and his contemporaries created the original botanical name for hops, ‘Lupus Salictarius,’ meaning ‘wolf among scrubs.’ Hop vines at that time grew wild among willows, likened to wolves roaming wild in the forest. Pliny the Elder died in 79 AD while saving people during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. He was immortalized by his nephew, Pliny the Younger, who continued his uncle’s legacy by documenting much of what his uncle experienced during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. This beer is an homage to the man who discovered hops and perished while being a humanitarian. “

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Maine Beer Company Lunch IPA (Review)

Maine Beer Company's Lunch IPA

“Do what’s right.”

That’s Maine Beer Company‘s motto. It is printed on all of its bottles. And the company is following its own advice, doing what’s right for the New England craft beer scene by brewing some very special beers, including its Lunch India Pale Ale.

Maine Beer Company says Lunch is “our ‘east coast’ version of a West Coast-style IPA.” And I can say without any doubt that Lunch is one of the best east coast IPAs I’ve ever had, and it can hold its own with some of the best West Coast IPAs, too.

Whenever I drink any of Maine Beer’s ales, I’m struck by just how crisp and clean they are. They’re also always extremely fresh, but that probably has to do with the fact that the company’s beers are also always in high demand in and around Boston, so they never sit on store shelves for very long.

Lunch IPA is probably Maine Beer’s most sought-after ale. It’s extremely difficult to find, and many of the liquor stores I frequent never even put it on their shelves; the shops keep Lunch behind the counter or in their storerooms for local beer nerds like myself who will appreciate it.

I slowly poured my Lunch IPA into a medium-size Maine Beer Company goblet, and it gradually formed a nice, frothy head, which didn’t dissipate much before I finished the beer. The color is orange/beige. It’s extremely flavorful, and you immediately taste citrus, mild pine and, of course, lots of fresh hops. Lunch is brewed with Warrior, Amarillo, Centennial and Simcoe hops.

Lunch IPA comes in a 1 pint, 9 FL. OZ. bottle. It has a 7.0% ABV. I paid $8 for my bottle. Maine Beer Company brews are currently available in Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, New York City, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania.

Put quite simply, I love Lunch IPA. Lunch is so good that I forgive Maine Beer Company for ditching its beautiful paper labels for cheap-looking plastic ones—though I’m still not happy about it; Maine Beer’s old labels were awesome and unique.  Maine Beer Company’s Lunch IPA gets a 9 out of 10 on the Urban Beer Nerd scale. (It has 95/100 score on BeerAdvocate.com based on 266 user ratings.)

Check out the video below for more information about Maine Beer Company.

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Brooklyn Brewery’s The Defender IPA, Official Beer of New York Comic Con

Brooklyn Brewery's The Defender IPA NY Comic Con beer

Next week, Brooklyn Brewery will release The Defender, a hoppy, amber, draft-only IPA it brewed especially for New York Comic Con. The Defender will be officially released at a launch party on Tuesday, September 25 at the Brooklyn Brewery tasting room.

Brooklyn brewmaster Garrett Oliver brewed up The Defender, and the brewery worked with DC Comics designer Milton Glaser, who came up with the beer’s logo, and cartoonist Tony Millionaire, who drew up the superhero you see above.

Unfortunately, the brew will only be available in a handful of bars in Brooklyn and Manhattan, but I guess that makes sense; it was brewed specifically for New York Comic Con after all.

In general, I’m a fan of superhero-themed brews, though I’m not sure why. I’m not really a comic-book kind of guy. I’m particularly partial to Clown Shoes’ Supa Hero IPA.

If you’ll be in Brooklyn next week and want to attend the launch party, you should send an RSVP here.

Here’s the full (super-nerdy) back-story on The Defender superhero, from The Brooklyn Brewery:

“Once, a long time ago, benevolent Beer Gods bestrode the lands of the world, bringing wonderful beer and great happiness to the People. Collaborating joyously among themselves, the Beer Gods defended the pleasures of the table and promulgated the virtues of Flavor, Variety, Deliciousness, Versatility and Honesty in beer. And the People loved them for it.

“But the Beer Gods were far too trusting – in truth, they were not without enemies. Out of the stygian depths of the Earth’s crust rose a cabal of anti-Beer Gods, the Megaliths. Taking the peaceful Beer Gods by surprise, the warlike Megaliths cast a powerful spell that drove the Beer Gods down into the shadows. Flavorful beer vanished from the land, and the People wept. Their victory complete, the Megaliths sent among us the ghostly pale, thin tasteless beers known colloquially as “foam jobs”. Blandness led to mediocrity, mediocrity led to hate, and hate led to suffering. And O, how the People suffered! They forgot the true taste of beer, the soft rustle of barley, the smell of hops.

“And then, just as it seemed that the darkness had stamped out all good things, a new dawn rose over Brooklyn. A hero came to rescue the people from the iron grip of the Megaliths – The Defender! Spawned in deepest Brooklyn and robed in a cowl of shimmering amber, the Defender wielded the rich power of caramel malts, the sharpest unbreakable blade of pure hop bitterness and an incredible focused blast of hop aroma to shatter the Megalith’s spell. The Beer Gods awoke to find themselves forever shielded within the hearts of the People, and once again the great virtues of true beer spread through the land. Even now, the Defender will be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out. Should your shadow ever grow long, your spirit sag, and your knees buckle, you need only remember these words — BRING FORTH THE DEFENDER!”

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New Dogfish/Sierra Nevada Life & Limb Collaboration ‘Rhizing Bines’ Imperial IPA Coming Feb. ’13

Dogfish Sierra Nevade Rhizing Bines imperial IPA label

In 2009, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery and Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. collaborated for the first time to create an American-style strong ale called only “Life & Limb.” Today, Dogfish announced the next Life & Limb collaboration brew from it and Sierra Nevada, “Rhizing Bines,” which will be an 8% ABV Imperial IPA. Rhizing Bines is expected to be released in February 2013.

Some details on the IPA from Dogfish:

On the hot side, Rhizing Bines will go through Dogfish’s signature continual-hopping process with floral and citrusy Bravo hops. On the cold side, it will be dry-hopped with an experimental varietal so new it doesn’t yet have a name, just a number: Hop 644. A component of Sierra Nevada’s aroma-boosting Torpedo system will make a pit-stop in Delaware for dry-hopping duty before it heads to Sierra’s new North Carolina brewery.

To celebrate Sierra Nevada planting East Coast roots, Dogfish Head tracked down a Carolina heirloom wheat grown and milled at Anson Mills. The soft red winter wheat contributes subtle sweet and nutty notes to this hop-forward ale.

The first Life & Limb strong ale was brewed at Sierra Nevada’s Chico, Calif., brewery, and Rhizing Bines will be brewed at Dogfish’s Milton, Delaware brewery.

Dogfish Head Sierra Nevada Rhizing Bines imperial IPA label

I had the first Life & Limb brew a couple of times last year, and it was decent. American strong ale is not one of my favorite beer styles, but I love me some IPAs. Dogfish makes fantastic IPAs, and Sierra makes some quality hoppy brews—namely its Northern and Southern Hemisphere Harvest Ales—so I’m anxious to get my hands on this new collaboration. February 2013 can’t get here soon enough.

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Dogfish IPA Hop-Pickles are Briny Gifts from the Gherkin Gods

Brooklyn Brine Hop-Pickle with Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA

I love pickles almost as much as I love a good IPA. So when I first heard about Brooklyn Brine Co.’s new Hop-Pickles made with Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA, I knew I had to find a jar as soon as possible.

Brooklyn Brine Hop-Pickles

It took me a couple of weeks to track them down, and the Hop-Pickles sure weren’t cheap. But they were worth every penny.

The pickles don’t really taste like IPA. They’re very sweet at first, and when you bite into one—they’re pickle slices, not spears—you immediately taste apple-cider vinegar and some sweet maple-syrup flavor. Then, very briefly, you taste the hops before a spicy habanero flavor takes over and combines very nicely with the vinegar.

Dogfish Head's Sam Calagione and Brooklyn Brine's Shamus Jones

Dogfish Head’s Sam Calagione and Brooklyn Brine’s Shamus Jones

These Hop-Pickles are delectable and unique. They’re a perfect snack food, and they go great with a frosty IPA.  As mentioned above, they’re fairly expensive—I paid $12.95 plus shipping for a 16-ounce jar from Amazon.com, but they’re also supposedly available in some specialty food stores. If I found them in a store and didn’t have to pay for shipping, I’d definitely buy them again.

Read more about Brooklyn Brine and its Hop-Pickles made with Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA on the company’s blog.

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Lagunitas DayTime IPA is a ‘Light, Session’ IPA (Review)

Lagunitas DayTime Fractional IPA

When I think of Lagunitas Brewing Co., I think of big, hoppy, flavorful brews. So I was surprised and intrigued to see a new “light” or “session” IPA from Lagunitas at my local liquor store yesterday. I grabbed it immediately. Obviously.

The idea of a light IPA is an odd one. IPAs by definition are big brews with higher-than-average ABVs. And because the amount of alcohol in a beer directly influences its calorie content, IPAs generally aren’t considered low-calorie or light beers—quite the opposite really. I don’t think DayTime IPA is really supposed to be a low calorie brew; it’s meant to be a low ABV IPA that you can drink with lunch and not get too buzzed. And it’s meant to be a “session” beer that you drink one after another, which isn’t usually the case with big IPAs—unless of course you want become extremely inebriated.

IPAs are more about hops and bitterness than they are ABV, though, so I was anxious to see what Lagunitas had come up with for its first light IPA. (Lagunitas DayTime is one of the first ever light IPAs, as far as I know.)

DayTime IPA has an ABV of 4.65, OG 1.042 and 54.20 IBU. It has 140 calories per 12 ounces, according to Ratebeer.com, compared to 180 calories in Lagunitas’s standard IPA and 110 calories in a Bud Light.

I poured the brew into a tradition pint glass with some gusto, but its head didn’t foam up as much as I would have liked or as much as I expected it to. In fact the brew is less carbonated than most IPAs, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It just caught my eye.

Lagunitas DayTime IPA has a nice, clean hoppy aroma. And when I swished the first sip around my mouth a bit before swallowing, I was pleasantly surprised with how potent the hop flavor was. It’s floral and fresh, crisp and clean, with a malty finish and clear faded-gold color. The brew tastes great, but it lacks something in body, like most light beers; the bitter taste doesn’t linger and after a minute or two, it’s gone.

Overall, I like this light, session IPA, but it is a bit off-putting. Maybe I’m just not used to light IPAs, but something is lacking with DayTime IPA. If I was counting calories and still wanted a hoppy beer, I might go with Lagunitas DayTime again. But when it comes to IPA, I don’t cut corners, and DayTime tastes to me like a compromised IPA.

The concept of light IPAs has me wondering if we’ll start to see light- or session-versions of other popular styles, such as stouts and porters, in the future…and whether or not that’s a good thing.

Lagunitas DayTime “Fractional” IPA gets a 6/10 on the Urban Beer Nerd scale. It is on store shelves now, and I paid $10.99 for a six pack. Visit Lagunitas’s website for additional information.

UBN

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