Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Tale of India Pale Ale

OK, if you thought I was going to write this post in iambic pentameter, rhyming couplets or any other form of poetry, you clearly haven't been reading my blog up to this point. I have a basic and utilitarian command of the English language (sort of) and am happy when my co-workers don't point out any misspellings, grammatical errors, misplaced commas or stylistic crimes.

On to the beer...

As I've said here several times before, I love craft beer. I feel fortunate to be living at a time when brewing quality, small batch, beer is back in vogue. I realize that it never was out of vogue in most of the rest of the world, but here in the US, the period from 1960 to 1990 was dominated by large corporate breweries  making what was, to my taste, soulless beer.To put things in perspective, in 1992, the top 6 brewing companies controlled 92% of the US beer market. In the 1990's micro brewing started to pick up steam (no pun intended since Anchor Brewing in California,with it's Anchor Steam beer was one of the pioneers of US micro brewing). By 2011 there were more than 1,900 micro breweries operating in the US. For the first time, the total out put of the micro brewery class exceeded 5% of the annual US consumption by volume.

There are now an almost dizzying array of manufacturers, styles and alcohol contents available to consumers. I say, bring them on, the more the merrier! For almost two years now, my beer consumption has been heavily weighted toward a particular style - India Pale Ale. This particular style of beer is steeped in history and in come cases, myth. In researching for this post, I stumbled onto a wonderful article called Mythbusting the IPA, written by Pete Brown for All About Beer Magazine back in 2009. In it, Mr. Brown addresses "ten of the biggest myths around this fascinating legend―some wholly inaccurate―others merely misunderstood." If you have even a passing interest in the history of this beer, I highly recommend you take a few minutes to read his article.

The Oxford Companion to Beer says that IPA is characterized by high levels of alcohol and hops. The floral nose and slightly bitter/dry taste are perfect for my palette. These beers pair wonderfully with a large variety of foods -- from pizza to steak -- and do quite nicely all alone. Again from the Oxford Companion: "Of all the styles, IPA is the most romanticized, mythologized and misunderstood. It inspires the fiercest debate, the greatest reverence and the wildest conjecture in the world of beer."

Every brewer in the business these days makes an IPA, more often than not, more than one. There are singles, doubles and triples, usually delineated by alcohol content. Some of the triples have ABV (alcohol by volume) contents in the double digit range, quite high for beer. However, the appeal of these beers is not the alcohol content, it's the taste and versatility in food pairing that makes them special to me. Over the past two years I have tried a great number of IPAs. Almost all have been good, some have been very good and a few have risen to the top (for me). They include:

Bell's Two Hearted Ale

Green Flash West Coast IPA

Stone Runination
I'm sure I'm doing a grave injustice to several others that I have truly enjoyed by not listing them here but in the spirit of brevity I'll close by saying that if you haven't tried the newer generation of these beers, you should. I know that I will keep seeking out the new ones as fast as they can make them.


  1. Love a bit of history. Great post!

  2. Good post. We, too, have a hard time putting IPA towards or at the top of the list of styles we enjoy most. Thanks for read.

    The BeerBlagers


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