Let's Get Crafty, Wining & Dining

The Long Journey of the IPA

By Timothy Long

When a brewer says, ‘This has more hops in it than anything you’ve had in your life—are you man enough to drink it?’ It’s sort of like a chef saying, ‘This stew has more salt in it than anything you’ve ever had—are you man enough to eat it?’” – Master Brewer of Brooklyn Brewery in 2008

My friends joke about how easy it is to find me in a bar. All you need to do is listen. It’s true, that’s why it’s funny. My mom always told me that my voice carries, which is a nice way of saying that I’m loud. In elementary school, I was the kid who got in trouble whenever the teacher left the room. I would be admonished when they returned. “Timmy Long, I could hear you all the way down the hall!” I wanted to be quiet. I just didn’t have the ability.  My wife often leans over to me and says, “Honey, inside voice.’

If you ever do find me in a bar, again, which is not hard to do, you may catch me staring at the beers taps. I am often in awe of beer taps. Those taps reflect the choices of the bar manager who set them up. My awe is not always a good sign. Sometimes it’s like looking at a car wreck. It can be a real “What were you thinking?” moment.  They think that they have a variety of beers on tap, but what they have is a variety of IPAs.

Ah yes, the IPA, the Indian Pale Ale. The over-hopped little darling of the American craft beer industry. It’s been the favorite of American brewers, and bar managers, from the beginning of the craft beer trend. This coveted style of beer has gone through quite a long journey.  From its humble beginnings in 19th century England to the 21st century roller coaster ride on which the American brewers have taken it.

IPAs, by definition, are over-hopped beers. And even the mere mention of hops can make many beer drinkers think of only one word, bitter. As I wrote last year in an article titled “Give Me Hops, But Don’t Give Me Bitter Death”:

“Over-hopped beer can be very bitter. It also raises the specter of beer elitism. We envision brew pub bars packed with man-bun-wearing millennials sipping from a flight of five small glasses in front of them while they are taking notes, discussing aromas, and comparing flavors. Hops is a natural preservative and does not need to be bitter.”

As stated above, hops don’t have to create bitter flavor. The addition of hops can lead to many different flavors, aromas, and characteristics, depending on how the hops are treated. But people will continue to associate hops with bitterness. Why? Because most of the IPAs made in the early days of the craft beer trend were bitter. And many beer enthusiasts drank them and pretended to love them even though they probably didn’t. It could be a test of strength to finish one. Brew pubs were full of puckered-lipped men and women stating, “I love this beer!” It was a pathetic sight. IPAs were new, and so was this craft beer trend. However, the IPA did change the industry and signified a reversal in our beer tastes. Americans drank bitter lagers up until the early 1960s, when the mass producers began sweetening their beer. This trend held until the 1990s, when the craft beer exploded onto the local markets. We should all be grateful to the IPA. It changed everything. It inspired the creativity of American brewers who spent decades experimenting and creating new forms. Today, there are now too many types of IPA to count. For this article, we’ll go with the list of nine basic ones found on Beermerchants.com, a great resource for beer lovers. Below are the basic IPAs you’ll find your local bars today, along with several variations. Get out there and enjoy these great beers. And talk to your local brewer about them. You’ll be fascinated by the ingenuity used in creating these marvels.

English IPA

This is the grassy, earthy, citrusy original. The beer that could make the trip from England to India. The preservative oils in the hops would keep the beer fresh during its long journey. I love it. I guess I’m just nostalgic.

West Coast IPA

This bitter bandit was invented in California and inspired by the English IPA and American hops. This IPA is not for everyone. It can be very bitter and with a strong citrus aroma that can verge on piney, dank, and weed-like smells. This IPA is an acquired taste.

East Coast IPA

We do everything better on the East Coast don’t we? I like to think so. This IPA is based on the West Coast IPA, but the east coast brewers use different yeasts. Instead of a bland natural yeast, they use a variety of British yeasts that add flavors like fruit, banana, and tropical notes. But they aren’t for the faint of heart.

Double IPA and Triple IPA

Because a regular IPA just isn’t bitter enough, let’s add even more hops for even heavier smells and drier finishes. The triples can top 12% ABV. Brewers often add more malt to calm the taste and add unique flavors and aromas. These two super IPAs are very popular beers.

Session IPA

This is a more casual IPA. It’s much less of a hop hit and lower in ABV than the others. These dry-hopped wonders give you the maximum amount of aroma with the least amount of bitterness. The Session IPA is very drinkable and full-flavored, a great all day football watching beer.

Black IPA

This beer, arguably not an IPA, is also known as a Cascadian Dark Ale. It’s named for both the region in the US where it was invented and the hops that was used. The idea was to create a beer that looked like a stout but tastes like a West Coast IPA. This full bodied and clean tasting beer is a delight on any afternoon, or evening.

Belgian IPA

When “Belgian” is added to the name of a beer, it usually means it was made with Belgian yeast. But many brewers will add the name when they use Belgian hops as well. These beers can be fruity, spicy, citrusy, or funky. It all depends on what the brewer uses to make it.

Grapefruit IPA

The grapefruit flavor can come from the hops, but some brewers add grapefruit juice. The fruit adds a wonderful grapefruit aroma plus an acidity that brings the IPA close to being a sour. This beer can be delightfully fruity, clean, and bitter

About the Author: Timothy Long is an educator, writer, consultant, and experienced restaurant operator. Email: tlong@belmarinnovations.com. Instagram and Twitter: @wvutimmy. Blog: What is that fly doing in my soup? http://whatflyinmysoup.com

Tim’s Whiskey and Cigar Recommendations

Angels Envy Bourbon

The mash is 72% corn, much higher that the required 51% for bourbon. This, and the fact that this bourbon is finished in ruby port casks, makes it the perfect early Fall bourbon. I enjoy the port sweetness of this whiskey. For some strange reason, it works with sweetness of the bourbon. The flavors blend and one does not overpower the other. The aroma has oak, berries, and baking spices. The taste is vanilla, apples, maple syrup and cocoa on the front with bananas and vanilla on the back. This is a smooth and lovely whiskey. At 86 Proof and $45 per bottle, it’s an easy addition to your whiskey collection. If you are a regular reader of this column, I’ll assume that you have whiskey collection.

Nub 460 Habano

Nubs are fun and unique cigars produced by Oliva. The 460s are 4 inches long with a 60 gauge. This short cigar is developed to let the smoker start in the flavorful middle, instead of having to wait for the cigar to develop. The Habano is one of my favorites. It’s a darker cigar that has a glossy milk chocolate appearance, but not a heavy taste. It has a rich creamy character with hints of peanut and baked bread. The aftertaste is smokey with a touch of spice. Another perfect early Fall indulgence to go with your IPA and Angels Envy Bourbon. Enjoy.

This cigar, and many other fine cigars, are available at John Crouch Tobacconist 215 King St. Alexandria, VA 22314

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