So much is written about American IPA. A kind of Polonius mentality has seized this market segment of artisan brewing: This above all: to thine own hops be true!… which in the American way of doing things, casts aside the historical significance of the India Pale Ale style, created for the colonial British in occupied India.
It is sometimes said that original IPA began with Hodgson’s October Ale,a barley-wine style that was heavily hopped, in order for it to survive the arduous half-year journey by ship to the Far East. This historical account is a jumble at best. But one thing is certain. IPA was created by market necessity and no single brewer or brewery can claim its invention.
Perhaps Vico’s theory of cyclical history has proven itself, in the case of American market necessity. For in the world of craft beer, hop bombs are found everywhere.
Take Brew Free! Or Die IPA 21st Amendment Brewery, a “west coast style with attitude”. Served at lager temperature, this is one cold bitter beer. Warming up a bit, I noticed the lupulin effect (along with 7% abv) was softened somewhat by a malt base of support, keeping the recipe from becoming too dry.
Locally, there was Mad Tree Brewing’s Rounding Third Red IPA A tribute to professional baseball, there is a huge aromatic release of hops when cracking open a 12 ounce can. This has the obsession with hop freshness that the younger beer generation seems to love. It is beautifully balanced because it retains the complimentary support of malts. Very well done, unpretentious and direct.
I also tasted (alas) an old bottle of Victory’s Moving Parts Batch No. 2 The Dowingtown, Pennsylvania brewer’s take on a traditional British IPA, using English malts and hops, it has the apple aspect in the flavor notes that make it an unmistakable homage to original IPA.
The emphasis on hops is also found in American Pale Ale. Rhinegeist Brewery’s Glow Is a tribute to the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s Lumenocity concerts in Washington Park, in front of Music Hall. Rhinegeist’s special pale ale is brewed with a single hop, the German Hull Melon, giving this summer ale a focused complexity, where the fairly dry finish has a subtle melon- strawberry flavor, due to the use of this extraordinary hop.
Leaving the hop emphasis, the arrival of Oktoberfest beers puts me back in the malty universe I truly love, This year’s Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest Is a one time only collaboration between Sierra Nevada and Brauhaus Riegele of Augsburg, Germany. A beautiful reminder that Fest Bier goes back centuries. A golden colored Oktoberfest with delicious balance where the aromatics of the hops combine with the traditional German malts to produce a sublimely tasty beer: honey nut–like if you will.
Which brings me lastly to Vitus Bayerische Weihenstephaner’s Weizenbock, from the world’s oldest brewery. A brew of unbelievable depth, this is a showcase for the flavor complexity of the weizenbock style. The yeast alone reveals the magic of the 1516 Purity Law (Reinheitsgebot) with layer after layer of flavor notes. Outstanding from start to finish. A prime example of the difference between good beer and great beer, which even today, is rarely found.