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The Beer Reporter Sounds Off On Beer !
The Omnipotent IPA
Chris Marchio - sounds off on beer!
In a world where the boundaries of beer have almost become limitless,
this is a tribute piece to the omnipotent IPA. Sure, you can use all kinds
of interesting spices in porters or stouts like coffee, chocolate, or
cinnamon. You can brew a saison with rosemary, sage, and ginger, or a
lager with coriander and orange rind…. the list goes on and will continue
to go on. All these beers are amazing and I can appreciate aspects of
what all of them have to offer. For me, it pretty much depends on the
season and my mood, yet time and time again, I always find myself
drawn to a new IPA at the local beer store.
In my opinion, no other beer captures the true essence and explores the
nooks and crannies of the magical hop plant, humulus lupulus, better
than an IPA. The American IPA, Pale Ale, or Imperial IPA have all
become canvasses for brewers to let loose an see how they can use
different varieties of hops at different times and quantities to achieve a
similar products, but with vastly different results. In the spirit of the good
ole’ grateful dead and jazz musicians alike, brewers who focus on IPA’s
tend to find a theme and take it for a walk in the woods and see where
they end up.
I think this spirit of adventurism has set a new standard for what has
become the craft beer industry as it continues to expand into
mainstream culture more each year. All I can say is I am happy to be
alive for the hop madness.
On that note, we must not forget that beer is entirely subjective and it
means different things to different people. La biere, bier, alu, Bebere….
the difference is based on what time you were alive, where you live, your
climate & environment, and, most importantly, your culture. In America,
essentially the birthplace of “hop bombs” (double, triple, imperial IPA’s),
these cultural elements affect the final products just as much as other
areas around the world. Meaning a west coast styled IPA is different
than an east coast. The West tends to be more floral, citrusy, crisper,
lighter, and damn right hoppier.
When I think of these descriptions, the town San Diego (or as Ron
Burgundy would say “a whales vagina”) comes to mind… this might be
because I’ve just enjoyed one of Port Brewing’s HOP 15(1). A clean,
intense, and aromatic brew that uses 15 varieties of Hops! As soon as
you crack the bottle open, your immediate world becomes engulfed by
This is not to say that the east does not compete. I’m an east coaster
and in the great beer state of Vermont, I’ve always been partial to a
brewery out of Waterbury named the Alchemist(2), who ‘s sole focus is
creating “one beer perfectly,” which happens to be an unfiltered double
IPA, aptly named the Heady Topper. Another one of the most
recognized IPA’s is the Head Hunter from Fat Heads brewery(3). With
two locations in Cleveland and Pittsburgh, it has just the right amount of
citrus and piney spice, and leaves a nice, bitter thickness on the palate.
This monster beer has won a slew of awards, including a few gold
medals at national IPA events. Be sure to try to these if you come
across them through your travels or at your local craft beer store.
One of the most important aspects that separate this class of ales from
the rest of the herd is dry hopping. Humans need to utilize just about all
of their senses while they enjoy a tasty IPA, which means the aroma and
the smell, the color, mouth feel and, obviously,taste are all factors to
determine the overall experience. Not too many other beers are dry
hopped as consistently as IPA’s simply because of their style. Lagers
tend to have a cleaner, lighter approach, and the darker ales like stouts
already have such intense flavors from the specialty grains and other
ingredients that dry hopping would almost be a waste.
I’m not exactly sure what I was trying to accomplish with this piece, other
than to share my love for some of the best damn beer around. If you’re
a hophead, you probably gravitate towards IPA’s like me and you
probably know why. Time to relax and have a brew.
"The Beer Reporter"
1. Port Brewing, San Diego, CA
2- The Alchemists, Waterbury, VT
3- Fat Heads Brewery, Cleveland, OH & Pittsburgh, PA
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