Monday, June 13, 2011

IPA Throwdown: Round 2

Round two: English-style IPA

If the signature of an American-style IPA is boldness, then English-style IPAs are an exercise in refinement. The earlier American bout—a slugging match—ultimately was cut and dry. BrewDog's Punk IPA is a really terrific beer, but it just not a true American IPA—especially up against the harder-hitting Stone. This round is a different story, it's a true finesse fight, in every sense of the word.

...From York Hall, in London's East End, The British Boxing Board of Control presents tonight's main event... Making his way to the green and black corner... From Lawrence Trading Estate, Greenwich, our fair city... at 11.2 ounces and at 7.5% ABV... Meantime India Pale Ale!... Now entering, wearing mutli-coloured trunks... From Middle Ages Brewing Company in Syracuse, New York... weighing 12 ounces and at 6.5% ABV... ImPaled Ale!... As always, I want a clean fight... I'm looking for a noticeable but not overpowering hop aroma; a strong, sweet malted backbone with a balanced, fruity hop bitterness; and a smooth mouth feel with just a hint of warming. U.K. ingredients area welcome, and let's keep it between 5 and 7.5% ABV.

Ding! Ding! Ding!

Both IPAs pour a luscious shade of ambery-copper, leaving a quarter inch putty-colored head. The American boasts slightly more carbonation, while the Brit's head dwindled more quickly. The Meantime gave-off an earthy, caramel aroma with hints of plum-like fruitiness; the ImPaled Ale's scent was a tad stronger and more juniper and citrusy. Both IPAs taste, unmistakeably, of British two-row pale malt. The Brit leaned more bread-like, with honey and molasses; the American was just slightly sweeter with note of brown sugar and caramel. In each beer, it was in the hop notes that the biggest divergence came. The Meantime brought a grassy and flowery-pine essence—the Impaled Ale was more orangey, and grapefruit-like, more tropical in nature. Bitterness from each beers was prominent, and intensified after the swallow. Each had a nice warming touch and smooth body.

Ding! Ding! Ding!

This was a lot more difficult than I had expected. If the Stone is Tyson, then these two beers are the Ali/Frasier match-up in this contest. The Meantime and the ImPaled are truly, evenly matched. Both beers are at the top of their game. The Impaled was slightly brighter than the Meantime, but both beers epitomize the style. If these two beers are representatives of their respective countries, then everybody wins. It's also clear that American brewers seem to have a really good handle on brewing this style of IPA. I can't believe I'm saying this, but we have a tie!

Decision: DRAW - Meantime India Pale Ale, Meantime Brewing Company, Greenwich, London, England, UK and ImPaled Ale, Middles Ages Brewing Company, Syracuse, New York, USA 

Up next, Round three: The Wrap-up. See you then!

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