Wednesday, June 15, 2011

IPA Throwdown: Round 3

Round three: The wrap-up

I suffer from beerdom (beer + boredom = beerdom—sorry, I know that's bad.)

Normally on a trip to the pub, I'll switch-up pints between brewery to brewery, or style to style. Rarely do I have two of the same style, let alone two of the exact same beers in a row. My taste buds are far to A.D.D. for that. The Lionheart usually has rather broad selection to chose from, so it's easy to switch from one to another. The IPA Throwdown worked-out differently than that—it ended up being a great way for me to try some amazing beers, back-to-back, allowing me focus on all of their similarities and differences. However, in the interest of full disclosure, I'll admit to having had the Stone before. The ImPaled Ale, Meantime and Punk however, were all new to me (In all honesty, I put this whole scenario together as a good excuse to try the Punk—but we'll keep that under out hat, okay?)

My expectations going into this were that, naively, the Americans would make a better American-style IPA and the UK brewers would ace the English-style. However, the US seems to have a slight edge over the UK. Stone excelled—with laser acuarcy— in producing it's variety of IPA, while BrewDog has a little catching up to do. Middle Ages and Meantime, both brought technique rather than brute force, although ultimately, the English battle, would end in a draw. Did all this poking and prodding get me the answer I was looking for? Yes—the US can produce a great English-style IPA. With a little work, I think the UK can harness that American panaché, for their American-style IPAs, as well.

But really, who cares?

What's more important is what is going on with the Punk and ImPaled Ale. Both of these beers were looking for inspiration, rather than imitation; both took elements from their local brewing traditions and interwove them with other brewing ideas. Each of these beers embraced classic, UK grain bills and matched them with typically American hops, to make something new. As much as I love the Stone and Meantime beers, they seem to be doing what is expected of them—and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. But, the Punk and ImPaled Ale, embrace their respective heritage and at the same time add their own elements, transcending either American or English IPA styles. My only grievance is with the Punk. I wish it had been brighter. More hoppy citrusy bite, like you'd get from Magnum or Cascade hops, would have really made for a spectacular beer.

So, that leaves only one—Middle Ages Brewing Company's ImPaled Ale. It was, without a doubt, my favorite of the four. It is, in every sense of the word, a proper English IPA—it just happens to have an American accent.      

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