Are American beer lovers more than just a bunch of IBU-chasing hopheads? Today's guide looks into a wide range of American beer styles, from adjunct lagers to Imperial porters.
'IPA' on Serious Eats
What's the best hoppy beer on the market today?
If you like your beers fruity, resiny, piney, and crisply bitter, these hop-driven session beers are the ones to seek out for your summer satisfaction.
The White IPA's DNA is a blend of the spicy, spritzy Belgian Wit and the hop-forward India Pale Ale. If beer participated in online dating profiles, this would be a simple match. "I love citrus, spice, and am particularly into refreshment on a summer day," said the Witbier. "Get out—those are my favorite things!" replied the IPA.
The folks at Dogfish Head are constantly experimenting, but they haven't released a new year-round beer since 2007. This month, Sam Calagione and his team are offering up a new core beer that brings together beer and wine in one 12-ounce bottle. Sixty-One is the brewery's classic 60 Minute IPA with one addition: syrah grape must from California. We gave this wine-beer hybrid a try.
Sometimes the ideal setting can elevate an excellent drink to perfection; relishing a place can make an enjoyable flavor even more delicious. I was lucky enough to experience this phenomenon in Burlington, Vermont, where I enjoyed one of the best beers of my life.
By focusing on just two ingredients, you can filter out the other "noise" and learn your Centennials from your Chinooks and your Munich malt from your Vienna. You'll know exactly what each ingredient tastes like, and learning those flavor and aroma characteristics on their own will help you tweak recipes with more components later on.
Smuttynose used their Finest Kind IPA as a starting point for this limited edition beer released in a 750 mL bottle. It's a beer that evolves during each sip from the sweet scent to the round malty core, to full orangey hop fruit flavors, and then a super dry finish. Bring this one along to a barbecue.
Citrusy, resiny, and bitter, the American Imperial IPA is an aggressive beer—and a rich one. This style grew out of the demand for hoppier beers at the start of the American craft beer revolution. As IPAs were brewed with more and more hops, the amount of grain needed to balance out the bitterness increased. The results were IPAs that were so extreme that they took on the moniker Imperial, which was previously reserved for only the biggest stouts. Here's how to brew one of your own.
The words on the lower half of this limited-edition bottle from Stone Brewing Co. read "Ruining Palates for Ten Years." And this one is definitely a palate-wrecker.
These beers turn up the volume on flavor, so they need dishes with similar intensity to stand up. When pairing IPA with food you have three basic flavor hooks at your disposal; bitterness, hop flavor (spicy, grassy, herbal, earthy, and citrus), and caramel. Hop flavors have a great affinity for spices and light fruits. Bitterness has a cooling affect. Paired with spicy dishes, IPA will fan the flames at first, but douse them in the end. Bitterness also amplifies salty and umami flavors. The caramel flavors in the beer will latch onto the sweeter side of a dish, tying into things like caramelized onion or the crispy skins of roast poultry. And the hop acids and carbonation make IPAs great palate cleansers to take on even the fattiest deep-fried delights.
We've got nothing against regular Newcastle. Smooth and creamy, with a nice toffee flavor and just a light bitterness, we're happy to drink it while watching football and eating chili. So our interest was piqued when we heard that Newcastle's releasing a new limited-edition beer. But a "Winter IPA"? What does that even mean, and can the Newcastle/Heineken folks pull it off?
One might assume that a meager cup of Ruination would get lost in a sea of garlic and cheddar, but the IPA packs a wallop and cuts right through the rich soup, with bitterness and hops coming through in every spoonful. Just like extreme IPAs can be polarizing, this soup has the same love-it-or-hate-it hoppiness. Certainly not for the faint of palate, this this soup is best saved for diehard IPA lovers.
The novelty of black IPAs to the beer scene is highlighted by a total lack of agreement about what to call them—you may see them described as Cascadian Dark Ales or American Black Ales, and the American Brewer's Association pithily calls them, American-Style India Black Ales. (ASIBAs? Yeah, that'll stick...) Personally, I hope that Black IPAs are here to stay. We tasted a dozen of them, all solid beers, and very diverse. We've divided them up into two categories—heavier and intense, or lighter and more quaffable.
For years I have recommended homebrew ingredient kits to people as great way to homebrew. I'm not talking about a Mr. Beer kit or a homebrew-in-a-box, which can be prone to sitting on the shelf for too long, but a recipe that comes prepackaged by your local or online homebrew shop. A homebrew kit not only saves you the time it takes to research and put together a recipe, but also puts all the ingredients together for you in one simple package.
This week we continue our hoppy tour of the US, visiting the states south of Virginia and east of the Mississippi. The South isn't particularly known for India Pale Ale, but we found a number of breweries making tasty examples of the style. Have you tried these beers? Which southern-brewed IPA is your favorite?
For homebrewers, the American IPA is the perfect style for exploring the flavors of different varieties of hops. Ever wondered what new hops like Citra or Nelson Sauvin taste like? Or what flavors would come through when combining Sorachi Ace and Simcoe hops? Making an IPA that showcases just one or two varieties of hops will really give you a feel for their different nuances.
Every time I find myself in a Whole Foods out west, I fall into a fit of beer-jealousy. The beers you West Coasters can buy! At the grocery store! I picked up a little Russian River Consecration and this guy, a bomber of 6.5% ABV IPA from a Bend Brewery I've been hearing good things about.
Goan fish curries are built on a piquant paste of fiery chilies, garlic, and the earthy and floral flavors of cumin and coriander. The nutty sweetness of coconut tames the spicy intensity while the tang of tamarind provides a touch of acidity. Luckily, these flavors are even better with the right beer alongside them. So what are the best beers to pair with this dish?
This beer smells so vividly of clementines that you could almost be convinced that it will cure the common cold. Even if it can't, Firestone Walker's Double Jack is a stellar example of the style.