Two of my favorite eleven a side squads - IPA and AFC
Springtime is here. For me this is the perfect season for those American green, weedy IPAs that taste like liquid salad with gasoline for dressing. Autumn cries out for stouts and porters while winter needs a slow-sipped tripel or the malt bombs, whether doppelbocks or barley wines. In summer, the lighter beers reign: nothing bigger than a pale ale is right and better still a hefe-weizen, a Belgian white or even light lager. Except perhaps for an earthy dubbel, spring is about the stuff that smells and tastes like you it just started popping up in the garden's herb patch.
In this batch we go from mere strong US take on the IPA to the double, the triple, the imperial on to the 120 minute, all selected from eight different US states. I expect that I will find once again that most if not all of these are bigger than anything you would expect to see out of the UK or Canada. I have only had a couple of these before and what I am really hoping to find is a new take on the hop - something more than mere excess that makes the beer stand out.
- Snapperhead IPA: The new third offering from central New York's Butternuts Beer and Ale, makers of Porkslap and Heinnieweisse. Snapperhead's yellow can pours out a really attractive orange amber ale that holds up a fine white head that resolves to active foam and rim. A perfectly fine IPA with plenty of roughish but green weedy hop in the middle and even a bit of a burn as it goes down. Chewy malt sits in the second chair with plenty of light raisin, apple and apricot to take notice of. All twelve BAers that review it approve. Selling for $5.99 a six like the others in the range, this beer is one of the best values in craft beer going.
- Hop Ottin' India Pale Ale: from California's Anderson Valley, their second appearance this week. Seville marmalade nose, bitter and cirtus. Another orange-amber ale with a little more depth of colour. The head is thick, rich, orangy cream and leaves a lot of lacing. An interesting comparison as this beer's hop frames your mouth - the quality of the sensation and where the hop hits you, at least to me, is one of the particular qualities of these IPAs. Only one percent BAer disapproval, with complaints of too much bittering hops. Sure, that's there but there is plenty more and I suspect, at 7% this will end up being in the middle ground of this crew. I like it but I like arugula, too. Think white pepper with baby spinach in a lighter cream sauce. A fine measure of heat in the end like one of those hot cinnamon candies without the sweet.
- Sierra Nevada IPA 2007: honey-amber ale under off-white foam and rim. No pronounced aroma. Grapefruit hop with sweet raisin in the malt initially makes for more of a ruby red than white grapefruit juicy effect. Then the hops move more to a twiggy thing and the moment is lost. Some cream behind that hop acid and twig. Mineral finish. Quite good and balanced and no pronounced heat at 6.8% but not really complex enough up against this sort of field. Yet only 5% of BAers turn up their nose as they turn down their thumbs.
- Southampton IPA: a distinct lemon herb aroma. Golden amber ale under a very fine white cream head. A finer, softer effect than the Sierra Nevada. The hops are citrus but are more of a lemon kumquat thing than grapefruit. Some honey in the malt, too. Very likable and, again, a very well hidden 6.5%. A civilized touch of relative restraint within the US style. The brewer claims five hops were involved and I have no reason to doubt it. All the BAers love it.
- Hi.P.A: from Vermont's Magic Hat. Quite a strong floral aroma (sweet freesia and rose) from this smoked amber ale under a big and lasting white rocky head. Softer than most IPAs and also a bit of a drier take on the style. Some graininess. Recessed fruit, a bit of peach and a bit of date with grapefruit, lemon and, more in the end, a good measure of twiggy bittering hopping. Quite still without the finishing burn the bigger acidic bombs leave. A bit of the 6.8% heat sticks out. Reasonable in all respects and likely a good steak and/or ribs brew from this level of bittering astringency. The BAers give it all but 2% approval but with a lower average.
- Eleven: from Weyerbacher of Pennsylvania. Called a Triple IPA, I split with with a couple of pals during Friday evening beer club (you have started a beer club, too, right?). The beer poured a massive and sustained rocky tan head over butterscotch coloured ale. Big body, orange marmalade and booze which is what you would expect for a beer of this strength - 11.7%!. Loads of green herbal hops but they buckle up against the wall of creamy sweet malt that fills the core of this brew. The yeast provides a slightly cheesy or yogurty note. Heat in the end but not as much as there might be. A surprisingly high ten percent of BAers say no mainly citing lack of balance and intense boozy heat.
- Maharaja: an Imperial India Pale Ale made by Avery of Colorado. Again, split with pals - this one was preferred to the Eleven above. Maybe it is the almost 2% lighter profile at a mere 9.9%. Another heavy orange-amber ale under a huge rocky tan head that resolves to a sheeting tan rim and foam. Orange marmalade creamy smooth middle to a moderately hot end with apple and white pepper with an odd lightness in the second half. Some mineral water and even salt in the finish from Avery's hard water. Only 2% of BAers do not like this one.
- Big A IPA 2006: this is simply my favorite double IPA. The previous version was my best beer of 2005. What it does that no other massive IPAs I have tried does is it appears to use so, melting like masses of rolled barley as a cooling creamy effect that is as bit as both the hop and the booze - here are the brewers notes and there is no rolled barley . Compared to the notes from 2005, this one is lighter in colour at just a straw with a thick sheeting fine foam head. Whacks of cream, whacks of white pepper, whacks of bitter garden greens in the hops and at 9.2% whacks of that, too. One thin percent of BAers do not like this one. Madness. Rice pudding meets gasoline.
- India Pale Ale: by Arcadia Ales, a new brewer for me from Battle Creek Michigan. The beer pours a cloudy red amber under a rich white rocky, lace-leaving head. The nose is somewhat malty, somewhat lemon zest hops. One BAer calls it "pine and grapefruit with an offputting dishsoap smell." In the mouth the lemon zest explodes with an accompanying second more astringent dry hop characteristic and a definite soapy feel...and a hint of Old Spice in the finish. Oh my. Read the BAer reviews as I introduce this fluid into the city waste water system - oddly only 7% give the thumbs down.
- Flower Power IPA: from the Ithaca Beer Co. Reviewed before, I always find this one fits the bill. An orange-straw brew under a white frothy rim with plenty of lace. On the nose, sweet and orange and a bit of white pepper. In the mouth there is plenty of peppery green and acidic hop combining with apple and pear malt. The water soft, the yeast slightly creamy. A really fine example of the upstate IPA. Even the 2% of BAers who do not love it acknowledge the quality.
- 120 Minute IPA: Please click here.