Thursday, July 23, 2015

Spotlight on IPLs

 IPAs have dominated the American craft beer market for years with a loud, celebrated, and very American fashion.

India pale lagers are their lesser known, younger cousin. Similar personality, different family. Still big and bold, but a little more straight-laced and collected at the same time.

Lagers are fermented at colder temperatures for a longer period of time and produce cleaner, crisper beers. Ale yeast goes through a quicker, higher temperature fermentation resulting in spicier, more estery and complex beers. Like India pale ales, IPLs put the bold, hoppy aromas and bitterness at the forefront, but because the lager yeast, creates a drier, more crisp and clean brew (they're not quite as elaborate as their ale counterpart).

The cleaner lager yeast provides a back drop for hops to shine. While the BJCP still doesn't consider IPL a category of its own, the style still upholds some of its own characteristics. The primary difference between an IPL and a hoppy pilsner is the use of more aggressive, pungent ale hops. IPLs are an example of the merging of stylistic categories, and also the constantly evolving hop market.

New hop varieties are constantly being introduced to the market. They offer new characteristics which lend themselves to exploration. IPLs are a hybrid, a mutt of the craft beer world, and an example of its progression.

Here are a few of my favorite IPLs you can find on the shelves at Harry's 

Otter Creek Citra Mantra, 5.75% abv
Otter Creek Brewing Company, Middlebury, VT
Citra Mantra is a spring seasonal release from Otter Creek. It's single-hopped with 100% Citra hops. Citra hops are a modern American hop that are known for their strong floral and citrus aroma and flavor. They're a pungent, distinctive "impact" hop. Citra Mantra is tropical fruit and tangerines without the cloying. Pilsner, Munich, and Vienna malts.

Thomas Hooker Defiance Double IPL, 7.7% abv 
Thomas Hooker Brewing Company, Bloomfield, CT 
Defiance is an imperial lager, boasting almost 8% abv. Despite the higher alcohol content, it finishes clean and smooth. Hopped with Citra and Azacca hops. Pilsner, Carahell, and Vienna malts.

Fathom, 7% abv 
Ballast Point Brewing Company, San Diego, CA 
Ballast Point is a major player in the game. They're most commonly known for their Sculpin IPA which is loaded with tropical fruit flavors. The lager yeast tones down the fruit in Fathom and pushes citrus and pine up front. Dry hopped with Ahtanum hops. Munich and Vienna malt base.  

Hoponius Union, 6.7% abv 
Jack's Abby, Framingham, MA
Perhaps one of my favorites. Jack's Abby only brews lagers. Hoponius Union uses a blend of classic American, West Coast IPA hops for a big tropical fruit and citrus aroma. The nose follows through on the taste with a clean finish.

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