Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Beers You Can Actually Buy: IPAs

Periodically, someone informs me that, "Every time I look for beers you review, I can't find them," so I have decided to start a regular series considering some of the better products that are widely available in the markets I generally cover (Ontario and Quebec).

The criteria here, generally, will consist of brief notes on regularly available beers in these markets.  Though I may mention seasonal products with wide releases, these also tend to be some of my preferred choices in these categories.

Though you may not fancy yourself a fan of the styles mentioned in such a given post, I strongly encourage you to try some of these products throughout the series since doing so will acclimate your palate to newer tastes and will ensure that your dislike of the style at least conforms to its stronger representatives - though if you appreciate others that is certainly fine too!

I will begin with India Pale Ales due to their immense popularity (as probably the most widely consumed ale category amongst beer geeks - new and old, initiates and connoisseurs alike).  Though some find American IPAs too bitter, as I once did, many find them great from the get-go as a craft beer introduction while others (myself included) come to appreciate them immensely over time.

The history of IPAs seems to contain some truths and exaggerations, but there is general agreement that they were more aggressively hopped Pale Ales for export to the warmer colonies, originating in England in the Eighteenth Century.  They have since been embraced by the American craft beer movement who has pushed the style with bolder hops varieties (of higher alpha acid content) and even double and triple versions of the style with a more substantial malt backbone, even more hops (to combat the resulting malty sweetness), and a higher ABV (resulting from the increased fermentable sugars).

Rather than writing off a beer as bitter, try to ask yourself how this bitterness presents: is it earthy, fruity, citrusy, piney, resiny, floral?  Some of the stronger, more well-regarded IPAs (and beers generally) tend to offer a complex flavour evolution that presents waves of different expressions of the hops flowers.  Many examples are dry-hopped or even wet-hopped (with dry or wet hops added again after fermentation) to add additional (primarily olfactory) expressions to the beer.

Quebec:

Though Quebec was long devoid of many strong examples of English (and American) beer styles, the scene is evolving with the times and two of my absolute favourites are now available regularly in the province.

1) Rigaud, Quebec microbrewery, Le Castor's, organic Yakima IPA (6.5% ABV, 90 beeradvocate, 99/100 ratebeer) is a marvellous example of the style and currently tops ratebeers listing as the best IPA in Canada.  It offers a simply magnificent nose reflective of the citrus spectrum of the style, while the taste offers some toasty notes and a fine resiny, lingeringly bitter finish.  It is available in finer deps in Quebec for between $6.50-$7 (plus tax and deposit) for a 650ml bottle.

2) Regular readers know of my love affair with both Montreal/St. Jerome brewpub Dieu du Ciel AND its American IPA Moralit√© (7% ABV, 92 beeradvocate, 99/99 ratebeer) collaboration with Vermont brewery The Alchemist.  Moralit√© periodically hits taps throughout Montreal and in draught (and cask, mmmmm) tops the bottle, though the bottle is a now regularly available delight nonetheless which wafts a brilliant orange-tangerine citrus nose and hits the palate with a similar, though more grapefruit-centric quality.  It is my personal favourite Canadian IPA.  Six-packs are now available wherever DDC products are sold for around $14-$15 plus tax and deposit.

3) Montreal brewpub La Succursale's Angus IP "AAA" (7 % ABV, N/A beeradvocate, 90/80 ratebeer) deserves an extra shout-out in my opinion as a highly-drinkable, if un-bottled, brewpub-only option of noteworthy enjoyment, though it is a notch below the tops on this Quebec list.

Ontario:

Ontario boasts wider brewing of English beer styles than Quebec, for obvious reasons, though I do believe the top two Quebec examples above have now trumped my home province's IPAs.  That said, the breadth of English-inspired brewing and scope of LCBO importing make numerous solid options available for Ontarians and visitors.

1) First, two special shout-outs deserve mention here as worthy of the praise.  The first is Toronto brewpub Bellwoods, whose bottles are only available at their own bottle-shop or draught in the bar, though their IPAs, Cat Lady and Roman Candle, and their DIPAs Witchshark and Boogie Monster are delights.  None are always available but some of them always seem to be!  Go, enjoy, you won't be disappointed!

2) The second special mention goes to long-time Toronto brewing masters Great Lakes, who lack a regular IPA but seem to always have a solid seasonal or one-off IPA available (noteably Lake Effect IPA and Robohop DIPA for me personally) and they frequently appear at the LCBO.

3) Though not brewed in Ontario, BC brewery Central City's Red Racer IPA (6.5% ABV, 95 beeradvocate, 98/99 ratebeer) is consistently rated as one of the top in Canada and wafts grapefruit notes par excellence with some resinous characteristics as well.  This is a bold and highly drinkable delight and it comes in a can (bonus, despite the haters: no air and no light to preserve the fragile IPA) at a mere $2.45 (tax and deposit included)!

4) Flying Monkeys Smashbomb Atomic IPA (6% ABV, 89 beeradvocate, 98/98 ratebeer) is another citrusy delight with some grapefruit and rind aromas, and a rind-and-pine bitter bite.  Well praised, and well worthy of it, and priced at a mere $13.25 for a 6-pack (tax and deposit included) at your nearest LCBO.

The first honourable mention goes to the baseball-inspired, draught-only brewers, Left Field, who regularly ship their magnificent 6-4-3 Double IPA (8.4% ABV, 87 beeradvocate88/43 ratebeer) to beer bars in the Toronto area.  This double IPA boasts a more robust ABV and bolder bitterness than 'regular' IPAs, but smooths out both with a piney resinous finish of noteworthy complexity.

Second honourable mention goes to Amsterdam's Boneshaker (7.1% ABV, 86 beeradvocate, 93/86 ratebeer).  A bit more malty with a neat complexity alongside that unfiltered hoppy goodness makes this beer best when fresh, though cans are an IPA drinkers friends and the new tall-cans of this offer 473 ml for only $2.95 making this a best-fresh-and-fresh-for-longer-than-bottled treat.  Check it out too!

Did I miss something you prefer?  Post it in the comments!

Stay tuned for Saisons soon!

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