The India Pale Ale is a hoppy descendent of the pale ale. There's great variation in this type of beer, with the biting bitterness of the hops ranging from subtle to oh-my-god-my-tongue-is-being-raped. This is a beer where brewers like to play with extreme brews that push the flavours towards the latter end of the scale. The beers' extreme takes tend to be hyped by their brewers. But do they deliver? With my taste buds readied, I delved into a few super-hopped IPA variants.
First up, R & B Hoppelganger IPA. Despite the freakshow art on the bottle and the brewery's assertion that this beer isn't for the "faint of tongue," I didn't find it overly remarkable. This is the second time I’ve tried this, and it confirms what I found on the first tasting. The hop is not as pronounced as perhaps you’d expect, and overall it’s... forgettable. Not bad, but certainly not worth a third try.
Heading further down the west coast to California, Lagunitas Maximus comes closer to delivering on their caution that the beer may "remove enamel from teeth." While that's thankfully hyperbole, this is a good super-hopped IPA, but not a great super-hopped IPA. This one certainly dispenses of the subtleties and hits you with the hops. Which is enjoyable, but also leaves you glad you only had a small bottle of it.
So let's head clear across the continent, to Delaware's excellent Dogfish Head. Their 90 Minute Imperial IPA forgoes the radical approach with one which is, true to Dogfish form, far more craft-like. The result is an incredibly well-balanced, super-hopped IPA. The punch of the hops are there, but there’s an incredible balance that doesn’t leave that mouth-puckering aftertaste.
If you're reading this from Calgary, the good folks at the Wild Rose Brewery have just launched their new seasonal, their Imperial IPA. It's a very strong beer, both in flavour and alcoholic content. Kind of like the Lagunitas, there's no subtlety here. Just HOPS!!! and CITRUS!!! I quite like this, even though after a glass and a half, you start to feel the effects of the alcohol in a very noticeable way. Plus, there's a puckering effect that you start to feel. It's also worth noting that their beer picks up on the hyperbolic marketing speak; the info in the taproom declares this a MAD IPA, with MAD standing for the initials of the three folks responsible for the brew (Mark, Andrea and Dave - no last names provided).
Remember how the Quebecois KO'd Alberta's barley wines in my last post? I again reached for a beer from our Francophone friends, this time the Charlevoix Vache Folle Columbus Double IPA. This is a really nice beer that sits at the crossroads between an Abbey double and an IPA. The hops are there, but so is a nice spiciness and hints of sweetness. The mix of malt and hops is really great, and this is one I could drink a couple of bottles of, if they weren't 500ml and 9%.
Finally, a weird one. From Japan, the Ise Kadoya Triple Hop Pale Ale, the label of which announces that it was made with "3 kinds of hops which brewmaster in charge chose." Curious usage aside, the beer itself is just as curious. When I picked this bottle up, the helpful gentleman in the store stopped me and asked if I'd had it before. When I said I hadn't, he said that he had tried it, and declared it "interesting." Having sampled this now myself, I can't fault his choice of words. Full of flavours, puzzling yet enjoyable. Grass? Citrus? Something musty? It all comes together - but maybe just barely. Not something I'd go back to, but I'm certainly glad I gave it a go.
So there you have it. Six IPA variants, from a couple of true ragers to refined to quirky. There are three here which I'll definitely go back to (the Wild Rose, Dogfish Head and Charlevoix), another two that I'd recommend others to try (the Ise Kadoya and Lagunitas), and… don't bother with the R & B.