Wednesday, May 29, 2013

(I)PA Challenge 2 - Quarter Finals 1 & 2

Quarter Final 1
Rogue Yellow Snow IPA 5.8% €4.99 [Baggot St Wines] link
Left Hand Brewery Stranger American Pale Ale 5%  €3.69 [Baggot St Wines] link

Both of these are brand new to me, I went into Baggot St Wines and picked up four (I)PAs I had never seen before and these are two of them. I do have to say there is a fantastic selection of beers here, if you're tired of the beers here, you're tired of life.

Rogue Yellow Snow IPA
Deep straw colour, cloudy with a lingering head. Yummy, decent amount of fruity hops, a smidge of malt. Well balanced with a lingering bitter hoppy finish. Delicious.

Left Hand Brewery Stranger Pale Ale
A similar colour to to the Rogue but the head here didn't linger. The style here is much different. I guess this is an "American" Pale ale as opposed to an "India" Pale ale? This is light on the hops and is a bit fruitier in a classic ale way. It's certainly tasty but might be a little light...

Winner Rogue Yellow Snow IPA

Quarter Final 2
8 Degrees Brewing Howling Gale Pale Ale 5% €1.99 [Dunnes] link
Anchor Brewing Liberty Ale 5.9%  €3.29 [Baggot St Wines] link

I've been drinking the Howling Gale for a few months on and off. Whenever I needed a tasty but inexpensive (I)PA, this was my "go to" ale, especially as it's Irish. The Liberty Ale I believe is a fairly iconic American microbrewed ale, we'll soon find out if the reputation is justified.

8 Degrees Brewing Howling Gale Pale Ale
I like this. It's not a hoppy monster, it's well balanced and has nice, if refined, flavours. A beer to convert the lager drinker but probably not an (I)PA competition contender. One of the least expensive beers here and recommended.

Anchor Brewing Liberty Ale
I'm not sure if this beer should be in this competition as I don't think it qualifies as an (I)PA (full disclosure: my definition is pretty much based on what it says on the bottle. If it says "pale ale", it qualifies). In a pinch I'd say this is more like a golden ale? However, it is rather wonderful. Not much in the way of hops but some lovely malty sweetness and balance and finish and yum.

Winner Anchor Brewing Liberty Ale

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

(India) Pale Ales - The Second Chronicles

During (and after) the extravaganza that was the inaugural (I)PA challenge (final post here), I realised that there were a number of (I)PAs I had come across that I should have included and one shop that I hadn't stripped of (I)PAs (Baggot St Wines). To that end I decided to pick another eight (I)PAs and run them off against each other in the standard knockout format.

The contestants in each quarter final are listed below and pictured above. I apologise if some of the pricing is a bit inexact as I forgot to get/take a receipt on more than one occasion.

Quarter Final 1
Left Hand Brewery Stranger Pale Ale 355ml 5%  €3.69 [Baggot St Wines] link
Rogue Yellow Snow IPA 355ml 5.8%  €4.99 [Baggot St Wines] link

Quarter Final 2
Howling Gale pale ale 330 ml 5% €1.99 [Dunnes] link
Anchor Brewing Liberty Ale 355ml 5.9%  €3.29 [Baggot St Wines] link

Quarter Final 3
Thornbridge Kipling 5.3%  50cl  €3.99 [Molloys]  link
Flying Dog - Snake dog IPA 355ml 7.1% €4.39 [Molloys] link

Quarter Final 4
Shepherd Neame IPA 50cl 6.1% €4.19 [Baggot St Wines] link
Proper Job IPA 50cl 5.5% €2.99 [Tesco] link

There were also number of contenders who didn't make it...
Dungarvan Mahon Falls Rue Pale ale 5.1% - Really tasty but seasonal, so excluded.
Crew Pale Ale 5.6% €2.99- Not bad, bit fruity but not much going on apart from that.
Monteith's Pacific Pale Ale 4.6% €2.49  - My first NZ ale. Unfortunately, even less going on here.
ODell 5 Barrell Pale Ale 5.2% €3.49 This was perfectly fine but not a patch on their IPA which won the whole schmozzle last week.

Note: I have also excluded some "super premium" (I)PAs that I have come across, these go for 6 or 7 euros a time e.g. Nogne, Mikkeller, etc. I think I will do a separate, limited trial of these beasts in the future.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

IPA Challenge Cup Final

So I often begin these blog posts as follows, "So I....". This time, given the fact that this post represents the culmination of almost 2 months of conscientious and "careful" beer drinking, it would seem inappropriate to start in such a flippant manner. For those of you scoring at home here are the finalists (l-r):

Goose Island India Pale Ale 5.9% abv   
Thornbridge Jaipur India Pale Ale  5.9% abv 
ODell India Pale Ale  7% abv 
Brew Dog Punk IPA  5.6% abv

Anyhoo, I decided to do the final as a blind tasting, I know there are pros and cons of blind tasting in general,  but given that I knew the identities of the items to be tasted I figured we'd be OK. I asked Herself to half fill four identical numbered glasses with the beers above and then number the bottles appropriately.

As luck would have it, none of the four were especially visually distinctive, so no clues there. My tasting notes were as follows:

Beer#1: Lots of hops, not much malt. Nice, but not smooth or balanced. Guess: Punk 
Beer#2: Smooth, balanced and lovely. Guess: Odell/Jaipur 
Beer#3: Wow, Smooth, balanced, lovely and some delicious fruitiness. Guess: Goose Island 
Beer#2: Smooth, balanced and lovely. Guess: Odell/Jaipur

#1 is definitely Punk; it has none of the malty sweetness to balance the bitterness of the hops. #2 and #4 are both really smooth, well balanced and very tasty; I'm guessing it's the Jaipur and the ODell but I can't tell them apart, blind.  #3 is just stonking, it takes #2 and #4 and adds some subtle fruit that elevates this ale to near mythic levels.  My guess is the Goose Island, as I have really loved this before.

Time for the big reveal, I went and fetched the now be-stickered bottles.

I got 1.5 out of four, not a good strike rate, given that I had tasted them all recently. I knew I liked the ODell but both Herself (who knew which beer was which, but hadn't tasted the ODell before) and I, clearly preferred #3 above the others.

The winner was the Odell IPA and joint second was the Goose Island and the Jaipur with the Punk bringing up the rear. The Odell is simply magnificent, but a look at the price of each beer makes for some fascinating reading. I worked out the cost per litre of each of the 16 entrants and the results are below...

So I have expensive tastes and so does Herself, who'd a thunk it?

Although it's obvious, it bears repeating, the above exercise, from 16 beers to one, is not an empirical exercise and only reflects my own perverse tastes in ale. Your mileage can, and invariably will, vary.

As I type I am finishing off the Goose Island along with a snifter of Glenlivet Nadurra 16yo, and a fine pairing they make. It has been a long week for all concerned, but hopefully we are out the woods now. Goodnight, and may your god go with you...

Update - here are the links for all of the pevious rounds

Quarter Final 1 is here,  Quarter Final 2 is here, Quarter Final 3 is here,  Quarter Final 4 is here
Quarter Finals 5 & 6 are here, Quarter Finals 7 & 8 are here

Semi Finals 1 & 2 are here, Semi Finals 3 & 4 are here

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Battle of the (India) Pale Ales - Semi Final 3: Celtic League and Semi Final 4: American Walkover

Semi Final 3

Brew Dog Punk IPA  5.6% abv
O'Hara's Irish Pale Ale 5.2% abv

I'm expecting a very close contest here. I like both of these ales a lot and I drink them whenever I find them; the O'Haras you can get on tap in quite a few places.

First up the O'Haras, not massively hoppy but smooth and well balanced. This is a beer you could drink a lot of and it's Irish, so let's hope we can keep the flag flying.

And now for the Punk, lots of grapefruit, lots of hops but not as smooth or balanced I'd wager. So I guess its power vs finesse. It's frighteningly close but I'm gonna go with the Punk. Kudos to the O'Haras though. In the end there can be only two four finalists.

Winner - Brew Dog Punk IPA

Semi Final 4

ODell India Pale Ale  7% abv
College Green Brewery Headless Dog  4.2% abv

Bad news for the Irish, I couldn't find any more Headless Dog in Superquinn or anywhere else, so the Odell's wins by default. To be honest, I fricking love the Odells, so I don't reckon the Belfast beer had much of a chance anyway, sorry.

 Winner -  ODell India Pale Ale

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Battle of the (India) Pale Ales - Semi Final 1: American Beauties and Semi Final 2: English Roses

Semi Final 1

Goose Island India Pale Ale 5.9% abv 
Brooklyn East India Pale Ale  6.9% abv

The Goose Island is seeded No1 and so is the beer to beat here. The plucky Brooklyn dispatched the  popular Sierra Nevada Pale ale and is no slouch.

Colourwise the Chicago native is almost lager-like in the glass and as usual, the Goose Island is quite fabulous, so well balanced and hoppy it's gonna be tough to beat. So, sip of water and let's try the Brooklyn EIPA. Nope, this ain't gonna do it. It has a slight bitterness on the front of the tongue that I don't quite care for (picky!), and it just isn't as smooth...

Winner - Goose Island India Pale Ale

Semi Final 2

Thwaites Indus Pale Ale  4.6% abv
Thornbridge Jaipur India Pale Ale  5.9% abv

As I mentioned last time, I loved Jaipur when I lived in Auld Reekie, and the Indus I liked last time but didn't love, so I thought this one would be a no-brainer. But the Indus shows up well here, it's got a nice bitterness and I'd be happy to drink it any other day. The Jaipur shades it though, it's got a tiny touch of malty sweetness that offsets the hoppiness and the flavours work really well together.

Winner - Thornbridge Jaipur India Pale Ale

On not-unrelated note. I think I'm seeing a pattern in the IPA's that I'm really grokking, let's see how the full semi-final line-up looks like and we'll see if I'm correct.