Issue 30

Beer Chat: American IPA

Beer Chat: American IPA

The India Pale Ale was first brewed in England back in 18th century. The beer was originally designed with gratuitous amounts of hops because the of the plant’s natural preservative powers.  The heftier hop addition and higher alcohol content helped the beer survive the long voyages by sea to British troops in India.

Two hundred years later, the India Pale Ale is relevant in a young and growing American craft beer movement. American brewers are the undisputed kings of taking historical beer recipes and creating new versions that push the limits of the style. This process often spawns a new style in itself. The American IPA is a perfect example of this evolution. The powerful citrus and pine character of American grown Pacific Northwest hops are the catalyst. The American IPA can be shocking to the unaccustomed palate. To the discerning beer drinker, the intensity and flavorful bitterness are pleasing. This is a style that has it’s own culture of followers, the appropriately named ‘Hop Heads’.

New Belgium Brewing Co.- Ranger IPA (Fort Collins, CO) – 6.5% ABV

Appearance 3/3: Pours a clear and bright golden hue with a huge frothy white head that leaves loads of lace clinging to the walls of the glass. Good head retention that yields a cap of foam throughout.

Aroma 9/12: Grapefruit and mandarin orange hop aroma with an additional floral like quality. Definitely hop dominated, but a light and pleasing toasty malt character is also present.

Flavor/Mouthfeel 19/25: A sweet and biscuity malt character comes through in the beginning, with a very slight graininess. Moderately-high hop bitterness balances, but is far from abrasive. The hop flavor is less pronounced here, and is leaning again towards grapefruit, but it also has a spicy and pine like note that adds to the complexity. The finish has focus on the grapefruit and spice of the hops. Rather light in body with a very dry finish, and moderate carbonation which lends to a dryer feel.

Overall 8/10: A very well done IPA. The aroma comes off much more vibrantly than the overall hop flavor, but the balance is still pleasant. It is great to finally see the famed Fort Collins brewery jump into the world of hop power, deliciously done.


Total score 39/50, A

Lucky Bucket Brewing Co.- IPA (Omaha, NE) – 6.3% ABV

Appearance 2/3: Presents a very clear deep copper color with a pillow of bright white creamy head. Lacing and overall head retention is great, and adheres to the glass in a tight web.

Aroma 10/12: Filled with hop complexity. Notes of orange, pine and even a slight strawberry like character come to life. Very light bready malt comes through the mountain of hops on the nose.

Flavor/Mouthfeel 20/25: Loads of hop flavor dominate the palate with succulent oranges and grapefruit citrusy focus. Floral and fresh green grassy hop notes add a complex undertone, and are met by caramel malt sweetness and a kiss of molasses. The hop bitterness is moderately high, but very well balanced and appropriate for the style. The finish is dry with a focus on the fruity orange hop character. The lush malt bill creates a medium body, and it has moderate carbonation feel.

Overall 8/10: An exquisite example of an IPA. I feel like I am taking in a hop field with every sip. The aromatics are unreal, and the malt backbone seems to create a perfect marriage of balance. Nebraskans are blessed to call this one our own.  Very well done.

Total score 40/50, A+

Odell Brewing Co.- IPA (Fort Collins, CO) – 7.0% ABV

Appearance 3/3: Pours a clear and vibrant copper color, bordering on orange. An slightly off-white head of tight packed foam blankets the glass walls and retains its white cap.

Aroma 10/12: Sweet grapefruit and mango jump right out as the power of the hop aroma. Floral hops are also detected along with notes of resiny pine. Very faint biscuity malt sits in the back.

Flavor/Mouthfeel 20/25: A huge grapefruit hop character takes stage front and center. Tropical fruit and pine add to the powerful hop display. Very slightly sweet bready malt character is present, but really takes a back seat to the hops. Bitterness is high, but the sweetness adds just enough to balance. The finish is long and dry with continued focus on the citrusy hops. Medium in body, with a somewhat prickly carbonation feel that is enhanced by the hop bitterness.

Overall 8/10: Hop lover’s beer. The fruits that you can pull from the aroma and flavor seem to be never-ending. The balance is way towards the hops, yet seems so well done. This is a wonderful treat from yet another great Ft. Collins Brewery.

Total score 41/50, A+

SKA Brewing- Modus Hoperandi IPA – 6.8% ABV

Appearance 3/3: Presents a slightly hazy deep coppery-orange body. An off-white head is bountiful and smothers everything it touches with a sticky coating of lace.

Aroma 9/12: A piney resin hop aroma jumps out of the nose, with additional herbal and citrus zest hop notes poking through. Faint caramel malt adds a hint of sweetness to the overall aroma.

Flavor/Mouthfeel 19/25: A mighty wallop of resiny pine and grapefruit are bracing at first sip, and are followed by a pleasant herbal hop character which adds to the overall complexity. Sweet caramel malt jumps right in to balance everything out, with additional notes of toffee and biscuit maltiness. Moderately-high hop bitterness gives a very clean character, and citrus zest lasts well into the finish. Medium in body, with a rather mild and smooth carbonation feel.

Overall 8/10: For the incredible display of hops and bitterness, this is one of the most drinkable IPA’s I can remember. The marriage of the resiny hops and caramel malt is fantastic. The fact that this if offered in a can just adds to my joy. I can’t wait to mow the lawn now.

Total score 39/50, A

Jason McLaughlin

Jason McLaughlin

Jason is a Certified Cicerone, ranked National as a BJCP judge (Beer Judge Certification Program), is a craft beer aficionado, a writer for the Nebraska Beer Blog, and award winning homebrewer living in Lincoln. Jason spends time traveling around the country judging beer competitions, and attending related events. Beer tasting and evaluation is his passion, and he can appreciate a great example of any style regardless of hype.

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beerIndia Pale AleIPAs

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