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In Honor of National IPA Day – Daren’s IPA Review

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IPAs tend to be a love it or hate it style; they can be fairly polarizing beers due to their inherent nature to be assertive in flavor and aroma. Specifically, the American IPA tends to run big, bold, bitter, and bursting with aroma. It is more assertive than its more traditional cousin, the English IPA. Each is delicious in its own right, but with the American IPA, there is a seemingly boundless array of flavor profiles, ranging from tropical fruit to freshly cut grass to tangerine and grapefruit rinds to pine and spruce and everything betwixt and between. And even more so is the IPA’s big brother: the double or imperial IPA. These are widely considered the palate wreckers of the beer world, for their intense tongue spectacles are sure to leave the flavor receptors of your tastebuds numb to most other flavors if not for a short while. So without further ado, I am pleased to discuss several IPAs and DIPAs of which I have had the pleasure of tasting recently. And I am also quite pleased to present several photographs of these beers taken from my newly acquired camera!

JDub’s Brewing Company: Up Top IPA Sarasota, FL

I picked up a 6 pack of this beer on a whim after work one day. The can design is fairly sleek with a retro style of branding and a pair of hands squeezing a hop cone. It just seems to fit the Florida ambience for me. Anyhow, a bright hiss gave way to a gentle pour in my pint glass, yielding a frothy, medium-dense white head just slight of one inch. Lacing is slight, leaving thin trails along the glass. The color is an onion skin hue of orange with touches of light sienna. I think there is a touch of chill haze, but overall looks welcoming. The nose is of pineapple and grass with bits of lemon pith and orange zest. Malt is on the biscuit end of the spectrum with some pilsner malt as well. Not a very strong nose and it took a little bit of searching. The flavor starts off slow with the light malt profile in the forefront. There are flavors of clover honey and wheat bread that gives way to a burst of citrus and woody hops in the midpalate. Again, grapefruit and lemon pith come to mind, along with a bitterness akin to chewing a grapefruit seed. The finish is fairly clean without too much residue. The body is between light and medium, leaning more towards medium, with a bright and smooth carbonation that does not prickle the tongue too much and a moderately dry finish.

I think Up Top IPA is a fairly flavorful IPA that is a nice relaxing summer drinker. It is not particularly offensive to newer palates and not too subdued for a hophead. I think a little bit more finishing hops for a bigger aroma would do it well. Overall, this is a clean, drinkable, and fairly tasty IPA. I rate this 4/5.


The Alchemist: Focal Banger Waterbury, VT

Focal Banger is a beer I was very excited to try when we visited Vermont in May 2014. I was fortunate enough to obtain several cans. The design is simple yet effective: a silver can with a single round label prominently displaying a single hop cone with a “Focal Banger” banner. Poured into my Duvel tulip, it is a hazy bright tangerine color with a fluffy, dense, white head of at least one inch. Large bubbles transport the aromatics repeatedly as the head continuously regenerates throughout the experience. Islands of lace decorate the glass as the level decreases. The aroma is prominent and is immediately detected from across the dining room. This is an IPA that carries a myriad of aromas, the most prominent of which is citrus. This is more of a bright orangey and lime flavor with lesser notes of freshly sawed pine bark and pine sap. There are also aromas of tropical fruit like mango and mangosteen. The flavor is a nearly immediate flavor burst on the palate with citrus and tropical fruit. Woody vines and pine round up the end of the palate with a familiar grapefruit, honey-touched biscuits, and cereal grains. The bitterness is prominent but not overwhelming and you definitely have a long lasting finish. Overall, the flavor and aromas are not hugely intense, but certainly bright and defined. The texture is effervescent, yet not spritzy, with just enough carbonation to give a well-rounded smoothness with a touch of prickle on the tongue. I find the body is enough to support the complexity and carbonation: truly a medium bodied beer. A moderately dry finish still keeps you wanting another sip.

Overall, this beer is beautifully crafted with all the desirable aspects of an IPA in a very drinkable package. Focal Banger surely bangs out the focal characteristics well and rounds out the more intense characteristics with nuances that make for a special experience when drinking this lesser known IPA. A beer to be appreciated by any hop lover, I give this beer a well deserved 4.5/5.


Cigar City Brewing Company: White Oak Jai Alai Tampa, FL

My first experience with this gem was back in 2010 when I first moved to Florida and discovered a young but booming beer scene. Having had the regular Jai Alai, I was intrigued by this white oak variant. The first attribute of this beer is the can. The design is a speckled wood grain with orange lettering. I do enjoy the design. The beer pours a burnt orange peel with a hazy hue adorned with a bubbly off-white cap. The aroma is pretty interesting and different from most other IPAs I’ve had. Spicy with vanilla, woody, earthy tones, and toffee as the main aromas. Hop characteristics are more subdued but I do get a bit of grapefruit rind and autumn leaves. The flavor is equally interesting with a big malty forefront: crystal malts with a light golden raisin flavor leads the way to bold oak tones, reminding me of a waft from a lumber yard. There is a minerally flavor as well. The flavors linger and mix with a blend of macerated orange zest and bitters, but it is tough to discern. Bone dry and tannic, the aftertaste almost leaves a sandpapery finish not unlike that feeling after eating a plate of cooked spinach. Smooth carbonation makes for an easy quaff. Overall, quite an interesting take on an IPA. I do not care too much for the base beer Jai Alai, but am thoroughly enjoying its oak aged counterpart. Of note, the spice and oaky flavors are quite prominent and are the dominating characteristics of this beer. As expected, the hop profile is diminished from the extended aging process. 3.75/5.


Crop Bistro & Brewery: Idletyme IPA Stowe, VT

I stumbled upon this little beauty in a random bottle shop while in Vermont. At the time, I knew nothing of the brewery, but wanted to try something new. Turns out I’m glad I did! The bottle is simple with a nice little green design that is silk screened onto the bottle and a label with the name “Idletyme India Pale Ale” underneath. At 8% abv, this actually qualifies the beer to be an imperial or double IPA. Idletyme pours a brilliant goldenrod honey with a slight fog, foamy white head with dense froth. The lacing on the glass as I drink this is incredible, with cobwebs and trails all over the place along with small islands of foam. The nose opens immediately with notes of tropical fruit: pineapple, papaya, and passionfruit. Touch of apricot as well. I also detect a floral and piney blend that reminds me of a flowershop during the holiday season: mixed flowers on one end of the store and pine wreaths in the seasonal section. The malt body is subtle but not hidden. With flavors of biscuit and Nature’s Own honey wheat bread, there is plenty of complexity here to support the flavors. Big flavor profile that is juicy and long lasting. Semi sweet finish with a piney undertone. The beer is also decently dry with a beautiful, slightly prickly carbonation that ballets across the tongue. I have tasted a great number of IPAs and DIPAs so far in my beer endeavors. This is one of the best, if not the best, DIPAs I have ever had the pleasure of tasting. The tropical fruit burst is the driving quality, along with the excellent malt profile that is supportive, but not intrusive. Despite the 8% abv, this bomber is dangerously drinkable. The beer has the flavor of several beers stuffed into one with the drinkability of juice. Delicious. 5/5.

 

Lawson’s Finest Liquids: Triple Sunshine IPA Warren, VT

Triple Sunshine IPAI was fortunate enough to obtain a bottle of this brewery release only beer during my stay in Vermont. We were actually on our way to the release but found out there were already over 350 people in line so we didn’t end up going, but a friend was kind enough to give me a bottle. Big shout out to you! I opened this to celebrate the start of my new career. Poured a hazy pumpkin orange with a bubbly, creamy white head. The aroma was huge and my dad could smell it from across the room. The nose opens with an intense tropical fruit and citrus blend: pineapple, grapefruit rinds, and lemon zest comes to mind first, followed by touches of golden delicious, pine resin, pungent herbs, and mango. The malt aromatics are essentially buried amongst the cornucopia of fruits, but I get a very fine touch of pale malts on the forefront of the palate. This is quickly overtaken by the onslaught of fruits that dominate the flavor. I taste the aforementioned fruits, but there is also an earthy, herbal bitterness that is like chewing the seed of a lemon that acts as an undertone, keeping the superbly juicy flavors in check. The finish is long, dry, and resiny. The thin-medium body is well crafted for the uplifting flavor profile. Nice, smooth carbonation makes for a delicious drink. Overall, this is an excellent DIPA. There is enough of a myriad of flavors to fulfill a large variety of flavors found in hops. There is a nice balance of fruity flavors to piney and earthy tones. The crispness and easy drinkability of a 10.5% abv beer makes this an easy, flavorful, and pleasing beer. 5/5

Cheers!
Daren


About Daren

My name is Daren and I am a craft beer lover, not unlike all of you! Beer is a hobby and a passion and I enjoy sampling all kinds of beer as well as homebrewing. One of my first craft beers was Ommegang Three Philosophers in 2008, which introduced me to the extensive aromas, flavors, and textures that the world of craft beer has to offer. I started off exploring the Belgian styles, which led me to Chouffe Houblon. That began my foray into IPAs and DIPAs. One of my first IPAs is still on my favorites list: Alpine Nelson. And of course, I found myself quickly immersed in the world of barleywines, imperial stouts, and their barrel aged brethren. I like to brew traditional base beers but with a twist: dry hopping, ice-distilling, adding bourbon soaked oak, blending, etc. I like ‘em big, bold, and barrel aged (although a well made kölsch can hit the spot too)!

I was born and raised in Rochester, NY, but I recently moved down to the Sarasota, FL area with my wife. We both enjoy pairing food with our beverages and it’s even better with good company. My hobbies include playing guitar, snowboarding, cooking, drawing, and painting.

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