BeerCast #36 – IPA Battle

Posted by on Jul 13, 2009 in American Beer, BeerCasts, English Beer | No Comments

Our latest BeerCast sees another split between the UK and USA – this time as we try four very different IPA’s. Originally heavily-hopped to survive transportation to the colonies, the India Pale Ale is a uniquely British style of beer. Or rather it was, as now IPA’s hail from all corners of the world – and particularly North America where, as ever, they like to do things ramped up a notch or two. First on the list for tonight is Kent’s Hopdaemon Brewery and their Skrimshander IPA (4.5%), followed by the first overseas entrant – Goose Island IPA (5.9%) from Chicago. We then go back to the UK for a strong ale – Downton Chimera IPA (7.0%), before finishing with an offering from one of America’s greatest exponents of tooth-rattling beer, Stone Ruination IPA (7.7%). On the panel this time are Richard, Shovels, Steve, and MrB. The Hopmeister Tom should have probably taken part given his title, but he’s still recovering from the effects of the Imperial Stouts.

1. Skrimshander IPA (4.5%abv)
Hopdaemon Brewery, Newnham, Kent.
500ml glass bottle

New Zealander Tonie Prins opened the Hopdaemon brewery in Canterbury, Kent, in 2001 and started off winning contracts to brew beer for several London tourist institutions (the British Museum, Science Museum, the Barbican), as well as 30 or so pubs in the area. In 2005 they relocated to bigger premises in Newnham, just outside the ancient brewing centre of Faversham (home to Shepherd Neame). Striving to use local ingredients where possible they rely heavily on East Kent Goldings, Fuggles and Challenger hops. Skrimshander IPA takes it’s name from the old-time practice of carving whalebone.

What They Say“An aromatic copper-coloured pale ale brewed with Kentish hops for a refreshing taste and a fruity finish. Skrimshander is conditioned naturally in the bottle to produce a sparkle and sediment characteristic of all great living beers.” [Official Website]

What We Say
Richard – 4.5% yet it tastes like a 7% IPA, it’s tremendous
Shovels – More bitter than usual for an IPA 8
MrB – Smells like an IPA, a nice beer but not that special 7
Steve – Very tasty but it needs a beer garden

2. Goose Island India Pale Ale (5.9%abv)
Goose Island Brewery, Chicago, Illinois.
355ml glass bottle

Goose Island opened their first brewpub in Chicago in 1988, which back then was something of a rarity – only a handful existed in the Midwest of America at that point. By 1995, the brewpub had become so popular that founder John Hall and his son Greg, who had by then become Goose Island’s brewmaster, decided to open a larger brewery and bottling plant to keep up with demand. Finding still more room for growth, in 1999 the father-son team opened a second Goose Island Brewpub just a stone’s throw away from historic Wrigley Field. Their most popular beers are Honkers Ale, Nut Brown Ale, and their India Pale Ale, which contains a heady mix of Styrian, Fuggle, Cascade, Centennial hops and Pale Malts.

What They Say“Recognised as amongst the world’s finest, Goose Island’s India Pale Ale has a spicy hop aroma and inviting fruity flavour. This exceptional beer is one you will not soon forget.” [Official Website]

What We Say
MrB – A lovely beer, it’s a longtime favourite of mine 9
Shovels – Got so much kick and flavour, perfect in the bottle
Richard – A typically strong, hoppy, bitter American IPA
Steve – The citrus taste comes to the fore the longer it sits

3. Chimera IPA (7.0%abv)
Downton Brewery, Salisbury, Wiltshire.
500ml glass bottle

Downton have three 20-barrel vessels in their brewery, and produce a range of seasonal beers, many of which have added fruit. They were set up in 2003 with equipment leased from the Hop Back Brewery just up the road in Salisbury. In their early history their beers were sold solely through the larger operator, but eventually they outgrew their wholesaler and struck out on their own – although roughly half their output still goes up the road to Hop Back for transfer to other outlets. Downton are still a small producer though, and employ only two people – their director, and their brewer – both called Martin. Chimera IPA was the overall winner at the 2005 Bristol Beer Festival.

What They Say“Chimera IPA is a truly classic IPA. Bursting with resin and hoppy flavours, Chimera packs quite a punch, as a traditional IPA should. Chimera would certainly win in a fight against Greene King IPA & Deuchars IPA’s softer, less traditional alternatives.” [Official Website]

What We Say
Steve – Tastes quite light, this one is very deceptive 8
Shovels – I would drink this out of curiosity, it’s hard to rate
MrB – I’m really confused – every mouthful I have is different
Richard – Nice enough but not strong for a 7%er 7

4. Ruination IPA (7.7%abv)
Stone Brewery, Escondido, California.
355ml glass bottle

The Stone Brewing Corporation were founded in 1996 in San Marcos, southern California. In 2006 they relocated to a new, custom-designed facility in Escondido. The new brewery currently has a capacity of 70,000 US barrels per year, and also includes an on-site bottling line. It sounds ideal for a day out, having a 300 seat restaurant (Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens), with a large outdoor patio that sounds perfect for enjoying one or more of the brewery’s creations. Stone revel in the philosophy of not making a boring beer, as their names tend to reflect – Arrogant Bastard ‘This is an arrogant beer – you probably won’t like it’, and their brilliantly titled Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale. Ruination IPA is probably also aptly named.

What They Say“So called because of the ‘ruinous’ effect on your palate! This massive hop monster has a wonderfully delicious and intensely bitter flavour on a refreshing malt base. One taste and you can easily see why we call this brew ‘a liquid poem to the glory of the hop!” [Official Website]

What We Say
MrB – This is like my favourite beers multiplied by my favourite other beers, it tastes fab and should be a 10
Shovels – I was expecting to be blown away by hops but this is the single malt whisky of IPA’s
Steve – I think you might still be able to taste this in the morning, it’s just so different to anything else we’ve tasted
Richard – Got that whack oomph smell, it’s punishing but doesn’t overstep the mark like others I could mention 9

Panellists – (from top left) MrB, Shovels, Richard, Steve

BeerCast panel verdict
Stone Ruination IPA (38/40) 95%
Goose Island India Pale Ale (32½/40) 81%
Chimera IPA (30/40) 75%
Skrimshander IPA (29½/40) 74%

  • Listen to the episode here: BeerCast #36 – IPA – Battle
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  • We’ll be back in a couple of weeks with our next podcast – an episode very loosely themed around a certain fruit that you wouldn’t normally expect to find in a beer. Stay tuned for that, and in the meantime keep the emails and comments coming in. Cheers!

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