By Tyler Estabrook
As a wheat beer and stout nerd, I have only begun to realize there are other worthy beer styles I have neglected to cover in my column. One of these is the India Pale Ale (IPA).
What sets IPAs apart from regular pale ales, first and foremost, is the hop bitterness, an artifact of times when ale had to survive long sea voyages to keep the thirst of Her Majesty’s troops quenched. These days, IPAs tend to be especially well hopped, and in some cases that’s all there really is to taste. However, this is mostly a tendency of the newer American versions, since the traditional British ones are more nuanced. Still, the hallmark of a good IPA is a diverse spread of flavors to counterbalance the bitter hops. Some American IPAs are simply too tart and bitter to be enjoyable.
Arcadia Brewing Company of Battle Creek, Mich., makes a more English-inspired IPA with low bitterness, medium body and a well-rounded flavor.
After pouring into a glass, this IPA becomes a beautiful, hazy-orange-hued brew with a thick, vibrant head. There are pronounced nutty and woody flavors, with a pinch of citrus, alongside the hops, and a shockingly “wet” (as opposed to dry) aftertaste for an IPA.
This brew is built on a base of traditional English IPAs, but with a modern reinterpretation. And while the style is English, the hops are American, and fortunately the brewers didn’t load down this IPA with them. My verdict is Arcadia IPA is a rich and palatable version of the style, on par with Dundee IPA in terms of high drinkablility, although the latter is an American-style IPA.
This makes me eager to try the rest of Arcadia’s line, because American interpretations of English ales usually turn out to be quite tasty.
Send questions or beer recommendations to Tyler Estabrook at firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the Dec. 23-29, 2009 issue