By Michael Sears
President, Forest City Brewers
Greetings, fellow beer geeks.
Boston Beer Co. (Sam Adams) has done something pretty cool for India pale ale lovers. The brewery has released a 12-pack called Latitude 48 IPA Deconstructed, which was brought to my attention by a fellow Forest City Brewer (FCBer) at our July meeting. It’s basically a single-hop series in one package.
Boston Brewery has brewed five beers with the same Latitude 48 malt bill, each highlighting a singular hop type from the hop bill of Latitude 48, Hallertau Mittelfrueh from Germany; East Kent Goldings from England; and Mosaic, Simcoe, and Zeus, all from Washington state’s Yakima Valley with each strain of hop having different characteristics. The sixth beer is the original Latitude 48 with the full hop bill. The beer’s name refers to the 48th latitude line, where all these hops are grown. The 12-pack contains two bottles of each type.
A fellow FCBer invited another member and me to his house for an evening of beer sampling and some fine Cuban cigars, a true guys’ night! I thought this would be an excellent chance to taste and compare notes.
We poured a little of each beer into six glasses to assess each individually and try to distinguish among the different hops. Here is what we collectively came up with for each single-hopped version:
• Hallertau Mittelfrueh: Virtually no hop aroma, mostly malt; taste was spicy with some light citrus.
• East Kent Goldings: Virtually no hop aroma, maybe a very slight floral presence, but mostly malt; taste was slightly sweet, possibly from the caramel malt and a light citrus.
• Mosaic: Strong tropical fruit/peach aroma; taste was citrus lime with a peppery-piney presence at the back — the best of the five, we thought.
• Simcoe: Hop aroma was difficult to pinpoint because of its complexity; the taste was mostly piney, with some spiciness.
• Zeus: The aroma was not very pronounced — mostly earthy; taste produced an earthy-herbal bitterness … not very pleasant, more like a bitter bomb.
• The last beer, which is the complete product with all the hops, was — by far — a better beer. The pour is a clear, orange-amber color, topped with a full two fingers of frothy, billowing, off-white head that wilts gradually over a period of minutes, leaving a light, sticky lacing on the glass. Pleasant aroma, but it offers nothing unique for the style — caramel malts, pine and some citrusy hop notes.
The taste offers caramel malts and some toffee, but the malt backbone is soon overwhelmed by the hops. I get an initial citrus grapefruit with a touch of spiciness that develops a floral flavor, and then piney finish. Seems the hops are well represented and work well together.
The mouth feel is medium-bodied with a smooth, almost creamy mouth feel. The carbonation levels are medium with only a slight bite.
There are far better IPAs out there, but this is a decent hoppy ale that doesn’t go overboard. Overall, this is a well-brewed beer. It has a 6 percent alcohol by volume, but nothing about this IPA is really grabbing my attention. A reasonable beer, but not one I will be going out of my way to get again, but one I would drink if offered. Does that surprise you?
Michael Sears is president of the Forest City Brewers. The Forest City Brewers is a homebrewing club dedicated to the art of finely crafted beer. The club meets the first Wednesday of each month at Thunder Bay Grille on East State Sreet. For more about Forest City Brewers, go to http://forestcitybrewers.org. If you have comments or recommendations, please contact Mike at email@example.com.
From the July 16-22, 2014, issue