Friday, February 10, 2012

A Beer to Try Ep. 2

In the fledgeling series of 'A Beer to Try', I'm trying to suggest beers for those of you who are less familiar with the various varieties of beers and what their tastes involve.  It's an intimidating world, and those who are interested in expanding their horizon past Coors Light are met with a complex world of choice.  Here is my recommendation for this week: An American IPA

India Pale Ales (or IPAs) were traditionally brewed in England for the Royal troops in India, and as such needed a higher level of hops in order to preserve the beer for the long sea voyage.   There are 2 varieties, generally: American and English IPAs. An IPA is an 'aggressively' hopped beer, firmly bitter, and having a nice aroma of hops. American IPAs are generally more hoppy than the English style, with the English having some additional flavours added by the strains of yeast used. Have one with some pizza, or nachos, or even some mild cheese.  IPAs started the beer revolution, and more than any other style symbolize the difference between craft beer and mainstream mass produced beer.

Muskoka Brewery's Mad Tom IPA
Mad Tom - Clean and hoppy, like a white bunny on Easter morning
Mad Tom pours a light golden colour, and the aroma bursts of fresh hops.  In flavour it is bitter, yes, but refreshingly so.  Personally it is to me a perfect example of what an IPA should be.  There are hoppier beers for sure, but this one is very drinkable, and doesn't get overwhelming by the end of the bottle (or six pack).
For the IPA newbie it will definitely be a step away from the ordinary.  Pour it in a glass and enjoy the smell before taking a sip.

One last note on Mad Tom: he's not hard to find.  Available in almost every LCBO in Southern Ontario, and perhaps farther as well.  Pick up a six pack and let me know what you think.

Want to try something more? If Mad Tom is not enough for you, there is another great Ontario IPA available in most LCBO outlets: Flying Monkeys' Smashbomb Atomic IPA.

Like Mad Tom, Smashbomb is an American style IPA, with firm bitterness and a solid (perhaps intimidating) hop punch.  Flying Monkeys loves their hops, and this beer is probably their best showcase for them.  The beer is darker than Mad Tom, more of a burnt orange or caramel colour. There is more of a malt flavour as well, but it's the hops you will notice.  Smashbomb is a bit more extreme on the hop side, but as my brother-in-law said 'it's ruined other beers for me'.  It does try to balance out the bitterness somewhat with some malt sweetness, where Mad Tom just lets the clean hops shine through.
Hooray for Hops!

How do these beers get that aroma and flavour of hops?  It's through a technique called 'dry hopping', where another batch of hops is added to the fermented beer, just before carbonating and bottling it.  (Traditionally, hops are added while boiling and brewing the beer, before fermentation only.)

If you try any of these let me know what you think. It's a big step forward in flavour, so don't feel bad if you don't care for the bitterness, but that hop aroma fueled a revolution - so at least you can say it's a history lesson with 6% ABV.

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