Session IPAs

IPAs have been on a tear in the craft beer community for the past few years. Hoppy IPAs can be great summer brews with floral aromas and crisp bitterness. The intense bitterness in IPAs or other hoppy beers is often accompanied by higher alcohol content from using more grain to help balance the beers out. Many breweries have an imperial version and they can be among the most highly touted beers around – think Pliny from Russian River or 120 Minute from Dogfish Head. They can be delicious but also intensely boozy with ABVs in the double digits. A new trend is emerging with breweries looking to highlight the hop character of IPAs without the heavy hitting alcohol levels, creating session IPAs.

One of the most popular is All Day IPA from Founders Brewing in Michigan but local breweries seem to be taking up the call with some of the tastiest beers around. Boat Beer from Carton Brewing in New Jersey (below) was a hit in New York City last year for its bright snappy citrus flavors and a manageable 4.2% alcohol. Barrier Brewing in Oceanside New York keeps their Unimperial IPA to 4% ABV but still gets some intense bitterness in the pint. Brooklyn Brewery is joining in with Scorcher #366, a hoppy pale ale which will be released next week and celebrates the new hop variety #366 and weighs in at 4.5% ABV. 

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Pairing Beer with a Tri-Tip Steak

Dave Kassling, owner of Tri-Tip Grill (which has locations in Grand Central Terminal and Rockefeller Center) generously gave us a couple of tri-tip steaks to experiment with beer pairings. This weekend we made up the steaks. They’re already rubbed, smoked and charred when you get them, and come with instructions on how to cook them to medium rare. We picked a few beers based on experience and recommendations from readers. Belgian styles and IPAs were among the most popular so we chose a few different local or regional beers and a Trappist beer to try out with the steak.

We tried a Westmalle Dubbel, Southampton Burton IPA, Ommegang Rare Vos and Harpoon Leviathan Quad with the meat, and here are our assessments:

Westmalle Dubbel: At first we thought this would be the winner because the effervescence of the beer would cut through the richness of the steak while there would be enough flavor to stand up to the steak.  The dark fruit and clove flavors of the beer went surprisingly well with the char on the meat at first, but it left a strange aftertaste with the smokiness.

Southampton Burton IPA: We picked this beer for the earthy hop bitterness and the solid malt backbone. It turned out to be too bitter for the steak and blew the flavors off the palate. We still like the beer but it just didn’t work well as a pairing.

Ommegang Rare Vos: Perfectly complementary. The effervescence from the Belgian yeast cut through the fat of the steak while the slight spice and understated hop bitterness complimented the char and smoke from the meat.

Harpoon Leviathan Quad: Too strong and overpowering for the meat. Again, the dark fruit flavors mixed with the smoke flavors in a strange way we didn’t like. Clocking in at 11.75 percent ABV, the beer was just too big.

The winner? Ommegang Rare Vos!

Photos by Michael Gallagher

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AleSmith IPA for #IPADay

Last year we acknowledged #IPADay by drinking through Sam Adams’s Latitude 48 deconstructed IPA limited release variety pack. Then we had a bunch of other IPAs. This year, we’re doing a little AleSmith IPA. Just the one bottle. Look how we’ve evolved (read: we’ve had too much drunkenness lately).

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Surprise Visit to the Barley Creek Brewing Company

This past weekend we road-tripped up to Binghamton University to see our brother/brother-in-law graduate from college. Can everyone pause for a minute to appreciate the coolness of that sentence? He graduated from college!

Ahem. So on the way back, while driving through Pennsylvania looking for a place to eat dinner, we happened upon the Barley Creek Brewing Company.

We enjoyed a flight of beers, which included a Copper Top Ale, Rescue IPA, Cocoa Porter, and Spring Hop IPL (India Pale Lager). The Spring Hop IPL was our favorite of the bunch with a bright snappy hop character that was quite refreshing. Weighing in at 4.5% ABV the Spring Hop is a great session beer for the summer heat. The Cocoa Porter was dominated by sweetness and cocoa, definitely more appropriate for a cold, damp day. Both the Copper Top and the Rescue were well balance malt forward beers that would be easy to pair with the pub style fare served at the brewery.

A great place to enjoy beer and food while passing through the area.

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For #IPA Day: A Journey Through Latitude 48 IPA

Today is International #IPADay, “a grassroots movement to unite the voices of craft beer enthusiasts, bloggers, and brewers worldwide through social media,” wrote Beer Wench Ashley Routson, co-founder of the movement. A grassroots beer movement? We’re totally on board!

We decided to acknowledge the day by trying Samuel Adams’ Latitude 48 deconstructed IPA limited release variety pack. We hadn’t yet sampled a single hop variety series and thought this would be a good place to start. Here are our tasting notes, beginning with Latitude 48 IPA and continuing on to the five IPAs brewed with each individual hop variety in Latitude 48, comparing each of their flavors:

Latitude 48 IPA: Floral and grassy in the nose. Fresh. Smooth in the front and bitter in the back. A little bit of pine.

East Kent Goldings: Lemon in the nose. Earthy, evergreen. Smoother on the tongue. Less bitter.

Hallertau Mittelfreuh: Lemon in the nose. Not as fragrant. Bitter, grassy, not piney or sticky. Subtle.

Zeus: Woody, very bitter on the end. Tangy, but not in a good way. Unbalanced.

Ahtanum: Orange in the nose. Pine. Less bitter. Soft, subtle, smooth. Floral, grassy.

Simcoe: A subtle bitterness. Lemon. The least intense of them all.

Our favorite: Latitude 48 IPA. It was full, balanced, complete. But of the separate hop varietal beers, it’s a tie between East Kent and Ahtanum for their smooth, less bitter flavors.

What did we learn? We learned that hops are blended for a reason. But it was a fun journey for the palate.

(Full disclosure: we did this yesterday. Cheating? Maybe. But don’t worry, we’ll be drinking IPAs today too. Oh, yes we will.)

Yup. That’s a hop.

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Midas Touch and Belgica

This weekend we went over to American Beer Distributor on Court Street in Cobble Hill this weekend to grab some beers. We picked up a couple bottles of Dogfish Head Midas Touch and Great Divide Brewing Company Belgica. We’ve been wanting to try Midas Touch for a while since the recipe is derived from material discovered on drinking vessels at an archaeological site thought to be connected with King Midas. The ale is made with honey, white muscat grapes and saffron. The honey and the grape flavors are definitely noticeable but the saffron didn’t come through as strongly. The beer has a significant sweetness but it is balanced by some lively carbonation. Belgica is described as a Belgian Style India Pale Ale with a combination of Beglian yeast and American hops. We enjoyed the spicy background that the yeast supplied behind the hop character. It was a nice change to see more yeast flavors in an IPA. We’d definitely recommend both for coming summer.

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‘Eastover’ Beer

Beer made a few appearances during our Passover/Easter weekend (even for the Passover Seder, which we celebrated on Saturday, a few days late). Oddly enough the beer we drank at our Seder was Sierra Nevada’s newly released Ovila Dubbel, which was actually brewed in conjunction with the Monks of New Clairevaux in California. As far as dubbels go it had a pretty full and smooth mouthfeel with less of the effervescence of some other dubbels we have had.

On Easter Sunday we drank Tröegs beers from a sample pack. Pretty solid stuff. I also tried the Samuel Adams Long Shot 2010 winner Blackened Hops. If you haven’t had any Black IPAs, Blackened Hops is a good introduction.

– Giancarlo

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