Did you celebrate #IPA Day last week or did it put you in a slump? If you partook—and as Stone’s Greg Koch tweeted, “I (partake) 365 days a year”—what IPA did you toast with? Lemme guess: something with enough hops to survive a sea voyage to India, something pale, and it was an ale. Great. Now what?
India Pale Ale is perfect. It’s truly a perfect beer and brewing artists could leave well enough alone. But if they did, they wouldn’t be craft brewers. Some are taking IPAs in bold, fun, and tasty new directions. Southern Tier, Cigar City, and Great Divide are just a few of the breweries with fantastic oaked IPAs wherein the bitter bite of the hops are tempered by the smooth, vanilla flavors that come from aging on oak chips.
Fruits and spices are increasingly finding their way into our beloved IPAs. From Dogfish Head’s Aprihop to a plethora of brewpubs’ offerings such as Portland’s Breakside Brewing Mango IPA, it seems people love accentuating the natural citrusy and tropical flavors of the hop flower with the actual fruits they’re said to impart. And while some hops are deemed spicy, if you’d like some real heat in your IPA, Alaskan took a stab at a Jalapeno IPA and San Diego’s Ballast Point set their Sculpin en fuego with a habanero version.
Most recently, perhaps inspired by Picasso’s color periods, brewers are already moving beyond Black IPAs, more commonly known as India Black Ales or Cascadian Dark Ales. Seemingly every brewery in Oregon concocts beers that marry the bitterness of the IPA with the roastiness of the stout, such as Deschutes Hop in the Dark. Recently they collaborated with Boulevard in Kansas City to juxtapose the former’s forte with hops and the latter’s strength in wheat beers for a White IPA (dubbed respectively as Deschutes Conflux No. 2 and Blvd Collaboration No. 2). With the addition of traditional witbier ingredients of zesty orange peel and coriander, I’ve had success in pouring this for folks who thought they couldn’t love an IPA!
And down in San Diego, on the heels of Stone’s wildly popular Sublimely Self-Righteous Black IPA, comes their new Green IPA. Er, make that Green Tea IPA, a collaborative effort along with Baird and Ishii breweries in Japan infusing some terroir in the form of sencha green tea and Japanese Sorachi Ace hops from the land of the rising sun.
Do you think IPAs are perfect the way they are or should they continue to be used as a foundation for new experiments? What kind of IPA would you like to see your favorite attempt?