Don’t you just love American beers these days? They’ve lost none of their aggressive, in-your-face pugnaciousness, but many now wrap that big personality in a velvet glove. It’s an elegance not much valued in the early “Just gimme some hops” days of the craft beer scene. And it’s the big, hoppy flagship beers, the beer the brewer brews just because she (or he) likes it, that most often display this extra finesse.
Here's a handful of ideas for ways to mangle and abuse the idea of India pale ale, yet still come up with something pretty great to drink.
First among them are variations on the IPA theme. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with your basic India pale ale. This bright, hoppy style created a smash in both its homelands–England and India–and forced a lasting change in the brewing industry everywhere. It’s unquestionably a delightful and historic drink.
But one could make a case that IPA was a crucial step in the long slide to lightness, in the same way that, as an NPR commentator said, “Chet Atkins ruined country music.” Just as applying sophisticated arrangements and production techniques to twangy hillbilly tearjerkers led to today’s bland pickup-truck pop, IPA stoked the thirst for lighter and lighter products, making stronger darker beers into something unfashionably declassé. You know the rest of the story.
But that’s another debate, worthy of a few pints worth of gentlemanly discussion, at least.
Of course we homebrewers are never content with the status quo–from whatever era–and are always eager to get out there and break a few rules. So here’s a handful of ideas for ways to mangle and abuse the idea of India pale ale, yet still come up with something pretty great to drink.
I’m assuming you know how to brew up a complete recipe, so in the interest of space I’ll just give outlines here.