On yer bike – @OakhamAles: Green Devil IPA

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You know, I reckon, there’s two very different sorts of hoppy beer in this funny little world of ours…

First off, there’s American hoppy beer: which I associate with resinous and dank and sticky buds and citrus and grapefruit peel and bitter and marmalade – all in a tumult, just like that.

Then there’s English hoppy beer – which is still assertive and has those same American themes but somehow less full-bore and with more subtleties – such as delicate floral notes and honey and summer.

If it’s pines in an English-hoppy beer then it’s sun-soaked Lebanese cyprus by a greek taverna – rather than pine needles bunging up the Hoover at Christmas.

I like both styles equally…

There’s days when only a solid American IPA style will do: everything at maximum, with the amps cranked up to 11 – a headlong break-neck trip through hop city on a Harley.

Then there’s other days when you need a bracing yomp through the hills and fields, taking in the forests and the rioutous summer meadows; earthy, sensual and provocative to the senses – which is what you seem to get from an English hoppy beer.

Needless to say, there’s US brewers making great English-style hoppy beer, and some great US-inspired hoppy beer from brewers on this side of the water…

Speaking of brewers from this side of the water, lets take a look at Oakham’s Green Devil IPA…

Green Devil IPA is a curious mix of both hoppy beer styles.  I guess I can best describe it as a bit like mountain-biking:  it’s all full-on downhill craziness: mad hops and assertive bitterness; but if you take the time to stop for a bit and take your helmet off, you’ll find yourself in a delicate and sensual surroundings.

The hops in the nose are big and bold, lightly vegetative and with a lively playfulness.   The colour is fresh-cast-bullion and the head stays soapy-foamy right to the end.  I got pines, lemons and hints of grapefruit in the taste with a lightly but dangerously drinkable body.  The bitterness kept me going back for more until I found myself empty-glassed and slightly sad at not having more on hand.

If I were you I’d get on your bike and get some today.

See detail of it here: http://www.oakhamales.com/greendevilipa.html

Gorgeous Gargantuan Grapefruit: @BPbrewing – Grapefruit Sculpin IPA

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I know this might be a rather strong way to start a review, but:

GOD ALMIGHTY, THIS IS ONE HELL OF A BEER.

I know I’ve gone off of the deep end about certain beers before, but honest to goodness this is a truly great beer, and in this review I’m hoping to somehow, in however small-a-way, impress the greatness of it upon you…

In fact Ballast Point have made such a good job of brewing this, you needn’t bother reading the rest of my review; the time being far better spent trying to secure yourself a bottle or two…

So how did I come by this gem of a beer..?

A work trip to the AWS re:Invent conference just before Christmas meant that I found myself on a warmish Sunday afternoon shambling down the Las Vegas strip with my boss, you know, just taking in the sights after an hour or so of blazing away with large calibre machine guns and pistols (Battle Field Vegas. Go. Don’t ask. Just go.)

With the smell of cordite fresh in our nostrils we needed beer.

The liquor store beckoned (my boss always advises having a stock of beers in a hotel room…whether that’s for refreshment or just to stop his employees making too free with the company credit cards I’m not sure.  Either way it’s advice I never fail to heed)

Once inside the liquor store, I was staggered by the selection on offer.  So many beers, so many pretty bottles.  In the end, and having heard so much good stuff about it, I just had to have the Sculpin…this decision being helped in no small part by my boss sighing and leaning heavily on the counter while I ummed and ahhed.

Poured into a glass the upfront aroma is all fresh and zingy grapefruit rinds. There’s a lovely candyish marmalade note too. After that it’s hops, hops, hops! If I couldn’t have a bottle of Sculpin to drink, I’d happily settle for a whiff of the GLORIOUS aromatics instead.

Colour-wise, it’s old polished copper, with a perfect carbonation and a lovely frothy-foamy snow-white head.

When tasted, it’s full in body at 7 or so percent – which in my opinion is the sweet spot for this time of IPA.

Even at 7% ABV, Sculpin is as clean as a whistle…which is a good job because there’s an absolute ton of other flavour to come: a huge rush of zesty, pithy grapefruit and floral hops, LOVELY orangey maltiness , before the dank hops and laser-targeted 70IBU bitterness come to finish the whole thing off.

But wait! There’s a little grapefruit twang right at the end that makes your mouth run like a tap – which means you just can’t stop drinking.

I drank two bottles straight down – it really was that good.

But remember, you have to have this beer coolish – at least cellar temperature – there’s no point having it warm…it’s just not the same.

This is a GLORIOUS beer. You JUST have to try it. I doubt I’ll find equal or better for a very long while.

LOVE IT, LOVE IT, LOVE IT.

Webpage here: http://www.ballastpoint.com/beer/grapefruit-sculpin/

(I will make a clone tribute to this remarkable beer, just you wait…)

@adnams – Jack Brand Innovation IPA

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You may have noticed that the beer reviews have slowed down a bit…  I used to review pretty much every beer that I came across; but now there’s so much beer about the place that I’m having a hard job keeping up – and to be quite honest I hate reviewing mediocre beer and having to say “well, it’s sort of OK” and then trying to spin that out for about 300 words or so.

So: new year, new rules.

I will review beers that I think are great, novel or just damn tasty.  I will also pour extra effort into articles about brewing and even a bit about bread-making – plus a few exciting fermentation-based side projects.  Looking at the site statistics, it seems that brewing articles are the most well-received…so there’ll definitely be more of those…

Anyway, here’s a beer that I do think is great: Adnams Jack Brand Innovation IPA

Pouring a very lovely amber colour, with a fine head that rapidly drops to a wispy covering – this looks like a proper “craft” IPA.

At 6.7% you know that it’s going to be big and worth having, so lets get on with it.

The aroma is very special: dank – but not oppressively so – with a great big breakfast grapefruit, pines and peppery top layer that, with further sniffing, reveals a firm underscore of freshly-cut blood oranges and a final lovely and lasting burnt bitter-orange note.  It’s big, it’s bold but it isn’t brash; alluringly hopped, that’s my term for it.

Upon tasting there’s big mouth-filling malts, a very welcome alcoholic warmth and a silky-smooth body that showcases a whirl of taste sensations – all vying for your attention: sharp citrus and grapefruit pithiness, dark demerera sugar, lemons ‘n’ limes, pines and deep meaningful dankness; spiciness abounds and runs up against more deep dankness to leave you – quite frankly – all post-coital glowy and lolling about.

Then of course the beer whispers “shall we do it again?” and before you know it you’re rolling about the floor, in IPA heaven again…

God, I need to take a shower now.

Buy some today.  Not just because it’s good, but because it’s good and attractively priced, being available from the Adnams online shop for £18.99 for 12.  That’s about £1.50 a bottle – contrast that with offerings from other brewers that are on a par, taste-wise, with Innovation IPA…

I know Adnams have scale on their side, but they are producing excellent beer…at scale.

http://cellarandkitchen.adnams.co.uk/catalog/product/bottles/adnams-jack-brand-innovation-12-x-330ml-bottles-67-abv?page=2&sort=price_asc

Deftly Hopped: Lagunitas (@Lagunitasbeer) – IPA

20141014_202302There I was happily browsing through the Adnams Kitchen and Cellar Shop in Southwold only to find that they’ve gone and imported some lovely US IPA for me to try…they must have known that I was going to visit…

Lagunitas is one of those brewery names that I see and hear a lot in the home-brew and tasting forums, but didn’t think I’d ever get to try until I was back in the US of A – and yet here it is, by the pallet-load in Southwold.  Happy Days.

Out of the bottle Lagunitas IPA was a sort of Fosters-amber-colour with a smart-looking dense white head and a very solid carbonation.  (I really must pay more attention to working out bottle carbonation for my beers properly, the old “a third to half-a-teaspoon of sugar should do” approach doesn’t always work that well.)

On the nose, a glorious melange of bright, lively, hops – with a faint chromey edge and floral notes that flowed throughout.

Big mouth-filling hoppiness in the taste: prickly and resinous: joyous, nimble and uplifting; and not at all cloying or heavy.  Cutting through all of that like a knife is an excellent bitterness, which makes for a very “can’t leave this alone” sort of beer.

A long pervasive after-taste, with shovelfuls of resurgent resin and prickly pines ran long and strong…

This is an excellent IPA, make no mistake.  It isn’t a total bruiser, it’s a delicate yet forceful example of the classic US IPA style.  It would be so easy for Lagunitas to really load up on the hop resins and turn it into a lumbering hop juggernaut, but I’m glad that they’ve exercised a deft hopping regime and teased out all of that lovely aroma and punchy taste.

Will definitely be drinking this again, should I get the chance…

http://lagunitas.com/beers/ipa/#