If there is any one style that captures the zeitgeist of the craft beer industry, it is the many and varied styles of Pale Ale. Pale ales are by definition, light-colored beers that brewed with generous amounts of hops and top fermenting, ale yeasts.
This part here is important because there is a popular commercial beer on the market that markets itself as a type of pale ale and fails to satisfy any of these requirements – it is a sweet, brown and a lager.
Let us look at the style which spawned the pale ale genre; the IPA!
IPA stands for India Pale Ale; a beer style which originated in the English town of Burton on the Thames which was explicitly brewed for export to India in the 18th Century. Without refrigeration, exporting beer from the UK to India was perilous at best and other than the hardiest dark ales very few survived the journey in any drinkable state.
And who likes drinking dark beer in 30+ degrees heat?
And so the IPA was born; to create a lighter beer they dried the malt over burning coke (a derivative of coal) and to preserve it they hopped it with gay 18th Century abandon.
We use hops in beer nowadays for their flavor but traditionally they were used as a preservative as they have strong antibacterial and antifungal properties.
The hops closest relation is the cannabis plant (like cannabis the hop is a soporific – it helps you to sleep), and depending on where you use it in the brewing process it offers different flavor profiles.
If you boil hops with the word, you get bitter flavors and the preservative qualities.
If you add them during or after fermentation you tend to get more vibrant grassy, fruity flavors – this is what brewers refer to as dry hopping. And just like wine grapes different hop varieties grown in different places show unique flavor differentiation.
Because the hops were used primarily as a preservative, we can assume that the hop flowers were added to the boil resulting in an extremely bitter beer but also to the barrels as a further preservative suggesting that some of the fruity hop flavors would also be present in the beer.
These days IPA’s tend to be relatively strong (5% – 7%), with a malty body and distinctive hop bitterness and some hop aromas. Here are a couple of my favorite kiwi brewed IPAs!
The Twisted Hop IPA
This beer is without a doubt my favorite kiwi brewed IPA; it has a lovely rich malty body with some malt sweetness juxtaposed against a wall of refreshing bitterness with some citrusy hop aroma and sweetness.
It’s great out of the bottle but even better poured from a traditional hand pump just like they do in England. It’s neither warm nor flat – but cellar temperature (a lovely cool 12 degrees) and spritz with only the natural fermenting yeast to give it its sparkle rather than carbonation.
Three Boys IPA
This is a more refined and elegant example of the IPA; it has clean, almost hay-like malt notes with a refreshing bitterness and a distinctive but restrained hop flavors that weave between spicy, fruity and savory aspects.
Always enjoy responsibly!
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