2006 | REVIEWS | BLIND BEER TASTINGS
CBN India Pale Ales Blind Tastings
CBN Blind Tasting Panel
• Jay R. Brooks, Tasting Panel Director, CBN
• Bob Coleman, Reporter, CBN
• Tom Dalldorf, Editor / Publisher, CBN
• Paul Marshall, Beer Judge
• Pete Slosberg, Former Brewer / Chocolatier
• Angela Wagner, Reporter, CBN
• Special thanks to Mike Long, BTP Head Steward
INDIA PALE ALES
It’s been three years since we’ve tasted IPAs,
and in that time their popularity has only increased. Several
regional and smaller brewers’ flagship beers are now
IPAs, which might have been unthinkable as recently as a decade
ago. And most craft brewers now offer IPAs as part of their
portfolios. It’s a rare brewery nowadays that doesn’t
have an IPA.
India pales ales are, of course, so named because they were
originally brewed beginning in the late 1700s for the specific
purpose of surviving the long journey aboard ship from England
to India. They were, in effect, the original high-gravity
beers, weighing in around 1.070 and higher in some cases.
Hopping was also many times what would be considered normal
today, ranging from 4 to 7 pounds per barrel! Of course, we
have no way of knowing today how strong those hops were or
whether or not they were aged first to reduce potency, since
their purpose was largely as a preservative. Regardless, it
should be some comfort to the many hop-heads of the Western
U.S. to learn that the “new” hoppier West Coast
IPAs and imperial IPAs are really closer to the original incarnation.
What are now known as English-style (or East Coast) IPAs generally
have much lower IBUs and/or use less aromatic hops than what
has become the norm out West.
Today’s India pale ales have gravities from 1.050 to
1.075 with IBUs of 40–60, according to the BJCP guidelines,
and with slightly higher bitterness permitted under GABF style
guidelines. All beers were tasted blind. Results are listed
alphabetically by score.
Ballast Point Brewing, California
Big citrus aromas with great hop depth. Light brown color.
Great balance, with a blast wave of big tart hops with hints
of spiciness along the way. The end of the ride features a
rich, long finish.
Big Sky Brewing, Montana
Warm, rich malt aromas with herbal citrus notes. Light brown
color. Lightly sweet malt flavor with spicy hop character
and a mildly lingering finish.
Widmer Brothers Brewing, Oregon
Light nose of subtle hop aromas. Golden color and a thick
tan head. Slightly sweet, with herbal and citrus hop character.
Not a hop bomb; more on the order of an IPA-mild, but with
great flavors throughout.
Drake’s Brewing, California
Big hop aromas with a hint of herbal alfalfa. Light brown
color. A big hop bomb but with equally large malt character
keeping détente. The hop oils all but dance and drip
off the tongue. The fallout bittering is nicely tart, but
the big fruity malt keeps the finish going.
Nectar Ales/Firestone Walker Brewing, California
Big hop aromas with sweet candy notes. Dark amber color.
Excellent balance is this beer’s signature, with nice
malt on the palate and a very clean finish.
Mad River Brewing, California
Excellent citrus fruit hop aromas. Cloudy golden-copper color.
Big hop bite with a good caramel malt base. Nice balance,
with a long, luscious bitter finish.
Lagunitas Brewing, California
Light nose of hops and toasty malt aromas. Clear amber color
with a thick tan head. Rich malt flavors with an excellent
hop bite. Very well-conditioned, with soft sweet malt underlying
a rich hoppiness and a long, lingering finish.
Moylan’s Brewing, California
Herbal, citrus nose with haylike aromas. Dark amber color.
Soft, creamy flavors, with good balance of herbal hops and
sweet malt and an exceptionally clean finish.
Bear Republic Brewing, California
Citrusy herbal hop aromas. Dark copper color with great lace
and a thick tan head. Great balance, with a soft herbal malt
profile and big hop character you can practically chew on.
Well-conditioned, with herbal hop notes throughout and a long,
Ballast Point Brewing, California
Strong spicy, herbal nose. Bright golden color. Creamy mouthfeel
with excellent balance that includes rich malt and huge hops
along with a long, luxurious finish.
21st Amendment Brewery, Restaurant & Bar, California
Light citrus hop aromas, bright golden color and a white
head. Creamy, rich flavors with sweet malt and lemony citrus
hops. Great balance, with a long succulent finish that starts
bitter but unexpectedly ends up malty sweet.
Valley Brewing, California
Light herbal hop nose, mahogany-brown color and a modest
tan head. Tart, rich flavors with some toasty character and
strong hop oil presence. Some sweetness up front that turns
to the bitter side, where it remains through the destruction
of the spectacular dark star finish.
Green Flash Brewing, California
Bready dry malt and citrusy hop aromas with just a hint of
grassiness. Deep amber color with a big creamy head and great
Brussels lace. Great conditioning, with good malt character
and huge chewy hops that win the battle for world domination
in the last reel.
Acme Brewing/North Coast Brewing, California
Lightly hoppy nose, bright golden color and a thick tan head.
Big tart hop blast, though only light malt seasoning, and
a clean finish.
Bison Brewing, California
Soft herbal nose, dark amber color and a rich tan head. Good
balance, with light hop character and soft malt flavors. More
of an English-style IPA, though with a good bitter finish.
Eel River Brewing, California
Citrusy hop aromas, light brown color and a tan head. Creamy
rich malt with caramel flavor and great bittering. Excellent
balance and a clean finish.
E.J. Phair Brewing, California
Toasty malt character with herbal hop notes and just a hint
of banana bread and bourbon spirit. Bright amber color with
a thick tan head. Creamy malt notes and an almost too intense
hop bite. Good mouthfeel, though it’s a light and spicy
number with a big bitter finish that just keeps going and
Anderson Valley Brewing, California
Soft herbal hop and fruit aromas, pale amber color and a
tan head. Creamy and rich on the palate with big, chewy, spiced
hop character and a soft, lingering malt and hop finish.
HopTown Brewing, California
Light hoppy nose with spicy, bready aromas. Dark amber color.
Strong hop dominance with good malt engaged in a valiant though
ultimately unsuccessful struggle.
Lost Coast Brewery, California
Bready, toasty aromas and dark amber color. Creamy, rich
flavors with a nice mouthfeel and a soft, malty palate, but
still well balanced. Hops begin muted but make their presence
known soon enough and linger pleasantly through a long, bitter
Deschutes Brewery, Oregon
Sweet herbal nose with fruity aromas. Dark amber color. Slightly
sweet with a gritty mouthfeel and a long, lingering, bitter
Marin Brewing, California
Subtle malt nose, brown color and a light tan nose. Good
balance that’s malt-forward with peppery, spicy hops
and a long, lingering finish.
Farmhouse Brewing, California
Spicy herbal nose and dark amber color. Excellent balance,
with richly sweet malt and good hop character that comes on
strong midway through and on down to its long, lingering finish.
Sly Fox Brewing, Pennsylvania
Creamy malt aromas with herbal notes. Deep brown color. Roasty-toasty
malt with chewy, spicy hops and a clean finish. It leans toward
the bitter but is in balance.
Stone Brewing, California
Spicy, fruity herbal nose, bright golden color and a thick
white head. Well-conditioned, with soft, clean rich flavors
of lightly sweet malt and a delightfully chewy hop character
with a very sinewy bitter finish.
Great Divide Brewing, Colorado
Light, hoppy nose with dry malt aromas. Dark amber color.
Creamy, with complex malt character and spicy, peppery hops
that give this beer an almost exotic quality. Well-balanced,
with a clean finish.
BridgePort Brewing, Oregon
Subtle herbal, bready aromas and cloudy golden color. Creamy
flavors, with fruity malt, a preponderance of hops and a lingering
Creek Organic IPA
Butte Creek Brewing, California
Fruity, herbal hop aromas and dark amber color. Creamy, rich
flavors, a good mouthfeel and a big hop bite.
Full Sail Brewing, Oregon
Soft herbal aromas that are slightly haylike. Dark amber
color and a full, creamy head. Tart, clean malt character
that’s subservient to the big puckering hop bite that
holds on and won’t let go through a long, lingering
Mammoth Brewing, California
Strong spicy, resiny hop aromas with some malt toastiness.
Mahogany color. Toasty malt flavors with rich hop character
and good balance.
Hale’s Ales, Washington
Herbal, grassy hop notes with dry bready malt character and
just a hint of sweetness. Pale amber color with a tan head.
Slight sourness, though with sweet malt character. Hot, peppery
hop bite with a lingering bitter finish.
Squatters Pub Brewery, Utah
Light nose of citrusy hop aromas. Light golden color. Simple
flavors with a big hop bite and light malt character. Finishes
Redhook Ale Brewery, Washington
Soft yeast aromas with slight herbal notes. Clear, light
golden color. Hop-heavy, with harsh bittering and light malt
character and a relatively clean finish.