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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

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.

Big Eye IPA
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 IPA
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.

Broken Halo IPA
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 IPA
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.

IPA Nectar
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.

Jamaica Sunset IPA
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 IPA
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 IPA
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.

Racer 5 IPA
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, soft finish.

Sculpin IPA
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 IPA
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 IPA
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.

West Coast IPA
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 California IPA
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 Organic IPA
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 IPA
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 IPA
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 going.

Hop Ottin’ IPA
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 IPA
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.

Indica IPA
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 finish.

Inversion IPA
Deschutes Brewery, Oregon

Sweet herbal nose with fruity aromas. Dark amber color. Slightly sweet with a gritty mouthfeel and a long, lingering, bitter hop finish.

Marin IPA
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.

Oasthouse IPA
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 IPA
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 IPA
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.

Titan IPA
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 IPA
BridgePort Brewing, Oregon

Subtle herbal, bready aromas and cloudy golden color. Creamy flavors, with fruity malt, a preponderance of hops and a lingering bitter finish.

Butte 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 IPA
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 finish.

Mammoth IPA
Mammoth Brewing, California

Strong spicy, resiny hop aromas with some malt toastiness. Mahogany color. Toasty malt flavors with rich hop character and good balance.

Mongoose IPA
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 IPA
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 clean.

Redhook IPA
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.


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