Tuesday, November 9, 2010

It’s Not the Same, Old IPA

Drinkers of good beer tend to be a fairly agreeable lot, but there’s one area of the beer landscape where they have trouble finding common ground. When it comes to the American IPA, you find little consensus among people who like quality beer. There are those who love and crave the massively hopped and bitter beers that have fueled a good part of the craft beer movement in this country and then there’s the other crowd who find these beers unbalanced, uninviting and ultimately undrinkable. I admit, I’m a hop lover, but I think the anti-IPA people have a point. Almost every brewery makes an IPA these days and too many of them are one dimensional and dull and are more about delivering a bracing shock of bitterness than they are about good brewing.

The IPA may have fallen into a rut, but it ain’t dead yet and for proof of that we’ve got a couple of hop-forward beers currently pouring in Oshkosh that put a unique twist on the old bitterness.

First there’s the Komodo Dragon Fly Black IPA from the great Upland Brewing Company that O’Marro’s has had on tap for a few weeks now. Some people call this a Black IPA, others refer to it as a Cascadian Dark Ale, but whatever name suits you it’s the first beer of its type to go on tap here in Oshkosh. In the glass it looks more like a porter than an IPA, but a quick whiff tells you the beer has plenty of hop to it. This is a hybrid brew - part stout, part IPA, but neither facet is so overt as to blot out the other. That balance makes for an exceedingly drinkable ale that’s probably unlike any hoppy beer you’ve had before. If you’ve never tried a Black IPA/Cascadian Dark Ale now is your chance.

And over at Becket’s they’re pouring Flying Dog’s Raging Bitch, a golden, American IPA brewed with a Belgian Ale yeast that takes the hops in an entirely unexpected direction. It pours out like a Belgian Golden Strong Ale, but instead of the fruity sweetness that typically wafts off that style the aromatics of this beer are dominated by piney, Amarillo hops. The citrus-like bitterness of the hops goes surprisingly well with the peppery yeast character and best of all it has the easy drinking quality that makes those big, Belgian beers such a treat. This is no small beer, either. You’d never guess it, but it clocks in at 8.5%.

If you’re a hop lover, you owe it to yourself to check these beers out. Both of them are the first of their kinds to go on tap in Oshkosh and it might be a while before we see either of them here again. And let your server know that you appreciate having these beers available. We’ve got to support this stuff if we hope to see our options continue to grow.

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