At what point does one elevate from merely drinking beer to being a full-on beer snob? Answer: when you feel compelled to tell other people what to drink. And the inevitable result of this peculiar ailment is the beer argument.
In the spirit of all great beer-related discussions, we present Brewed For Battle; a new series of Chow Bella blog posts that pits a selection of brews from a given style up against each other and lets the taste buds of one layman battle them out. Multiple beers go in. One beer comes out the victor.
This week's battle: IPA
The beer's defining characteristics are the result of efforts to solve a vexing problem.
During the 1700s, the British Empire established itself in India, and when the East India Company began heavy trading, it wasn't long before there was a great demand for beer among sailors. But trips by ship to India usually lasted around six months, and constant temperature changes along with turbulent seas proved unkind to the booze they sent, causing it to arrive flat and sour.
But it's from the most pressing challenges that mankind's greatest innovations have arisen, and so it was with the IPA. After some trial and error, a man named George Hodgson discovered a solution to the spoilage: simply increase the amount of hops and alcohol, both of which ward off bacteria and act as natural preservatives. Hodgson started packing hops into beer like a bandit, and the India Pale Ale was born.
The U.S. version of this historical style is brewed using American ingredients and American attitude -- namely, the "mine's bigger than yours" attitude. Oodles of American hops give these beers a big herbal and/or citric kick and lip-smacking bitterness. Today, IPA is easily the most popular style among craft beer drinkers in America.
Zach's Pick: Alesmith IPA The back of this bottle from San Diego's Alesmith Brewing Co. has the phrase "I Prefer Alesmith. It's Pretty Awesome," words they might as well have taken from my diary. Often ranked among the top IPAs on the planet, this beer is all about the hops. The aroma is heavenly, absolutely packed with orange and grapefruit peel, apricot and fresh pine; the flavor is lip-smackingly bitter, sharp, bright and juicy.
As per usual, I took this opportunity afforded to me by "Brewed For Battle" to gamble. I walked into Taste of Tops and picked up an IPA I've never so much as heard of before. For the most part, I like Rogue's ales. That makes Rogue's Brutal IPA especially disappointing. One question, Rogue: where are the hops? I like my IPAs so hoppy that they taste more like freshly cut grass or snacking on a couple bags of green tea. The Brutal IPA's level of hoppiness is nonexistent.
There is nothing I like more then a good IPA. However, I normally like to indulge in more then beer and with most IPA you're kinda screwed if you try and take on too much. That's why Racer 5 is a dream come true. The California beer has a heavenly sweet and slightly perfume-y aroma. The taste is unbelievably well balanced with just the right amount of citrus-y hops and floral undertones. Unlike most IPA's there is only a tinge of bitterness and just the right amount of sparkle. At just 7% ABV you can down more then one. Thank you Bear Republic for producing one of my most coveted beers.
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The Layman's Choice: Racer 5 This week's layman was Chow Bella contributor and consumer of everything offal, Erica O'Neil. Why did she prefer the Racer 5 to are other IPAs?
The Racer 5, she said, is "fruity and I care for that. Unlike the Alesmith, this didn't taste like a glass of perfume. It's sweeter and more balanced." Alesmith- smells pretty and floral, like fruit perfume. Rogue- smells like an infection; sparkly, skunky and over-carbonated. Racer 5 - fruity and I care for that. Unlike the Alesmith, this didn't taste like a glass of perfume. It's sweeter and more balanced.
Next week: Winter Warmers