Friday, 3 August 2012

IPA Day - what's the point?

So, IPA Day - something to celebrate, or some kind of annoyance?

IPADay.org

Normally 'forced' and artifical celebratory days annoy the hell out of me, but I guesss as IPA Day has no basis in religion, tradition, or overt commercialisation of any one brand, I don't really mind someone giving me a vague excuse to drink some IPA. I mean, I don't need an excuse at all, and I'll almost always have a few bottles of IPA of some kind or other in the beer cupboard - along with sours, Belgian dubbels, German weisse, porter, aged stout, and just about any other style I happen to have grabbed in my last beer shop.

I get that some people feel it is a fetishisation of one style above all others - and it gets their hackles up - but I'd be just as happy to celebrate a Dark Mild Day, Porter Day, Quadrupel Day, Wit Day, or any other style, as I think it would be great to have a designated day when beer bloggers, tweeters, and general drinkers round the world might choose to collectively focus on a style; explore it, drink their favourites, talk about it, maybe introduce some macro lager-only drinkers to it. So if anyone out there wants to take up the reigns and start an <insertstylehere> day, I'll be right there with them! In a way, I wonder if that kind of thing may happen anyway as "craft" beer drinking spreads. If it does, I'll be poised at my beer cupboard, ready to dig out whatever is called for. Why not - it's an excuse to savour, to share with other people, perhaps to pick up tips on new beers, or go along to an event (if you live in a town with forward-thinking craft beer bars that is) and spend the night in beery conversation.

For this year's IPA Day though, I am short of time - so sadly couldn't rustle up a spread of IPA-suitable foods, and plan in my beers - or even have enough time to drink a suitable range. Never mind, I see that next year's 2nd August is a FRIDAY - and of course there are many more days of drinking IPA between now and then anyway ;-)

So I took a trip over to @stirchleywines with the intention of just picking up a couple of staple US IPAs, but as ever the great selection of interesting stuff there turned my head, and I thought I'd pick up a few new IPAs from different countries that I haven't tried before. See, this IPA Day thing is a good excuse for expermentation!

Lovely stash from Stirchley Wines
With time being limited, I knew I wouldn't get through all of these on the night, but that's fine, just means there's a few cold, hoppy treats in my fridge for the start of the weekend.


First to be tasted was the Sveh IPA, from De Struisse brewery in Belgium. The Belgians make great beer, but it's not known for it's hoppiness, and it's interesting to see how some innovative brewers there are experimenting with non-Belgian styles. This one didn't say 'IPA' to me at all; it has some hops on the nose, but I found the candi sugar and Belgian yeast dominated on the nose and palate. But I really enjoyed it - the extra bitterness was a great counterbalance to the sweetness, and I'll definitely be drinking this beer again.

Next up was the Flying Dog Snake Dog IPA, a US stalwart, one of those hoppy and refreshing beers you reach for on a hot day. Picked this to go with our food, as something I knew so didn't need to analyse too much while drinking. Dinner tonight would have been pulled pork - a perfect IPA accompaniment - but due to time restriction, I made some 'Old Badlands' spiced chicken instead, with a bit of jalapeno slaw, fries, and some Dave's Roasted Garlic Hot Sauce. The Snake Dog didn't quite hit the mark - seemed a tad on the over-bitter side, but it's usually a pretty reliable hoppy IPA so I'd be happy to see this popping up in a fridge in a bar near me (preferably The Victoria).

 
As an after-tea cleanser, I next tried the Nils Oscar Hop Yard IPA - this is the beer company from Sweden who make God's Lager - and the label was very enticing, mentioning Cascade, Simcoe, Nelson Sauvin, Amarillo, and Citra. It had a great luminous orangey colour, and lively sharpish hop aromas. This had less bitterness than I expected, and a nice weight coming out in the mouthfeel from a bit of sweetness to the finish. Impressed with this, and it would encourage me to try more from their range as they now have a range of beer styles available in this country.


Now for something different - my first beer from Italy's Birrificio Indipendente Elav, called "TECHNO Cybotronic Double IPA" - sounds exciting with an eye-catching lablel, but what really made me buy it were the part-Italian, part-English tasting notes: "Stile Imperial IPa ... Un singolo malto in loop come base e le alte frequenze di luppolo in bollitura e dry hopping, scatenano un rave party extrasensoriale" - well if it's going to be a dry-hopped rave party in my mouth, who could resist! This had a rich and spicy nose, and a warmth and 'heaviness' to it (not surprising at 9.5%) - much more malty and fruity than the other IPAs tried tonight so far, almost like a darker cousin to Oakham's Green Devil IPA.

Sadly IPA day was drawing to a close but I was happy to leave the other beers in the fridge - the pulled pork may get it's chance for some IPA action over the next few days - but there was time for one last beer, this time from one of an impressive crop of new breweries in England who seem to be getting their recipes spot-on from the off, showing off their skill and making beers that excite you and make you want to try anything they produce. This one was 'Ageless', a Double IPA from Red Willow. I've had this beer several times before and have really enjoyed it, so it was a sure bet for a last IPA of the day. This is a 'chewy' beer, with rich malts, a headiness from the alcohol content, and a bready note from the yeasts, but still carrying rich hop aromas and bitters through to the end.

So for me, I didn't feel the need to agonise too much over the beer politics of IPA Day - I was happy to be given the nudge to go shopping, and despite thinking I'd just be drinking a few old familiars, it instead give me the impetus to try some new beers and new breweries - IPAs from five different countries in total. Plus, I now have bonus beers in the fridge for the weekend. But if anyone fancies a virtual meetup over a different beer style on some other specified day, give me a shout, and I'll be happy to join you!

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