Hopped Up on Beer: Notes From the IPA Tasting
Last week's Beerspotter column about Smuttynose IPA mentioned that the beer shined in a blind tasting against old standbys, such as Bell's Two-Hearted Ale, and was mistaken across the board for Stone IPA. It's exactly discoveries like this that make beer tastings so much fun — sometimes you'll find a new favorite and, in any case, you get to drink good beer with friends.
So here are the notes from my recent IPA tasting, in chronological order. We tasted the beers blind and informally, with no scoring system, and the bottles ere based on availability, not necessarily my top choices. Taste is opinion, and as with sports or politics or music, arguing is half the fun. So sound off in the comments section or yell at me directly on Twitter.
- Stone. Poured golden with a frothy, laced head. A strong grapefruit aroma wafted over the sweetness of golden raisins and dessert wine. My notes say "Stone?", but as this was the first taste of the night, I wasn't convinced.
- Highland Kashmir. Not available in D.C., this is an Ashville, N.C. beer that my friend brought up. It was light in flavor, on the malty side, with lemony sweetness. Fine as an all-day beer but a lightweight in this competition.
- Sierra Nevada Torpedo. A few of us identified this one by its giant citrus flavor, courtesy of Sierra's signature cascade hops. It's a heavier beer with a brown pour, which stood out from the first two.
- Great Divide Titan. This was different than I remembered: big, fruity, and floral, with a sweetness like white wine. Some funky stuff going on in the nose, kind of a clash between all the hops. The consensus: busy and delicious.
- Anderson Valley Hop Ottin. This beer was a definite outlier: a dark, chestnut body with a fat head the color of buttercream frosting. Heavy malts put it closer to a big red ale like Bear Republic Red Rocket than an IPA.
- Smuttynose. I can't say it was best in show, but given its dark-horse stature (none of the panelists had tried it recently) and the near-unanimous agreement that it was Stone IPA, the takeaway lesson from this tasting was that Smuttynose IPA is awesome. Fresh grapefruit hoppiness with an aggressively dry finish.
- Bell's Two-Hearted Ale. The reason Smuttynose can't be the hands-down winner. Everyone picked this out of the blind tasting with no problem: the huge citrus flavors, the twin peaks of sweet malt and quenching hops....This is a beer to bring home to Mom.
If you've done a tasting recently, let me know in the comments. My question for everyone: What style would you like to see done next? Pilsners, doppelbocks, embarrassing product tie-ins?