The last few years have really been hopping for craft beer sales, especially one specific style of brew known as the IPA. While stouts, porters, helles, kolsch, belgian ales and wild or sour beers are all seeing more and more interest from adventurous consumers, it is the bold and usually bitter India Pale Ale that is really driving craft beer sales at most retail and on premise locations.
Every day, without fail, the number one question we get at my store is “What are the newest IPAs you’ve brought in?” While there usually isn’t a week that goes by without us adding at least one or two new IPAs to the cooler, springtime is often when we begin to see a large influx of new beers.
It seems like every year for the last few years, our local distributors have inked new contracts to bring in award-winning beer from around the country and this year is going to be another big one for those looking to try some great IPAs that are either brand new recipes or are now available for the first time in North Dakota.
A style born of necessity, the India Pale ale was originally brewed with extra hops added at the end in order to help the beer survive the journey to India over the hot, humid seas. Recent years have seen enormous interest build in this particular style of beer and numerous subcategories within the style have emerged.
West Coast IPAs tend to be much more hoppy than the East Coast versions. Double and Triple IPAs have emerged as well, with amped up amounts of hops and alcohol and usually bursting with floral and or juicy characteristics in varying degrees. Some brewers have even been adding botanicals, spices, or fruit to their brews in an effort to offer up unique and interesting flavors as well as separate themselves from an extremely crowded field. Even if they aren’t evolving or augmenting their IPA, nearly every single brewery is bringing at least one version of this extremely popular style and most are brewing two or more.
Two examples of breweries doing multiple IPAs have just begun distribution to the local area through D-S Beverages. Both Elysian Brewing and 10 Barrel Brewing are well known up and down the West Coast for their numerous award winning beers but it is their IPAs that we will first be seeing in our market.
The Immortal IPA from Elysian is their interpretation of the classic English style India Pale ale and is golden copper in color and has a strong hop aroma and flavor without being overly bitter. 4 different malts make up the base of this brew which is then bittered with Chinook and finished with Amarillo and Centennial which provide a decent depth of grapefruit like citrus aromas and flavors.
Those who prefer even more bright citrus bursting from their glass would do well to try Space Dust IPA, also from Elysian. Loaded with notes of pineapple, citrus juice and pine, I found this beer a bit more complex and juicy than the Immortal but it still had a solid enough malty backbone to not completely overwhelm me with hops.
10 Barrel Brewing, out of Bend, Oregon made national news when they were acquired during a big craft brewery spending spree by AB InBev last year and to some craft snobs, this might mean they will steer clear of 10 Barrel just because. I wholeheartedly encourage you to reconsider such a position and give their JOE IPA and their Apocalypse a try if you find it on tap or see it at your local liquor store. While their flagship, Apocalypse, gets constant praise for its incredibly balanced blend of malt and hops with an unbelievably creamy finish, their JOE is plump full of Simcoe, Amarillo, and Mosaic hops to deliver tangerine, tropical fruit and grapefruit that lasts all the way through a clean but strong finish.
If 10 Barrel and Elysian are names you aren’t that familiar with, perhaps this one might excite you. Stone Brewing, out of Escondido, California is well known throughout the country for brewing up some incredible IPAs and offers up around a dozen different versions of the India Pale ale year round. Hopheads be alert: beginning May 1st, they will be distributing to North Dakota for the first time.
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