13 Beers… One Recipe
I’ve run the gamut of beer preferences over the years. Out of necessity, my college years were marked by whatever was cheap: Michelob Lite, Rolling Rock and an occasional trip to Canada for Brador. Over time I gravitated toward the regional beers that began to fill store shelves, all of which offered something different and unique.
As beer varieties have exploded across the country and specifically here in Vermont, I’ve been exposed to seemingly endless interpretations of craft beer. Through the myriad of choices, one particular style has never quite resonated: India Pale Ale. I don’t recall the brand of IPA I first tried, but it left an indelible mark. The bitterness was harsh and never ending. I couldn’t quite grasp the style. Couldn’t get my head… or tongue around the purpose of such an aggressive sensation.
Earlier this year, with more and more IPA’s gracing beer menus, I decided to recheck my senses and see what the fuss was about. Over the past several months I’ve made it a point to sample IPA’s from across the country. When in North Carolina I tried Full Steam’s Rocket Science. In Minneapolis it was Surly’s Furious. In Rochester it was Forager’s Forager IPA and here in Vermont it was an array of beers from the dozen breweries within 15 miles of my home.
What I found was somewhat unexpected… so may styles within the style. From over-aggressive bitterness to floral scented to citrusy, quick-finishing beers, there seems to be no end to the possibilities.
With new knowledge and a growing affinity for IPA’s I recently assembled a few of my friends for a tasting, with the ultimate goal to develop and brew our own version of an India Pale Ale.
On a Friday night in November we gathered around my table to sample IPA’s and enjoy some fresh Asian cuisine. I provided the food.
My guests brought beers from across the country and around the world, 13 in all.
One by one we sampled the beer, discussed the aroma, mouth feel and taste, carefully documenting what we liked and didn’t like. The beers were somewhat blind tested… the brand revealed after a discussion of the characteristics of the beer and our likes and dislikes. We heard phrases like “low nose,” “a hint of sweetness,” “hazy, yellow-ish color,” “dry, lingering bitterness” and yes, “weak finish” and “non-descript.”
Although the tasting was not intended to rank the beers, there was agreement that Frost Beer Works Research Series Double IPA was consistent with what we were looking for… full mouth feel, without being heavy. Citrus in the nose and on the tongue, and a good clean finish.
Ultimately, we settled on the characteristics for our brew…
- Target ABV – 7%
- A little darker, medium bodied, good mouth feel… something to warm the winter nights
- Decent head retention
- Moderate bitterness that finishes, does not linger
- Citrusy/fruity aroma and flavor
Our resident brew master is now busily working on a recipe. Check back for full details of our brewing experience.