Battle of the Hops — Regional IPAs

After opening and drinking a bottle of Lucky Bucket’s IPA, I decided that I lacked a good reference point. Just how much and what kind of a hops taste is common among regional IPA’s? As I’ve said before and will say again, there is no perfect beer or wine or whiskey. It just depends on what you are looking for at that point in time. Sure, there are bad ones out there, but each brewery and distillery has an opportunity to blend the usual ingredients in different ways and proportions to tease out a different taste. The only way to find out what is out there when it comes to the India Pale Ale is to sit down and try a number of regional India Pale Ales:

Summit Brewing IPA

Summit Brewing Co.’s India Pale Ale 65 BU 6.4% alcohol. The website lists three hops that are used in making the beer: Nothern Brewer, East Kent Golding, and Target. The East Kent Golding is dry hopped into the beer. Dry hopping adds the hops after the fermentation and boiling processes are complete in order to introduce aromatics. The brewery uses two types of malt. The beer is a crisp medium-bodied beer. It has that bitter aftertaste that is common to these IPAs. The head was thin and the beer itself is honey-colored. The beer has a typical hop aroma but it lacked the herbacious fragrance detected in the Lucky Bucket IPA and, to a lesser degree, the New Belgium Ranger IPA. The beer was quite good as beers go and I think that it is a very competent IPA.

    BU 65
    6.4% alcohol

New Belgium Ranger India Pale Ale. 70 IBUs 6.55 ABV The bottle and website have quite a bit of information on the making of this IPA. The beer is infused with three varieties of hops: Simcoe, Chinnook, and Cascade. If the very strange video is a good guide, the hops are fresh and some, at least, are not pelletized. The color of the beer is a darker honey color. The beer has a fair head. There is just a slight essence of what I identify as a “herbacious” or fresh cut herbs smell as you tip it back for the first sip. This aroma was only stronger in the Lucky Bucket IPA. The beer has the familiar hops bite of bitterness as it finishes. Overall, this is a very well made and balanced IPA. There was only a very small whiff of ammonia for maybe a half-second. This is an odor I’ve come to dislike in New Belgium’s Fat Tire beer, made by the same brewery. Everyone else seems to like Fat Tire, so I’ll say no more. Overall, there is a lot of hop flavor and aroma in this Ranger IPA. If you can’t handle the super-high hopped flavors and aromas in the Lucky Bucket IPA, but you are still have an insane desire for a lot of hops in your beer then this might be your ticket. If you watch the video don’t say I didn’t warn you that it is strange. Seeing beer drinking white guys do rap is, well, not for the faint of heart. I think that they planned this video after indulging in more than a few of their beers.

    IBU: 70
    Alcohol: 6.5%

Goose Island IPA

Goose Island IPA

Goose Island Beer Co.’s India Pale Ale. 55 IBU. The color is light honey. The beer had more head than almost any other of the IPAs. After tipping it back for the first swig I didn’t perceive any of the herbaciousness I’d detected in the Ranger or Lucky Bucket IPAs. But as the head went down I got a good whiff of hops. It has a heavier feel in the mouth than the other IPAs, with a good balance between the malts and the hops. I do not know if the other IPAs are pasturized, but this beer is advertised as being non-pasturized. I am a big fan of unpasturized beer. The heating process seems to dull the finish. The beer had a bottling date of October 5, 2010, so I was half way through the 180 day recommended life of the beer. I’d like to try a fresher bottle to see if the age of the beer had any effect. This beer uses four different pelletized hops, styrian, Fuggle, Cascade, and Centennial. I say that they are pelletized as the video on the website showed pellets. This IPA kind of fizzes on the tongue. The finish is typically bitter for IPAs, but there is a nice sweetness that rounds out the beer. If you are crazy for a super hopped-up beer, the Lucky Bucket and Ranger IPAs will be more your speed. But this was my favorite for an IPA that does not overwhelm the palate with hops.

    IBU: 55
    Alcohol 5.9%

Glass of Lucky Bucket IPA

Glass of Lucky Bucket IPA

Lucky Bucket IPA 65 IBU and 6.3% Alcohol. Lucky Bucket’s IPA is like no beer I’ve ever tasted. First, if you have any question at all what hops taste and smell like, then you need to try this beer, if only for the single purpose of teaching you forever what hops taste like. I am pretty sure after drinking this beer that if I were lost in the wilderness that I could find a hop bush after drinking this beer. The hops used in making this beer include Amarillo, Centellinal and Cascade. Lucky Bucket’s IPA is all about fresh hops. But it is more than just the hops you may remember tasting in some beers — a lot more. The first thing I noticed is that this is a fairly dark beer. It is not as dark as most dark ales, but it is also not an amber yellow beer as you can see in the photo. The beer has a nice foamy head. The second thing I noticed when tipping it back was a distinct aroma that can only be described as “herbaceous.” I was surprised by that. I’ve never smelled anything like that in a beer before. This is the essence of super fresh hops that I am sensing. These are not dried-out hop pellets I’m smelling, but real, fresh hops that are infused into the beer. Lucky Bucket points out in their website that they use actual fresh hops, not the pelletized hops that other breweries advertise. The floral aroma reminds me of the smell that floats up from our herb garden after thinning it in the middle of the summer. I don’t know how they bottle that in a beer, but there it is. Next comes the taste. While there is the classic bitterness that comes with hops, there is also more of that fresh garden green leafy flavor that comes through along with the malt base. This is a very powerful and even opinionated beer. As I said when I started this review I don’t think that words can be found that can adequately describe the taste or experience. If you like IPAs and hop-crazy beers, then you have to try this Lucky Bucket beer. If you don’t like IPAs because they are too bitter, then give this a try. Even with all of the hop flavor i was surprised to find that the beer was not as bitter as many others — the bitterness is really secondary to the aroma of fresh hops. If you don’t like IPAs because they are too hoppy, then this may not be your cup of beer.

65 IBU
6.3% alcohol

Disclaimer: This bottle of Lucky Bucket IPA was provided by the good folks at Lucky Bucket at no cost to me.

Conclusions. As I said at the outset, there is no perfect beer, just beers that are right for certain people at certain times and some bad beers that nobody should want or drink. If it fresh hop aroma that you want, start with the Lucky Bucket and work your way through Ranger and Goose island to Summit. If you want a mild beer with some hop flavor, then reverse the list. Want something in the middle? Then try either the Goose Island or the Ranger.


One thought on “Battle of the Hops — Regional IPAs

  1. Pingback: Oktoberfest Beer Roundup « Distilled Opinion

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