Are You Tasting the Pith? - 18th September 05
I do love IPA generically as a style. I have this idea in my head that it's what beer should really taste like. To whit: Graham Greene's assertion that the first beer he forced down to appear manly nearly killed him, but he has enjoyed it with an enthusiasm that has never failed since sums it up nicely, as does the comments of a customer who gave some friends a bottle of Goose Island IPA: "Urgh, what's that taste?" they said, to which he replied "It's beer, you bloody fools, now get it down you". It's a style that can be offputting to the novice, but ultimately rewarding.
Pitfield Brewery's 1837 India Pale Ale (7% abv) is as faithful a recreation of the style as I imagine you might find these days. Purchased about a year ago from the legendary "The Beer Shop" in Hoxton, I've just noticed a best before date of 05/07 on it - have I commited infanticide by drinking it too young? Well, if so, then I have no regrets, because the experience was a textbook IPA moment. The nose of the dark coppery brown ale was spicy, peppery, and a little feral; a friend of mind notes that there is something "a bit filthy" about really hoppy beers, and this one is no exception, with hints of cats pee, truffle and sweaty socks to it. If that all sounds a bit foul, well, it sort of is, but perhaps that's the point. The beer is such an onslaught of hoppiness that it is hard to chug back, forcing you to sip and savour the experience.
The Meantime Pale Ale (4.7% abv - OK, it isn't ACTUALLY the IPA, but I haven't seen that for sale here in the North) is a different take on the style again. While the 1837 IPA goes all out for authenticity, MPA is more in the American style of Pale Ale - generously hopped, but also designed to be a drinkable and appealing to a wide range of drinkers. Crucially though, they haven't compromised on the integrity of the style, using several different hops strains to provide both a pleasant zesty/floral aroma, and a palate cleansing hop attack. And yes, there is something a little filthy about this too - I think it might be the Williamette hops giving it an extra depth of "phwoar", and the extensive dry hopping is both evident and welcome.
Two very different beers, but I would recommend seeking them both out.
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