The India Pale Ale beer style is quite possibly the most popular craft beer style in America today. The many IPA varieties and sub-varieties exploded onto the craft beer scene just a few years ago with wide distribution of the American-style IPA, especially beers from the West Coast. And just as this style saved beer starved Englishmen in India at the turn of the 1800s, it also helped revive a stagnant craft beer industry in America at the outset of the 21st Century.
Beginnings of the IPA Style
Englishmen in the British India colonies had little or no access to beer in the 1700s and 1800s. It was a serious problem for British ex-pats who liked their ales but it offered a burgeoning market for brewers in Britain. These brewers understood the preservative qualities found in hops as well as in alcohol and realized these qualities would allow their beers to last the sea voyage around the Horn of Africa and on to India. According to legend, George Hodson of Bow Brewery created the IPA-style around 1800 by increasing the hops and alcohol content in his Pale Ale beers. Recorded history states that Samuel Allsopp of Burton Brewers was commissioned to brew an India Ale by the East India Trading Company.
IPA and Craft Beer 2.0
The modern Craft Beer scene started in California in 1971 with Anchor Brewing’s Steam Beer. It finally stretched across America by the 1990s, thanks to brewers such as Sam Adams and Sierra Nevada as well as several regional craft breweries. Ales were the majority of beers marketed, specifically Pale Ales, Browns, Red, and Stouts and these styles had legions of fans but their limited tasted profile also caused some beer drinkers to seek more robust character in their beers. They found bigger, bolder flavors in the English-Style IPA and by the mid-2000s American craft brewers began pumping varieties and sub-varieties of IPA and the general craft beer enthusiasts began to appreciate what hop heads already understood – the hop is a not just a preservative but a beer seasoning that enhances beer with an entirely new level of flavor and character.
India Pale Ales can be broken into three basic categories – but there are many sub-categories as well. The English-style is the mother of IPA styles. They are brewed for balance of hop flavor and character though English-style IPAs do to tend to be sweeter than American-Style and a lot has to do with sweeter malts they are brewed with, and these do balance well with the earthy notes and flavors of the hops often used. The indomitable Double IPA, often known as Imperial IPA, is a monster beer. These intensely hopped beers are brewed with considerably more malt than used in traditional beer recipes, so they are bigger in flavor and considerably higher in alcohol. Yet, these beers tend to be more balanced between the sweet malt flavors and big hop concentration than even a typical American-style IPA. It is the American-style IPA that can really be broken into sub-categories. From east coast to west coast and various regions around the county, brewers have tweaked the IPA style or downright blown it up.
West Coast IPA
The style that brought the IPA to the head of the craft beer lineup. These beers bring big hop character and flavor such a pine, resin and grapefruit and chart high on IBUs. They also tend to be lighter in malt character and color and are filtered, so their appearance is clear. Brewers known for producing this style include California breweries: Stone, Green Flash, and Lagunitas. Yet, several northwest brewers have shied away from the bitterness of their California brewers-in-arms, opting for highlighting the hops more grassy, piney and citrus notes. A notable northwest-style would be Deschuttes Fresh Hopped IPA.
East Coast IPA
This style bridges between English-style and West Coast-style IPAs. The East Coast IPAs tend to be more malt forward than IPAs brewed on the West Coast-style , they are still not as balanced as the typical English version. One interesting development over the past few years is the advent of the Vermont-style IPA – a beer that is brewed to highlight hop flavors not bitterness an attribute enhanced because this style remains unfiltered. Rather than achieving high IBU, this style seeks to highlight the hops used, bringing out the hops fruity and tropical flavors. Alchemist Brewery in Vermont is a great brewer of this style as is Odd13 Brewery in Colorado.
Like session beers of other styles, this IPA style is brewed to be enjoyed for balance of flavor, not for high bitterness quality. As with the East Coast-style, these beers do not overwhelm the drinker’s palate. Their lower alcohol content also allows people to enjoy more beers.
Which IPA is for you?
There are many kinds of IPAs, styles and sub-styles. Which one is the IPA for you? To start, you should understand what types of food and drinks you like and also, simply put – are you a beer drinker, dabbler or connoisseur? If you really know beer and drink a lot of style of beer, the best way is to compare the beer to another that you have enjoyed – or not enjoyed. If you are not a big beer drinker, one easy question to ask is: do I like food and drink that tastes either bitter or that taste citrusy and piney. These are big flavor qualities in most IPAs and a good place to start your search. Then, ask beer drinking friends what they like; ask your beer-tender for his take as well as a sample; then head on down to your local liquor store and ask the folks working in the beer department what they have in stock. By the way, Molly’s Spirits own Grant and Tony have excellent beer knowledge, experience and taste.
Together, the names Cutter, Pages and Wood sound like a fusion band, instead they are the trio who have orchestrated the success of Upslope Brewing from its humble nano-brewing beginnings into a Mountain West regional brewery.
Matt Cutter, Dany Pages, and Henry Wood opened Upslope Brewing in 2008 in a 1,800 square foot space on Lee Hill Road in a north Boulder industrial park. Their space in Unit 20 was not large enough to handle all the brewing functions: milling, brewing, fermenting, and canning – not to mention storage – so they carved out time and space inside and utilized space in back of the brewery as necessary. And like upslope winds the brewery rose quickly, spreading its tasty beers all along the Front Range and beyond.
Craft breweries come in as many shapes and sizes as there are brewing philosophies. Upslope decided from the start to brew great beer that was accessible and that meant a couple of different things to them. First, they set out to brew familiar styles but with their own personal flavor. They also made the decision to can all their beers, because if Cutter, Pages and Wood liked their beers accessible while they were hiking, camping or skiing, they wanted that for everyone. And so, leading the trail for many other brewers Upslope helped legions of Coloradans take along good craft beers on their outdoor adventures – from the summits of a 14er, to a favorite trout stream, and for a pre-show beverage in the Red Rocks parking lot. As they say, “packibility is key to the apres lifestyle. “
Brewing Familiar, Brewing with a twist
Upslope’s early offerings were styles familiar to most beer enthusiasts: Brown Ale, Pale Ale, Craft Lager and IPA. They focused on consistency and quality, getting the recipes nailed down batch after batch. But Cutter, Pages and Wood brew with a playful, experimental side as well, introducing beers such as: Lemondrop Kolsch, Thai Style IPA, and dry-hopped Honey Saison. Combining good business sense with their playful lifestyle helped Upslope grow and soon they needed more brewing space than Unit 20 could provide. In 2013 Upslope opened their brewing facility and tap room in Flatiron Park in southeast Boulder, right next to Ozo Coffee Roasters; an excellent neighbor for interesting collaborations such as the Upslsope Ozo Coffee Brown. They brew on a 30-barrel system at their Flatiron Facility allowing so they continue to brew in small batches while meeting their fans demands for access to their beers. The Flatiron’s taproom has 24 tap lines, many of the beers coming from their Lee Hill Road facility, where Upslope still brews many of its experimental beers. The Lee Hill brewery still maintains a tap room as well, a fun place to stop off and visit Upslope’s humble beginnings.
Beer of the Month
Molly’s Spirits is proud to offer Upslope Brewing as our beer of the month. Upslope is a Colorado company that not only exemplifies the Colorado lifestyle, they live it. Whether you are heading for the mountains or picking up some beers for the backyard, stop by Molly’s Spirits for some Upslope Brewing beers – on sale this July.
Upslope Brewing Beers of the Month Selections:
Pale Ale The Pale Ale is Upslope’s first commercially produced beer. It balances malt and hops flavors and finishes with a crisp and dry. It does have a spicy hop character but it is a beer for all seasons and all adventures.
India Pale Ale Upslope’s India Pale Ale appeals to enthusiasts who seek a bitter and hoppy character from their IPA. However, it is malted for a sweet copper color that also gives this beer a balance more like a traditional IPA rather than the west-coast hop-plosion beers.
Brown Ale A Brown Ale brewed in the English tradition but with an assertive hop character that gives this beer a drier finish, more common among the northern English styled brown ales. It pours a rich dark color but it’s a more medium-bodied ale.
Craft Lager The Craft Lager challenges its Pale Ale as Upslope’s true flagship beer. This delicious American lager is blonde in color, light in body and rich in taste with a slight hopped, dry finish. It is an easy drinking, session beer perfect for an afternoon around the house, on the town or in the mountains.
When Dry Dock founder Kevin DeLange landed on purchasing the Brew Hut in Aurora in 2002 he didn’t know his future in beer would be so … land locked. But 14 years DeLange’s determination to brewing great craft beer and his allegiance to his adoptive state, Dry Dock is firmly anchored in Aurora and is one of Colorado’s premier craft breweries.
Do It Right From the Start
For any brewery, making great beer starts with quality ingredients and excellent recipes. It is a simple and fundamental philosophy that is the basis for everything Dry Dock has done since they began brewing on a meager 7 BBL system. Yet it paid off immediately, as the brewery won its first GABF®Gold Medal in 2006, a mere 6 months after beginning operations, for its HMS Victory ESB (now the Dry Dock Amber Ale). The brewery has since won GABF® medals, the Brewer’s Association’s Small Brewery of the Year, and five World Beer Cup® awards.
Made in Colorado for Coloradans
One of Colorado’s great exports over the past 10 years is craft beer. Many of the state’s leading breweries have expanded their distribution throughout much of the United States, even opening brewing facilities in other states. While Dry Dock has the popularity and the capacity to make this business leap it has not and does not plan to distribute outside of Colorado. One reason is the demand in the state is so strong for their beers that Dry Dock is doing all they can to accommodate thirsty Coloradans. It is also a sense of pride for the brewery to be distributed only in Colorado. It’s not that Dry Dock has something against the other 49 states and they don’t begrudge other breweries for their expansion or their success; they just take pride in being born local and serving their beers locally.
Growth, expansion and experimentation
In 2012 Dry Dock began brewing in their North Dock facility, 2801 Tower Road Aurora, and vastly increased production. The company estimates they are growing up to 30 percent each year and it is in the new facility where they brew and can many of their flagship beers, including: Amber Ale, Apricot Blonde, Hop Abomination and Hefeweizen. But they still experiment on their recipes, tweaking existing beers to come up with cool new flavors, such as their Sour Apricot. Much of the recipe testing and experimental beer tastings happen at their original location, the 16 tap South Dock facility, located at 15120 E. Hampden Avenue in Aurora.
Beer of the Month
As a Colorado company that believes in working hard and playing hard, Molly’s Spirits is proud to offer Dry Dock Brewery as its Beer of the Month for June. When you’re looking for great beers at great prices for the backyard BBQ, camping, or volleyball in the park, stop by Molly’s Spirits check out Molly’s Spirits for a Beers of the Month selections – ALWAYS A GREAT DEAL at $6.99 for a 6-pack.
Dry Dock Beer of the Month Selections:
Dry Dock’s first flagship beer is a full, rich tasting ESB with sweet malt flavors and enough bitterness to round out it all out.
Dry Dock’s best selling beer, this blonde ale is fermented with apricots for a crisp, clean finish and just enough apricot to make this a favorite.
Tart and fruity the Sour Apricot still has a rich apricot flavor – a perfect summertime beer.
A great version of the American IPA, the hops come at you with citrus and tropical flavors then smacks you with at 70 IBU finish.
A traditional German-styled Hefeweizen that is brewed with yeast – so rouse that yeast to realize all its flavors.
Sour Beers: Complex, tart, fruity…and always interesting. As many sour beer drinkers will tell you, beneath the first taste bud confusion and possibly a little lip-puckering, is pure and utter bliss. You feel like you’ve finally found heaven in a world full of wheat beers and tropical IPAs.
Now, if you’ve never ventured away from Bud Light or even a craft lager, this is going to be a huge leap for you. But as we all know, with great risk can come great reward. Not only as a beer drinker is it a risky venture, but it can be risky for the breweries, too. As one blogger puts it, “Any brewer will tell you that these brews separate the men from the boys, the grain from the chaff, and the artists from the business-minded.” This is in part due to the 2 or 3 year brewing process sour beers take (in comparison to their ale counterparts that typically take 2 to 3 weeks). Nevertheless, sour beers hearken back to ancient times so brewers must be doing something right. Different combinations of wild yeast and bacteria create very different styles of beer throughout the world, so here’s a list of our top 8 favorite sour beers to try out this summer:
Recommendations brought to you by Tony, Molly’s assistant Beer manager and sour beer aficionado.