Posts Tagged IPA

Beer for English Devolution

 A beer for every region!

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Talk of English devolution got me thinking. At first beer was, unusually nothing to do with any of thoughts, but memories of history lessons about Anglo-Saxon England and the original divisions of England emerged, before those pesky conquering Normans came along with their Dukes and Doomsday Books. I checked a few blogs and websites on devolution and came up with a modern version that might work today, dividing England up into modern day provinces that represented some historical roots but allowed for modern populations etc. etc…..’but what the hell does this tangent have to do with beer?’ I hear those of you still reading ask.

Well, in states and provinces in other countries, there are state flowers, provincial birds and trees, so if England were to divide up into provinces why not have a representative beer style? Ok so there are probably lots of reasons but this is just a bit of fun!

Capital Idea: London.

There are a couple of nominations for the beer choice of the capital, including IPA, as London was where the forerunner to the modern style was initially developed and exported to India. I felt that the home of IPA in its heyday was not in London but further north, and the real beer of London has to be the one that took its name from those that carried the goods around the city in the 18th and 19th centuries. The ticket porters (tickets were the metal badges that they wore as a licence to work) were the lifeblood of the worlds most important trading centre 200 years ago, and the beer that slaked their thirst was named after them. This classic was also known as ‘entire butt’ due to the brewing process used by the breweries that were, in effect, mass-producing this beer for the new industrial working classes in London, but it is better known as Porter. This beer lubricated a city and has become synonymous with it. The new wave of craft breweries in London are embracing the style and it has now been given new life and a prominence it deserves.

Beer of London: Porter


Three London porters. A river porter, ticket porter and fellowship porter


The Mysterious East: East Anglia & Home Counties.

This may be a bit of fusion of two areas but my main thought here is that it contains the two counties most associated with traditional hop growing: Kent and Sussex. The hop is the ingredient that seems to be most revered by modern brewers, and we are now understanding them in the same way sommeliers understand grape varietals, with soil, terroir and climate all adding to their various flavours and aromas. The style that has showcased the English hop so well over the past 250 years has been Bitter and pale ale. Hoppy pale ale emerged with the development of IPA in the 18th century, and was in contrast to the relatively low-hopped ales that were also sold at the time. These hoppy pale ales were colloquially know as ‘bitter’ by those that drank them and the name stuck. Today bitter can be found around the world in its various guises and New World interpretations, but the home of the hop in Britain lies within this region and I think Bitter should be their official beer!

Beer of East Anglia & Home Counties: Bitter

Kent Oast Houses with hop-poles

Kent Oast Houses with hop-poles


The Borderlands: Mercia

Mercia translates as border country in Anglo-Saxon, and referred to the kingdom that sat uncomfortably for many years next to Wales, until King Offa defined a more permanent boundary with his dyke. Nowadays this area roughly translates as the much more prosaically named ‘Midlands’, but as a history enthusiast, I like Mercia a lot more! This was a tough one to decide as the industrial heartland in the ‘Black Country’ consumed many millions of barrels of Mild over the years, so that was my first candidate.

The second beer on the list is Burton Ale. Burton-upon-Trent was and the major centre of brewing for the British Empire for many years and this eponymous ale was drunk around the world before falling into obscurity. The town lies in the heart of Mercia, and any beer that represents this region must have an association with this old brewing powerhouse. Today its shadow falls upon many a Winter Warmer and Barley Wine, as Burton ale found itself being re-labelled and developed into these more familiar beers. Although Burton brewed and exported this beer, it was a major producer of porter and stout for export too, but the beer that really put it on the map was IPA. At the height of the British expansion into India through the East India Company as well as through Empire, Burton was the largest producer of what went on to be called IPA, running London into second place and Edinburgh third. This style has now captured the imagination of many a craft brewer around the world and been re-invented and interpreted many times over. The famous Burton water and brewing prowess made this style its own.

Beer of Mercia: IPA

Burton Union Brewing System at Bass in 19th C

Burton Union Brewing System at Bass in the 19th Century


The Summerlands: Wessex

Wessex expanded its borders regularly of the second half of the first millennium, but its heart lies where the West Country meets the South. I tried to think what encapsulates this beautiful part of England, and I kept coming back to summer holidays, beaches, sailing, camping, hiking and sunnier weather that the rest of the UK! The only traditional beer I could place here is the now extinct west country white ale. This was an historic English beer made with wheat flour, little or no hops and wild fermentation. Maybe it was a more wheaty lambic, although some recipes include egg whites, so I’m not going to guess what it tasted like! I did think wheat beer, as a descendant of this curiosity, had a shout but really it’s a bit of a stretch.

In the early 1990s Wessex based Hopback brewery brewed a type of pale ale that appealed to a new generation of drinker. It was paler than the bitters and pale ales at the time, had a light , easy drinking body and just enough hops to give it a crisp, refreshing finish. Lifelong lager drinkers were starting to convert and a new style (or sub-style) was born. The Summer ale or Golden ale is now a mainstay of many breweries and usually finds itself as a summer seasonal, although recently it has become a year-round offering due to its popularity. It chimes perfectly with the sunny disposition of this region, and a pint of golden summer ale is never far from a beer lover’s lips when holidaying or living in this provincial paradise.

Beer of Wessex: Golden Ale

Coastal Beer Garden in the West Country

Coastal Beer Garden in the West Country


The Northern Powerhouse: Northumbria

The North of England is a blend of industrial towns and cities, that helped build a nation, and stunning wild mountains, lakes and hills. It’s as diverse as this country gets, but whether sat in a country pub or Manchester restaurant, the atmosphere of an independent spirit with a warm welcome is never far away. The candidates for this region were easy to assemble. Bitter is a mainstay of many a Yorkshire brewery and I’m sure many dissenting voices would be happy to fight the South East for this one, but I had to make the call and Northumbria came off second. Theakston’s Old Peculiar is a classic North Country beer and this modern-ish version of an Old Ale is a must after a long hike in the hills, accompanying a beefy pie and mash in the pub. I felt that Old Ale is a bit obscure for a flagship brew so the winner had to be Brown Ale. The internationally famous Newcastle Brown Ale is drunk in many parts of the world and spawned many, some far superior, brown ales. One is from the other side of the region and Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale is a delicious version of the amber brown style of beer. Sometimes known as ‘Northern English Brown Ale’ by American pigeon-holing types, it is not to be confused with the sweeter dark brown ale, typified by Mann’s. This northern ale is a thirst-quenching pint that can have a nutty malt flavour, and just a hint of hops for balance only and I feel this is a beer the North can be proud of.

Beer of Northumbria: Brown Ale

Thirsty Coal Miners enjoy a well-deserved brew

Thirsty Coal Miners enjoy a well-deserved brew


I hope you have enjoyed this regional ramble and provincial pontification. Feel free to disagree and stake a claim for an official ale for your area. You never know, we may be going federal in a few years and as beer is the national drink, it can unite us as well divide us, but each Anglo-state may be searching for an identity all of its own, and what better than a local beer to do just that?


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Cascadian Dark Ale – A name is dead? – time to re-brand!

500px-Flag_of_Cascadia.svgThanks to the litigiously minded Eli Gershkovitch at Steamworks Brewery in Vancouver, BC The name for that dark, top fermented beer, with full hoppy aromatics, created by the Cascadian varietals of  hops, has now effectively ceased to exist. Proud Cascadian brewers across the Canada-US border in the beautiful Pacific Northwest have been denied the chance to brand the style that was created and championed with the cross national region that takes its name after the Cascade mountains (a term first used  in 1825). In 1970 the term ‘Cascadia’ was first used to describe the surrounding region, and since then has been a popular name used by its inhabitants. Sadly the use of the word “Cascadia” and “Cascadian” has been trademarked for beer names and styles by a brewery that no longer produces the beer that once bore its name.  Sadly, as far as I know, this has not been tested in court, no doubt because these things cost money, and money is often in short supply within the world of  small craft brewers.

So it might be safe to assume that the battle to use the name for our region is lost for now, but that begs a new question: What should we call this style now? Black IPA seems popular but is a truly horrible contradiction (black and pale – oh please!!) So what are the options?Cascadia_map_and_bioregion

The American Brewers Association has plumped for ‘American style India Black Ale’ – with its US-centric attitude towards beer styles they have ignored the Canadian contribution to this beer as well as the uncomfortable use of ‘India’ within this name.

The American  BJCP, founded on principles of homebrew competitions, have yet to decide on a name for this style other than a speciality style, but debated the issue last year. (I can’t find any resolution on their site).

The British based World Beer Awards have gone for ‘Black IPA’ and the US based World Beer Cup with its record breaking number of sub-styles call it ‘American style Black Ale’.

One thing is certain, no one agrees!

The use of ‘American’ for me is problematic as it ignores Canada and its contribution to the development and popularisation of the style. The great thing about ‘Cascadian’ is that it crosses the border effortlessly without the ‘North American’ moniker.


There is a genuine ancestor of this style that was brewed as a porter, but prepared for export to India with extra hops and dry hopping. This was called a number of things such as ‘India Porter’ or ‘India Export Porter’, or ‘Export India Porter’. This was predominantly hopped with English hops (but not necessarily exclusively) but resembles the CDA in the same way a British style IPA would resemble a North American style IPA – related, similar but not the same. The Kernel  Brewery in London have re-created the style (interestingly they also make a Black IPA). This gives us a start but ignores those that developed the Cascadian version and the use of Pacific Northwest  hops


Here are some options which I would be grateful for you, the reader, to consider.


North American Style India Porter

West Coast India Porter

West Coast Porter

West Coast Dark Ale

PNW (Pacific Northwest) Dark Ale

PNW Porter

Can-Am Black Ale

Obviously there are many variations (Black versus Dark etc) but you get the idea. Perhaps a shortlist can be assembled and some names voted on!







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Lighthouse Switchback IPA

Wrangler Rating:

tankard.jpgtankard.jpgtankard.jpgtankard.jpg (Excellent)

I keep drinking this beer, so it stands to reason that I

a) like it and b) should write about it.

The problem is that every time I crack one open I just want to relax and enjoy it, rather than actually  open my rather neglected blog and get to it!

Lighthouse Brewing have really upped their game in the last year and a half with some cracking and interesting “big flavour” bombers. They waited a bit to follow up with an addition to their popular if conservative 6-pack range, but it was well worth it. The Switchback IPA is described as  “Pacific Northwest” that promises some big hop notes, and challenging the likes of Central City’s Red Racer IPA and the former Lighthouse brewers at Driftwood with their Fat Tug IPA.

On with the beer! It has a lovely dark golden amber colour with a white fluffy head. Aromas of grapefruit and tangerine zest mix with a sweetish grainy malt note. The flavours follow on with the same citrus zest, a fruity tang and a sweet piney note backed by a solid but definitely subservient malt platform.The trick that is not performed well by many North American or West Coast style IPAs are that a bunch of hops are chucked in, with both eyes firmly on the IBU count, rather than how good it is to actually drink! Lots of hops but highly drinkable is a tough ask, but Lighthouse Switchback IPA manages it extremely well. My palate is given the buzz of a very hoppy brew, but unlike some I could mention, I still want to drink more, which is why this works as a 6-pack rather than a 650ml bomber. Enjoy on your deck, or pub patio this summer, and be grateful there is now another great, hoppy,  BC West Coast IPA to cool yourself down with!

Serving: 355ml bottle

ABV: 6.5%

Best Served: 6-8°C



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Driftwood Twenty Pounder Double IPA

Wrangler Rating:

tankard.jpgtankard.jpgtankard.jpg (Recommended)

Driftwood Brewery Twenty Pounder Double IPA comes with trademark fabulous graphic artwork on the label. At the very least they have raised the game when it comes to bottle labels! Happily this is not where the game raising ends. They have produced many of British Columbia’s (and canada’s for that matter) best craft brews. A double IPA (thanks for not using ‘Imperial’) has been keenly awaited by the craft beer fans of the West coast. Since the two IPAs that have been on the shelves – regular IPA Fat Tug and super seasonal Sartori Harvest have proved so popular, a double IPA seemed to be an obvious choice for a seasonal specialty.

On with the review! It pours a rich mid-amber colour and has a small foamy head. The aromas are full of dried fruit and candied orange peel. There is some pink grapefruit there too and it promises to be a big mouthful of a beer, full of richness and power. There are obvious notes of sweetness, from the malt, but not a giant amount of depth. The hop notes are still king and a real pithiness is present on the tip of my tongue.  There is, however a slight cloying note and a bit of a metallic taste on the lengthy finish which tempers my total enjoyment.

I can’t help thinking that Driftwood’s real skill has been some of the farmhouse ales like Spring Rite and the great ESB Naughty Hildegard and that’s where their passion lies. The plethora of Double IPAs from many North American breweries have made the style a “standard” and perhaps this hasn’t showed off their indisputable talents at their best.

Having said all that I still like this beer, but I can’t help thinking that it will improve with a bit of age. I will put one down for six months and I’m sure it will show better. I did this with the Lighthouse Shipwrecked Triple IPA and it’s disjointed flavours greatly harmonised after a few months in the Beer Wrangler’s cellar.

I also feel that this would would work better with some food – perhaps a blue cheese to temper the sweetness or on the other hand a funky but creamy Limberger might just be perfect!

Serving Type: 650ml Bottle

ABV: 9%

Best Served: 9 – 11°C



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IPA – A History

The History of IPA

Pale Ale and Industrialisation

The history of IPA starts not in India but in London and then found its home in Burton-upon-Trent, an ordinary town in Staffordshire, Britain, where beer has probably been brewed since 1004, when an abbey was founded there. Monks were (and still are in Belgium) prodigious brewers, and would have used the water from the local River Trent to brew their early ale. What made Burton so special, therefore made it the most important centre of brewing in Britain (and even the world for a while) was the water from the river. Its natural minerals happened to be perfect for brewing beer, particularly (as it turned out) Pale Ales. In fact today many brewers add mineral content (Gypsum or Sulphate) to their beer before brewing – a process still called ‘Burtonisation’.

Brewing in Britain was largely done by the owners of pubs, inns and ale-houses for their immediate customers, and so the beer would not have had to travel far before it was consumed. With the onset of early industrialisation there was suddenly a need for larger brewers who could supply the fast growing urban populations, and thankfully the growth of the canal system gave them the means to transport it. Burton, already noted for its fine ales quickly became an important centre of Brewing.

At the end of the 17th century the process of kilning malts was becoming more efficient, due to the use of coke, derived from coal. This meant that you could kiln a malt (stop it from germinating by heating it) without the use of so much direct heat. This had two consequences; the finished malt was paler than before and it produced more fermentable sugars per grain. Initially this was a fairly expensive process, so the early pale ales (more likely to be a dark amber) were mainly drunk by the wealthy, who were also the ones who could see the colour, due to the fact that glassware was so expensive. (The ordinary drinker would still have used a pewter or leather tankard for some time!)

The beer that became IPA descended from a beer known as “October Ales” – named because they were brewed in that month, and were highly thought of because of their strength, and extreme aging potential (as well as high hopping levels). Documents telling of 25 year old October beers being consumed and enjoyed exist from 1773.

The East India Company

The Company was founded in 1600 as a speculative venture that would trade spices from the east back to Britain. This company would come to be, in its heyday, one of the largest, wealthiest, most successful and most unethical companies the world has ever known. The British government did not formally take India from the Indians but nationalised the Company in 1857 after the Indians “mutinied” against them. They had their own army (made up of British and Indian soldiers) a vast merchant fleet and many local maharajahs in their pocket.

Read the rest of this entry »


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Driftwood Fat Tug IPA

Wrangler Rating:

tankard.jpgtankard.jpgtankard.jpgtankard.jpg (Excellent)

Driftwood’s Fat Tug IPA is the long awaited addition to the brewery’s regular line up that filled in the gaping hole of a classic Pacific Northwest IPA. A hefty 7% ABV and 80 IBUs sees this beer punching in the heavyweight category for a ‘standard’ IPA. The hit of hops is fresh, fruity and sharp, and will please the hop-heads out there. On the palate the hops retain their power and vibrancy, and cover the alcohol admirably. The malt is there too, but it is in a supporting role, and props up the hop flavours nicely. This is a great example of a well hopped IPA,  as it is more than just a load of hops in glass though, as ever, Driftwood make a rounded, drinkable and flavoursome beer that is sure to become a staple in the fridge of many a craft beer fan.

ABV: 7%

Best Served: 7 – 9°C


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Spinnakers Blue Bridge Double Pale Ale

Wrangler Rating:

tankard.jpgtankard.jpgtankard.jpg (Recommended)

Spinnakers Blue Bridge used to be labelled a Double IPA, but they have renamed it a Double Pale Ale, perhaps because it is not as much a hop explosion as some Double IPAs. It still has a good dose of hoppiness though, but seems to be carefully balanced with the malt, which makes this beer a refreshing change from the wealth of similar double or imperial IPAs on the market.

Spinnakers is one of those breweries that are hard to find outside of its local neighbourhood (Victoria, British Columbia) but are well worth the effort as the line-up includes some great Canadian takes on some classic British Ales.

This is a very enjoyable strong pale ale that hides its alcohol well, has some grainy sweetness and a good herbal hoppy finish. Although this won’t blast your taste buds away, it may well tickle your fancy, especially if you serve it at the correct temperature – too cold and you’ll miss half the flavour!

ABV: 8.2%

Best Served: 10°C


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Howe Sound Total Eclipse Of The Hop

Wrangler Rating:

tankard.jpgtankard.jpgtankard.jpgtankard.jpg (Excellent)

Howe Sound’s Imperial IPA has a nice name that some of its younger drinkers might not get. I am not sure if Bonnie Tyler is a fan of this beer, but she should be. Imperial or double IPAs are usually a mouthful of hops with a hit of alcohol, but the brewers at Howe Sound have managed to brew in a style that the original creators of the IPA in the 18th Century would recognise and hopefully approve of.

This is a supremely well balanced beer that has 9o IBUs and 8% alcohol, but manages to be so drinkable, you could have two or three pints without any effort – quite an achievement for such a well flavoured and strong beer! The hops are very noticeable on the nose, and as there are six varieties it’s not surprising; the flavours that follow are a nice relief for those palates that are tired of naked hop explosions. The rich malt is there supporting all those hop flavours giving a balanced and very enjoyable beer. This is what a traditional IPA becomes when it is ‘Imperialised’, and for me achieves a great benchmark for the style.


ABV: 8%

Best Served: 9°C


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Wells IPA

Wells-IPAWrangler Rating:


Wells IPA suffers from a common British problem: mislabeling. During the First World War, breweries (with the government!) decreased alcohol in beers to conserve resources (barley) as well as limit drunkenness among essential workers and the military. Hop levels were also reduced, so the traditionally strong and hoppy IPAs were the first in line to be emasculated. Breweries continued using the term though, but it described a pale ale or a bitter rather than the full-on flavour of an IPA. Wells IPA is a very pleasant and drinkable British pale ale that would have been awarded 3 tankards and recommended, but unfortunately the use of the term IPA in this day and age is erroneous, and so must be marked in the category in which it is presented. The pale amber beer is restrained, but has a nice malty flavour with a simple bitter finish, but not so dry it extinguishes the malt. The carbonation is suitably low, which makes this a cinch to drink and an enjoyable session ale. A word of warning though- don’t drink this too cold, or you’ll miss out on its subtle flavours, have it at cellar temperature, as it was designed to be drunk.

ABV: 5%

Best Served: 11°C


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Driftwood Brewery Sartori Harvest IPA


Wrangler Rating:

tankard.jpgtankard.jpgtankard.jpgtankard.jpgtankard.jpg (Outstanding)

Driftwood Brewery Sartori Harvest IPA is a huge triumph for this small craft producer based on Vancouver Island. It has a nice ruddy amber colour and pours with a large frothy head. The aroma has a good even spicy hop note with a definite malt character. This beer has a great mouthfeel, and for me, has achieved  perfect balance of malt and hops for an India Pale Ale. They use ‘wet hopping’, which means that the local Chilliwack Centennial hops go into the brew fresh, without being dried, and it really gives great flavours of grapefruit and tangerine with an enjoyable floral kick. The thing that separates this IPA from many other good craft brewery examples, is that they get the balance of malt just right. There are lovely notes of caramel that support the hops like a back bone, and they all continue to the finish making this a very drinkable ale. This is one of the best IPAs I have had, and needs to be tasted by fans of the style. Pair this with a spicy fish soup, or barbecued pork marinated in a creole sauce.

*                                                                         ABV: 7%

*                                                                         Best Served: 8°C


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Brew Dog Punk IPA


Wrangler Rating:


Brew Dog Punk IPA comes from the new wave of British brewers whose beers may be more at home with the American west coast craft beer drinkers, than in a traditional pub. This should not put anyone off as their IPA is a delicious explosion of hoppy goodness! The colour of this beer is very pale for the style, and almost looks like a hefe-weizen, as there is a touch of cloudiness too. The Punk IPA has a floral-citrussy aroma, and the palate won’t disappoint fans of this style. It’s crisp, spicy and refreshing, with a touch of the pale malt sweetness in the far background. The finish is long and mouth-wateringly bitter, which is one reason why this is a really drinkable and more-ish India Pale Ale. I would have this as a foil to a good Indian chicken curry, as the flavour can stand up to whatever spice you throw at it.

ABV: 6%

Best Served: 6°C


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Granville Island Brewing Brockton IPA

GIBbrocktonIPAWrangler Rating:


Granville Island Brewery finally have added a beer with a bit more ‘oomph’.  A very accessible IPA, and I feel it is in the Pacific Northwest Style as it says on the back. Although not as highly hopped as some, this is a nice refreshing hoppy pale ale. The hop flavour is definitely North American as the hops used taste citrusy with a little bite and very refreshing, rather than the more floral style of English Hops. I can drink this all summer day long, which is the point of an IPA, and it does what it is supposed to. This is not an extreme beer, but one you can just enjoy!

ABV: 6%

Best Served: 8°C


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