Microfestivus 2012, Hops, and IPAs: Go Big or Go Home (And Don’t Forget Your Hop Jewelry)
Recently, the beer world celebrated its second annual IPADay. A mix of both social media event and appreciation for one of the world’s most venerable, loved, but perhaps misunderstood beer styles, IPADay basically meant that fans of the style worldwide got together at breweries, bars, and in backyards, reveled over the beers, and then were encouraged to share such experiences with others via the internet, twitter, or the like.
If you are indeed one of these folks – IPA fans, hop heads, whatever label you choose – and are coming to Microfestivus in Roanoke on Saturday, you may want to fire up your facebook account again – it seems that IPADay 2012 is making a second appearance at the festival. The numbers speak for themselves. Of the roughly 130 beers which will be at Microfestivus this year, 29 appear to be India Pale Ales, or around twenty two percent. Basically, if you are the kind of person who attends a craft beer festival wearing vines of fresh hops as a necklace, in some attempt to come closer to your beer, news like this might make you lose sleep the night before.
But what if you’re not the type to tie hops around your neck? (And overall, thinks that anyone who does so is just nuts?) What if a more hopped up beer, and the bitterness that usually comes with it, What if you’re not “into” IPAs, but occasionally, your curiosity gets the better of you, and you begin veering towards the world of hopped up beers?
Ultimately, it’s a tough question to answer. Every IPA is different from the next, and if one is going to turn out to be the brew that makes a difference, it’s hard to say which one that will be. Having said that, below are some a few ideas to consider when attempting to appreciate, or simply understand, these beers:
Go big. Bigger IPAs, or more accurately Imperial or Double IPAs, basically mean the volume has been turned up over a more everyday IPA. More hop aroma, more hop flavor and characteristics, more hops period. Wondering why that would be a good thing for someone new to the style? In most cases, although not in all, the amount of malt used in the beer has been turned up as well, in tune with the level of hops. This can cause some Imperial IPAs to be not only huge on the flavors the hops do bring, but along with this, also somewhat “sweet”. Don’t get me wrong – hop characteristics, flavor, and the bitterness will still be around, but it might be somewhat easier for the IPA newbie to manage. Think of this as falling “backwards” into IPAs. Microfestivus 2012 examples: Southern Tier’s 2xIPA, Sierra Nevada’s Torpedo, Legend’s Double IPA.
Visit the East Coast. It’s a well known, fun, if somewhat too often held discussion that many IPAs produced by brewers on the West coast can be more bitter and less balanced with a malty sweetness than ones made by their East coast counterparts. This means that some, but again not all, East coast versions may show through more of an IPA’s citrus, or pine like flavors, somewhat de-emphasizing the bitterness. Microfestivus 2012 examples: the classic Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA, Troeg’s Perpetual IPA.
Be trendy. There are a few IPA sub styles that have begun to show up on craft beer’s radar in the past couple years, as craft brewers once again flex their creative muscle. White IPAs (IPAs with wheat malt, as in hefeweizens), Black IPAs (IPAs brewed with darker barley malts instead of paler ones, yielding flavors sometimes akin to a black lager along with more typical IPA flavors) are just a couple. Flavors such as those given by the different types of malt again might take the more typical “edge” off of a more hopped up beer for those new to IPAs. Microfestivus 2012 examples: Peak Organic’s Hop Noir, Laughing Dog’s Dogzilla Black IPA.
In case you are at all curious about the renowned, legendary IPA, just remember to hold out at least one of your tickets’ tastings for the style. For most, yes, IPAs are an acquired taste, but one that once appreciated, can hold so much enjoyment. Along with the accompanying bitterness can lie he an endless range of various citrus or herbal like flavors. The one you may decide to try at this year’s festival may just be the one that begins making you into a hop head, or at the least, helps you understand them why on earth someone would want to call themselves one at all.