Our IPA series moves right along this week with two IPA’s that straddle the line between IPA and a variety of other styles-Belgian IPA and White IPA.
Belgian IPA is a relatively new style. The name is self-explanatory-this beer has the hoppiness of an IPA, with American or New World hops, and the fruity and spicy flavors from using Belgian yeast. These are complex beers with higher ABV than your typical IPA. They are light golden to amber in color and tend to be on the hazy side since many are dry hopped. Because of the use of the Belgian yeast, desirable flavors are clove, pepper, banana, pear and apple. The hops add melon, citrus, pine, or tropical notes in aroma and in flavor and bitterness is high, emphasized even more by the spiciness of the yeast. Malt flavors are light and sweet. Aroma is dominated by the hops and can also be grassy if dry hopped. Similar to the flavors, the scent of apple, banana or pear may be noticeable, as well as the scent of cloves from the phenols produced by the yeast.
Fiddlesticks, 6.2% ABV, BuckleDown Brewing, Illinois
It was hard to pick favorite beers from these categories and it wasn’t because I don't like the styles. They aren't styles that I select very often so I had to do some research for once! Usually, I’ll just grab the newest IPA, APA or other everyday favorite and bypass these beers but I managed to find a couple of winners including one from a tiny brewery in my neighborhood.
Many breweries make Belgian Pale Ales but not Belgian IPAs. It was difficult for me to find a well-know brewery's BIPA that I enjoyed so I will stick with one from a small brewery that is making good beer every day right down the road from me. I love their porter and they put out a damn tasty DIPA but when I fill a growler in the summer, I normally want something lighter and this is a beer fits that description perfectly. Sit back on your porch, crack open a growler of this and enjoy the last few warm weekends (for the Midwest at least!).
Houblon Chouffe, 9% ABV, Brasserie d’Achouffe, Belgium
I first had this beer at Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown NY. What a rush of flavor! That peppery nose from the house yeast strain at Achouffe plays very well with huge hop notes. The brewers use the noble hop Saaz as the late addition in the boil for flavor and aroma. Saaz is no stranger to Belgian beers but the abundance is unusual for a traditional style, which this is not. The American hop Amarillo is used for the dry hop. The aroma is citrusy, herbal with a pleasant spice to it. And the flavor is much the same with more impact from the yeast. At 9% this drinks dangerously easy.
Another Belgian + American IPA hybrid. This one combines IPA with witbier. Maybe more witbier than IPA, actually. Light, crisp, fruity and refreshing. Aroma is moderately fruity from the Belgian yeast – banana, citrus, apricot – and can also be a little spicy from the addition of coriander or pepper from the Belgian yeast itself. Light clove-like phenols possible. This is probably the least hoppy of the IPA subcategories with moderate to low hop aroma from American or New World hops – tropical, citrus and stone fruit are common. This beer is pale to deep golden in color and is typically hazy like a witbier. In flavor, it tends to be light in malt, a little bready, and again, much like a witbier, be strong in citrus, grapefruit, orange and apricot flavor. Coriander and orange peel are prevalent flavors as well. Bitter and dry finish.
Chainbreaker, 5.6 % ABV, Deschutes Brewery, Oregon
Deschutes was one of the first breweries to come to Chicago that I was legitimately excited for when I first got into craft beer. This was one of the beers that I had heard a lot about before I tried it. I was quickly moving away from Blue Moon, Stella Artois and Fat Tire and had started to hear about this new brewery coming to Chicago from the west coast. I went to my local bottle shop and Black Butte Porter, Mirror Pond and this beer floored me, as it was my real foray into Oregon beers. The flavor is still unique enough to allow me to remember my first taste of Deschutes. FYI, I also love them because they were one of the first “big breweries” to follow us on Twitter, making me think that we might have a future in this Beertasteslike endeavor.
Cruisin’ for a Brewsin’, 7.5% ABV, Lake Effect Brewing, Illinois
I apologize in advance for those not in the Chicagoland area but I’m drinking local on this choice. Lake Effect Brewing is a nano-brewery in my neighborhood. I can always count on my local shops to carry their beers and one of my favorites from them is Cruisin’ for a Brewsin’. It has a light malt profile with some sweetness from the wheat. It’s hopped with Citra and Simcoe…do I need to say more?! Well, I will. The blend of hops add lovely tropical notes that balance the spiciness of the yeast very well. It’s a dry beer that will have you coming back for many sips. Although it’s not year round it does pop up from time to time. Seek it out!