mandag 13. april 2015

Blindtest av 116Amerikanske IPA'er utført av Paste Magazine - En god del overaskelser her

Hvilken hjemmebrygger liker ikke en god IPA? Nå synes ikke jeg nødvendigvis de amerikanske er noen definisjon av sjangeren eller nødvendigvis har de aller beste, men er det ikke til å komme bort i fra at det kommer mange gode IPA derfra.

Jeg synes derfor denne testen var godt over snittet interessant, da mange av de jeg trodde ville komme høyere opp havnet lengre ned og det var en god del jeg ikke har hørt om engang som havnet langt opp på listen. Det er helt klart at her er det mange smaksopplevelser som venter på neste USA tur!!

Tar med topp 10 og linken til hele testen, som jeg anbefaler at man kikker igjennom:
Blind-Tasting 116 of the Best American IPAs

10-Jai-Alai-Cigar-City.jpg10. Cigar City Brewing Jai Alai IPA
City: Tampa, FL
ABV: 7.5%
The verdict: Jai Alai was the runner-up of the Top of the Hops bracket in 2013, so we naturally expected big things from it in this tasting, and it didn’t disappoint. It was literally the only beer in the entire competition that one of the judges managed to identify blind without even knowing it was in that day’s heat—that’s how distinctive and well-loved it is in its distribution radius. Sticking a nose in the glass yields a huge rush of tropical fruit: mango, melons, and honeyed malt, and the flavors are more of the same, with mountains of fruity hops on top of very light caramel maltiness that only amplifies the hop presence. Every single judge selected this as their #1 beer in its initial heat—that unanimous vote almost never happened again. 
9-UnionJack-Firestone.jpg9. Firestone Walker Brewing Co. Union Jack IPA
City: Paso Robles, CA
ABV: 7.5%
The verdict: In 2013, this beer won the Top of the Hops tournament by narrowly edging out Jai Alai, and through some kind of celestial echo effect, it again ends up exactly one space ahead of Jai Alai two years later in a field of 116 beers—how that happens, we have no idea. The Champ faced even stiffer competition this time around, but still held up extremely well. It features a bit more malt presence than one might expect, which is almost necessary to stand up to its citrus bomb flavor profile—tons of grapefruit, tangerine and pine, and another beer where “clean” appears in nearly every description, as each flavor is well-defined and easy to single out. A silver medalist as recently as 2013 at the Great American Beer Fest, Union Jack remains an American classic and one of the first IPAs that will be suggested in any “best of” list of the style. 
8-Centennial-IPA-Founders.jpg8. Founders Brewing Co. Centennial IPA
City: Grand Rapids, MI
ABV: 7.2%
The verdict: Talk about a beer that benefitted from the wild card spots. Founders had the tough luck to be in a particularly strong initial heat, and it ended up as the beer with the single highest score to not directly make it into the finals. As one of only a couple wild cards, then, it made its finals appearance count: Judges unanimously praised its slightly toasty malt character and impeccable balance. Hops are a classic blend of citrus and florals—as one taster wrote, “floral, honey, bit of grain, and lemon zest citrus.” Despite that, this is not what anyone would call “flashy” beer—it’s easily findable just about everywhere Founders manages to distribute, but that doesn’t diminish its greatness. If anything, the fact that Founders can still mass-produce a beer this good on this kind of scale is a hell of an impressive achievement. 
7-LooseCannon-HeavySeas.jpg7. Heavy Seas Beer Loose Cannon IPA
City: Baltimore, MD
ABV: 7.25%
The verdict: If this number seems high to you, allow us to suggest that it may have been a while since the last time you actually had a Loose Cannon. That’s the way it was for a few of us, who had a good impression of this beer but few recent chances to sample—but tasting blind reminded us of just how great Heavy Seas’ most critically acclaimed beer is. All tasters noted its complex, unusual fruitiness—both in a strong grapefruit citrus character but also something closer to bright red berry flavors, in addition to herbal and piney qualities. In short, it’s an IPA that doesn’t lean too heavily on a single key flavor note but successfully spreads out over several complementary ones, and does so assertively. It’s also another beer that is well-liked but sort of flying under the radar—we didn’t expect quite so many of the high-ranking finalists to have national distribution, but these were the things we were pleased to discover thanks to tasting them blind. 
6-DeliciousIPA-Stone.jpg6. Stone Brewing Co. Delicious IPA
City: Escondido, CA
ABV: 7.7%
The verdict: Stone’s new “gluten-reduced” IPA, Delicious, scored big both in its initial heat and in the final tasting. The brewery boasts of the new “Lemondrop” hop variety giving it a “lemon candy” flavor, but we actually picked up more tangerine and grapefruit, although we can certainly agree on the “candy” portion. This beer is unbalanced toward the sweeter end of the spectrum, and it’s also fairly strong—certainly much more in your face with its flavors than the original Stone IPA. It represents a brewery that helped define the American IPA style progressing and moving forward with that style as it evolves. In the same way that Stone is currently revamping classics such as their Ruination DIPA, they’ve continued to keep up with the times by developing new beers such as the Enjoy By series and Delicious IPA. It’s clear to us after the blind tasting that few people intuitively know this style more intimately than Mitch Steele, the guy who literally wrote the book on the subject. 
5-AnotherOne-MaineBeerCo.jpg5. Maine Beer Co. Another One
City: Freeport, ME
ABV: 7%
The verdict: During the final round, a discerning eye could have identified this extremely citrusy IPA because it was easily the lightest one on the table—an interesting combination of light color and haziness that almost makes it look like a Belgian wit. And indeed, as in a wit, citrus is a major factor here—this thing is very citrusy, in a fresh-squeezed orange/lemon kind of way. Simultaneously, it’s also very tropical—but of the “super juicy citrus” IPAs we sampled, this might have been the very best of the bunch. Easier drinking and light-bodied, it’s easy to see where the beer could have gotten its name. It’s an IPA that immediately calls for another one, and another, and another. 
4-Breakside-IPA.jpg4. Breakside Brewery IPA
City: Portland, OR
ABV: 6.8%
The verdict: You never truly know if a beer that has won major awards will live up to the hype in a blind tasting. We knew that Breakside’s IPA was one with a major star next to its name—that’s what a gold medal at the 2014 Great American Beer Festival will get for you. But really, was it going to stand out in a crowd of 116 American IPAs? Answer: Yep. Absolutely. And yet the odd thing is, Breakside’s IPA isn’t extremely aggressive or easily identifiable by a certain flavor profile—if anything, it’s right down the middle, West Coast classic. It scored so highly because it just does everything well. It’s complex in every facet of the game, from a beautiful nose that blends resinous pine, florals and citrus, right down to a restrained caramel backbone. It’s dry, perfectly balanced and sophisticated, a real joy to analyze. It’s easy to see how it earned its medal. 
3-GrapefruitSculpin-BallastPoint.jpg3. Ballast Point Brewing Co. Grapefruit Sculpin
City: San Diego, CA
ABV: 7%
The verdict: Grapefruit Sculpin was pretty much the only beer of the finals where it was completely obvious from the first whiff exactly what you were drinking—there’s just no way to hide it, because no other beer smells quite like this one. It’s an utterly unique product—we’ve had other beers that incorporate actual grapefruit into the brewing process, but none of them smell like this. Which is to say, Grapefruit Sculpin smells like the most delicious grapefruit candy you can imagine. The flavor isalmost as good—sweet, but not as syrupy as you would imagine from the heavenly nose, which makes it still drinkable despite smelling like something that came from a confectioner. It almost sounds like something that would be too much, too outlandish to be appreciable on a daily basis, but if we had regular access to this thing we would drink it constantly. It is fruitiness incarnate. 
2-Lunch-MaineBeerCo.jpg2. Maine Beer Co. Lunch IPA
City: Freeport, ME
ABV: 7%
The verdict: Let’s a take a moment and acknowledge, first of all, the incredible fact that a small brewery in southern Maine managed to land two beers in the top five of this 116 IPA challenge. That is absurd. The only other brewery to get two beers into the finals at all was Ballast Point, but Maine clearly has the highest batting average in this competition. One brewery should not be able to score two hole-in-ones in a row, but they figured out a way, and here’s the other thing—Lunch is really nothing like their other IPA, Another One. They’re both equally great in completely different ways. Where Another One is very light, refreshing, intensely citric and juicy, Lunch is much more subtle, almost more in line with the same qualities that we praised in Breakside IPA. It’s awash in all kinds of different hop flavors: Citrus, pine, floral and tropical fruit (especially grapefruit) all at once, but at the same time it’s also very balanced by a light caramel richness. It’s almost like a miniaturized DIPA. It feels like something that a lot of time, effort and careful consideration went into designing. 
1-WhiteRajah-TheBrewKettle.jpg1. The Brew Kettle White Rajah IPA
City: Strongsville, OH
ABV: 6.8%
The verdict: A few weeks before we started tasting IPAs for this challenge, my father texted me from the Cleveland area, saying he was eating dinner at a place called The Brew Kettle while on a business trip. An affirmed hop head, he was drinking their White Rajah IPA, so I looked it up. Seeing its critical praises, I added it to our list of beers to acquire, thinking that perhaps it would be a dark horse candidate.
Fast forward to the day it first appeared in a preliminary heat, and we were utterly blown away. The aromatics on this beer are otherworldly—it is extremely hop-forward, with an intensely resinous, “green” blast of fresh, sticky pine needles, followed up by huge citrus. Malt? This IPA don’t need no stinking malt! It’s close to bone dry—what sweetness is present is almost hop-derived by its intense citrusy qualities. The flavors (and bitterness) are just huge and almost overwhelmingly assertive, but we were drawn in over and over for more. Here’s the note from the one professional brewmaster present at the tastings: “Just perfect.”
We’ve praised a whole lot of balanced beers in the course of making this list, but in the end, when you drink an American IPA, on some level you’re looking to assault your palate with with the best in American hops. That’s what White Rajah represents. It’s an absolutely incredible beer, and although its critical ratings are through the roof, we are amazed that we don’t see its name mentioned more often in lists of the greatest American IPAs. Disagree with us? Conduct your own blind tasting, include White Rajah, and see what happens. It’s the champion of our 116 IPA tasting. Congratulations, Brew Kettle. 

And that’s it. It is quite honestly a huge weight off our shoulders to finally wrap up this post. It took 13 tastings on separate days to make it happen. Thanks to every brewery that sent in beer, and thanks to all the local bottle shops that stocked the others that we bought for ourselves. Thanks to Spiegelau for the perfect glassware for the occasion. Thanks to every writer, brewer and beer geek who stopped by to help us with tastings and rankings. Thanks to everyone who reads this or skips to the comments to tell us how much we suck for not including that 117th beer. Believe me, there’s plenty of others we wish we could have had.
As if it really needs saying, our palates are now slightly burned out on IPA, at least until next week. Which works out well, because Paste’s next two monthly tastings will be American wheat beers and then American saisons—about as different as one can get. They will also be much smaller tastings, because we don’t intend to put these massive projects on ourselves until it’s another style that demands it. And that won’t happen anytime soon.

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