Beer photography by Lynn McIlwee
DOUBLING DOWN ON IPA
It’s hop harvest season! So we went out and got ourselves some serious modern IPAs to taste. As always, Jordan Knott from Legacy Liquor Store was tasked with finding a sextet of beverages. It was the first time the Panel would be rating IPAs, so we wanted hops, and lots of ’em. But a funny thing happened to IPAs in the years we were busy rating a bunch of other styles.
WHAT’S HAPPENED TO IPA?
There was a time not long ago when IPA was the “cheeseburger” of North American craft beer. The West Coast, being close to the primary sources of hops, led the way with ever more highly-hopped beverages in a kind of green, resiny arms race. Eventually some fans suffered from hop burnout, and there was talk of (shudder) lager becoming the next “it” beer style in craftland.
Then a new way of thinking about IPA took root, based on concoctions from the northeast US. In BC, the tipping point was when Steamworks Brewing won Beer of the Year for its Flagship IPA at BC Beer Awards 2016. Since then it’s become harder to find a “regular” IPA in BC, as “new school” breweries like Boombox Brewing and Superflux have been doubling down on variations of NEIPA to great acclaim. Check Mike the BeerRater’s telling monologue about Phillips’ 6IX, the only beer on this issue’s list that’s not hazy and unfiltered.
Incidentally, in a field of brilliantly marketed products from younger breweries, you have to give props to Phillips for the best beer name. With 6IX, a sly combination of Arabic and Roman numerals, they referenced the beer’s 6.0% ABV, its 69 IBU, and found a way to get in a sophomoric sex innuendo too. Hand well played.
DOUBLING DOWN ON DRY HOPS
The word ‘double’ shows up a lot in these beers’ descriptors, especially in reference to dry hopping. Alongside the migration towards hazy, we have seen the adoption of ‘DDH’ as a trendy badge representing hop gnarliness. Couple that with the separate concept of “Double IPA” and you get beers like the Twin Sails DDH DIPA, the kind of double-double you won’t find at Tim Hortons.
Thanks to their inherent juicy fruitiness, dumping hops in NEIPAs doesn’t make them more aggressively bitter in the way that classic WCIPAs get. So this newer generation of IPAs wear their IBUs (Internationall Bittering Units) differently; you’ll notice that only the “old school” Phillips entry has a number that could be considered high. It’s not just about IBUs anymore, Dorothy.
MEET THE PANEL:
Warren Boyer, BJCP-Certified home and commercial brewer, and past President of CAMRA Vancouver.
Lundy Dale, Western Canada’s first female Cicerone®, reviews beer for TAPS Magazine.
Note: neither What’s Brewing nor Legacy Liquor Store bear responsibility for the opinions expressed within, which are solely those of the individual panelists.
Photo: Paul Pyne
Products evaluated this round included:
Products supplied courtesy Legacy Liquor Store. Neither What’s Brewing nor Legacy bear responsibility for the opinions expressed within, which are solely those of the individual panelists.
HOW JUDGING IS DONE
Our unsanctioned competition uses a Zagat-like 30-point rating with a weighted scale based loosely on the BJCP Scoresheet. One of the great things about this format, as opposed to a simple 5-star blogger rating, is that it forces panellists to put more work into evaluating details of the flavour, balance and overall impression before scoring each category.
Panellists are instructed to give an honest rating, not a sugar-coating. As reflected in their scores, some panelists will love a particular beer and others will truly dislike it. Sometimes that’s influenced by factors that aren’t completely within a brewery’s contrul, such as freshness, or just a bad product sample. This is one of the reasons we have a panel rather than just one reviewer: it helps reduce the impact of factors like packaging flaws and personal tastes.
Additional note: two of the reviewers (Lynn and Carnell) made best effort to judge blindly (ie, worked with a partner to conceal which beer was being sampled until scoring notes were taken).
AND THE WINNER IS:
Superflux’s Barracuda took our blue ribbon this round, with an amazing score of 25.6 out of 30. That’s not easy to get!
Interestingly, there were no losers: three beers tied for fourth place with 21.4, a very respectable score. This reflects the overall crowd pleasingness of NEIPAs and explains the recent swing back to IPA as the “cheeseburger” — the reigning default style, deluxe or otherwise — of BC craft beer.
THE FULL RESULTS
Panel scores include these five categories. For a full list of individual scores, see below.
OVERALL CATEGORY SCORES
A general overview of how these beers did as a group. Pie chart tip: start at top of legend and work clockwise from 45 degree mark (3 o’clock).
The category scored fairly well here, a reflection of the crushability of NEIPAs