This is a new, requested feature for STL Hops and I was more than happy to oblige. I think more than anything I really want to keep educating people about beer and I hope this website and specifically this feature helps to do just that. This should be a semi-regular weekly feature and will be written by members of STL Hops. Here’s the first one, make sure to provide input on what could be better. Also, a thanks to Paul from The Wine and Cheese Place for supplying beer for this feature.
What you should be smelling: Hops. Hops and more hops. Specifically though, the hop aroma can be a number of different things, though an American IPA usually tends toward fruity, citrusy hops aromas. But it’s likely you’ll also find grassy, piney, or even pineapple aromas. You should also be able to detect a malt presense as well, it may come across as slightly sweet or even a little biscuity.
What you should be seeing: The color of an American IPA can range from a deep golden hue to a reddish, caramel color. The beers can suffer from some haze which is often due to dry hopping the beer (which helps to provide more aroma.) With any luck you’ll have a very persistent fluffy white head which will allow you to smell the beer from the first drink to the last.
What you should be tasting: Did you read the description of the aroma? It’s going to be pretty similar. You’re going to get a refreshing hop bitterness that will contain some of the flavors of the aromas described above. You should also have just enough malt sweetness to back up the bitterness. You have to have the right balance of sweetness to bitterness though, because if the beer is sways either direction it becomes difficult to drink more than one or two pints. You always want a relatively medium-light body otherwise you suffer from a similar drinkability problem.
How you should you be drinking this: My two best suggestions for glassware would be a standard shaker pint glass or an all purpose wide-mouth tulip glass which will allow you really smell some of this beer’s complex aroma. One caveat with the tulip glass is that they are usually pretty thin walled and will allow the beer to warm up relatively quickly. Speaking of temperature, BeerAdvocate recommends serving this beer at 45-50°F which seems about perfect to me. You want the beer to be warm enough to pick up on the aroma, but not so warm that it becomes harsh and difficult to drink.
What you should be buying: Some of the best examples of this style you can pick up locally are O’Fallon 5-Day IPA, Bell’s Two Hearted Ale, 60 Minute IPA, Racer 5 India Pale Ale, Victory Hop Devil, Avery IPA, Lagunitas IPA, and Founders Centennial IPA. Be sure to ask your local beer store clerk for your options.
Related Styles: American Pale Ale, English IPA, Double or Imperial IPA.
Beers I sampled for this discussion: Green Flash IPA, Bell’s Two Hearted, and Avery IPA.