Friday Froth: IPAs On The Left Of The Dial

James Gribbon

Does anyone else still listen to the radio, or am I just an evolutionary throwback? I guess both parts of that question can be true independently, but I still gravitate to the left of the dial. My own music collection, satellite radio, it can all get repetitive, but I turn on some indie NPR station like FUV in the lower numbers and I can hear Malagasy guitar, ambient chillwave, and Wavves after the news. I need those curveballs. 

All this is to say some of us may be a little IPA'd out today. Establishments all over the area have been tapping India Pales all week before yesterday's climax, and hop exhaustion can be for real. This week I've picked three IPAs which may refresh and enliven numb tongues and jaded senses. All available in our area, outside the norm.

Firefly Hollow calls their imperial IPA Cone Flakes because they say you may as well have poured the hops in a bowl and used a spoon. I'd heard a lot about this beer, but I just got my first taste of it a few weeks ago. It emerged from the tap in a light, hazy amber, with a ring of tiny bubbles, and a mild, citrusy aroma. My first impression: it's surprisingly mild for a highish gravity (7.7%) imperial IPA. 

There's a bit of orange flavor at first, with the combined hop varietals adding a slightly sharp underpinning to the yeasty grain which bookmarks each sip. Cone Flakes won't try to tear your palate out through your sternum like a west coast double IPA. It has a subtle bite and smooth delivery of power; less a bowl-o-hops than a Mercedes E-class driven by Stephen Fry. The quality and craftsmanship are there, but I'd like to see a little more fire out of an imperial. 

When Kent Falls finally got around to making an IPA, they named it Waymaker. They didn't use ale yeast at all, opting instead for the funkier flavors of wild brettanomycesyeast. Get a glass in front of your, and it looks like a pint of freshly shaken lemonade under a frothy cap. Waymaker's got an aroma sharp and funky and James Brown's band. It bursts with flavor - citrusy, green shoots erupting from the earth. It's a distinctly farmhouse kind of IPA - the color doesn't look right for the style, the smell is enough to make you want to clean out the fridge, and it all somehow comes together in this brilliant alchemy. An excellent summer beer. 

My love for Victory's hop devilry is old news, and but the Downington brewers have fanned those flames with Wild Devil. Decant the large format bottle, and the beer pours the color of a jack-o-lantern lit by its own flame and erupts into a mountainous head. The scent of wild yeast funk tries, but it can't extinguish the hops. The flavors instead blend together like veins in Italian marble. Malt underlays everything, but the remaining hop resin mixes with the brett and creates a greenhouse effect of pungency. Wild Devil possesses complexity and depth in abundance.

If you even feel like you're tired of IPAs, good - put that restlessness to work and use it to explore other styles. While you're searching, some brewer will be inventing a way to inject novelty into the IPA market. The American beer market is coruscating with ideas, don't allow yourself to get bored.

See you out there.