Over the years, the term "India Pale Ale" has gone a bit sideways. That is the say, it used to be simply a solid English beer that was more robust and more generously hopped than a traditional pale ale to help it survive the long journey from Great Britain to Colonial India in the 19th century. But as this beer borne of utility became appreciated for its unique flavor profile, it was inevitable that others would reproduce it.
And as happens with beer, when a style is reproduced in a new region, the characteristics of the local ingredients will change it — and in the case of the American IPA, it changed so much. Now its own completely distinct style, the main difference between a traditional IPA and the American version is the jacked up American hops: Columbus, Centennial, etc. We took a nice, mellow English style that had a bit of a starch in its shirt, and we made it LOUD — shocking, right? But then something funny happened: European brewers began to look up from their staid, centuries-old recipes to the U.S. for inspiration for their own American-style IPAs.
U-S-A! U-S-A! OK, that kind of idiocy is why they hate us. Here are four beers that prove they love us... or at least our style of IPA.
Credit: Flickr/Steve Ganz
Green Gold, Mikkeller – Denmark
Mikkel Borg Bjergsø is an acclaimed brewer from Denmark who creates some of the best (and most perplexing) imports under his label, Mikkeller. He cops to being influenced by the American beer revolution, and from his output, he has his finger on our pulse. His Green Gold starts as many of his beers do – with a sweet caramel, slightly fruity malt introduction, but Ameri-CUH comes in at the end with an aggressive Simcoe, Cascade, and Amarillo hop punch that stops short of knocking the flavors out of balance with a clean dry punctuation. There is something distinctly foreign in this ale, but the American influence is pronounced… and delicious.
IPA Samurai, Kocour – Czech Republic
Far from a clone of an American IPA, this beer was made to draw on the new American tradition of IPA’s but with a Czech twist that delivers a traditionally Czech dry pilsner-like base. The head of the beer looks like a mountain of whipped meringue, and the slightly hazy golden color is also reminiscent of Czech lagers. With its peppery, lemon-rind middle, I found the Samurai a little tough to wrap my head around as what I think of as an American IPA, but its bitter hop finish certainly defies the expectations that I had of a Czech beer.
Credit: Flickr/James Cridland
Okay, so Canada isn’t Europe, but let’s face it – they come from a European brewing tradition and their name is French, so… Judges? We’ll count it! Thank you. (On the other hand, they introduced Ice Beer to the world, so let’s not put them on some kind of pedestal, shall we?) This is another American IPA with a big malt bill that the hops need to push against. But they do, and the rich hop aroma and the prickly, peppery hop finish sandwich the sweet malt bill to make an unconventional but very drinkable red American IPA.
Punk IPA, BrewDog – Scotland
BrewDog is an iconoclastic brewery in Scotland that is attempting to shake up perceptions of British beer. They describe their Punk IPA as a “trans-Atlantic fusion IPA.” In the spirit of their subverting the traditional British styles, their Punk resonates with the tropical bitter hops that we’ve come to associate with the most progressive IPAs from here in the colonies, but there’s also a caraway seed-like sharpness to the hop bittering. This beer is a complete departure from the British tradition, and the name is also clever, and slightly trippy. It’s a British beer that tastes like an Americanized version of a British style, named after a music style that was born in the States and co-opted by the Brits. The mind reels (especially after a few).