I drink a fair amount of bottled beer, almost all of which I buy from supermarkets along with the weekly shop. The other day I noticed that almost all of the beers under the stairs were of one of two styles, and I thought it might be interesting to compare and contrast.
This was an interesting project. What struck me more than anything is that IPA doesn’t mean one thing, even among the new wave hop-merchants. Apart from a few beers which seemed to hark back to old-school IPAs (e.g. White Shield), I could distinguish three different styles. The first lot were tropical fruit salad with a bitter undertone and a clean, bitter finish; the second started with a big hit of aromatic hops, turned citric in mid-mouth and then finished on bitterness; the third had a relatively light start and a citric finish, but were dominated by a long hit of bitter hop aroma in mid-mouth. Generally I preferred the second type, but looking at my notes there’s one high-scorer for each of the three, which is rather gratifying.
Update On a recent supermarket visit I realised there was one notable absentee from the list: a certain widely-available IPA from a certain Scottish brewery. I’ve now rectified this omission. It doesn’t come in the top three.
Here are reviews for the top three and the scores on the doors for the rest (full reviews over the fold).
Harbour IPA (5.2%) 9/10 Presumably this is a craft beer; it certainly tasted of grapefruit. That doesn’t begin to do justice to the flavour, though – a buzz of bitterness on the lips giving way to a rich, floral, fruity bundle of flavours on a bitter ground. Bottle-conditioned, and seemed to reveal more the more I drank; by the end I was detecting banana and mango notes and even some honey (the flavour of honey, the bit that’s not just sweetness).
Fuller’s Bengal Lancer (5.9%) 9/10 Lots of citrus fruitiness and an uncompromising bitterness, but it all hits together, making a genuinely complex (and balanced) blend of flavours. Some surprisingly subtle flavour notes in there, mostly at the bitter end of the spectrum rather than the fruit-salad end: a wisp of tobacco smoke here, a touch of cloves there. Very nice indeed.
Shipyard IPA (5.1%) 9/10 A smoky fog bank of bitterness, with hardly any citrus to cut through it. But what a fog bank. I kept being reminded of expensive soap – the enveloping perfumes (part-floral, part-herbal), the bitter tang on your lips… Lovely stuff. Shipyard have ties with Ringwood; I’m not sure which way the influences run, but an apple certainly hasn’t fallen far from a tree.
Orkney Wayfarer (4.4%) 8/10
Roscoe’s Hop House American India Pale Ale (6.3%) 8/10
St Austell Proper Job (5.5%) 8/10
BrewDog Punk IPA (5.5%) 7/10
Fuller’s Wild River (4.5%) 7/10
Maxim American IPA (5.2%) 7/10
Shepherd Neame India Pale Ale (6.1%) 7/10
Brain’s Barry Island IPA (6%) 6/10
Brain’s Boilermaker IPA (6.5%) 6/10
Goose Island India Pale Ale (5.9%) 6/10
Point IPA (5.6%) 6/10
Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA (7.2%) 6/10
Worthington White Shield (5.6%) 6/10
Innis and Gunn Oak-Aged IPA (5.6%) 5/10
Worthington Red Shield (4.2%) 4/10