India Pale Ale (IPA) is my favorite style of beer. Its history is interesting. Born of necessity, IPA was an ale that was sent to British troops in India during the occupation. Because such long, international travel required ships, standard British ale would spoil on the journey. Brewer George Hodgson experimented with adding a high level of hops (a natural preservative) and created a style of ale that would last the journey. Today we call this style of beer IPA.
A side effect of the natural preservative quality of hops is their bitterness. Thus, IPA beer has a characteristic bitter flavor that beer drinkers seem to have a love-hate relationship with. Most IPA could be described as very bitter, so in order to enjoy it, you must at least have an attraction to bitter flavors. However, depending on the varieties of hops used, the bitterness also shares the palate with flavors of citrus (particularly grapefruit), floral elements, and pine. In fact, it is this rounded complexity of flavor that personally attracts me to IPA beers, and I know I am not alone.
Brooklyn Brewery of Brooklyn, New York, makes an IPA called East India Pale Ale (ABV 6.9%). East India is an allusion to to the East India Company, England’s massive trading company based in India during the colonial years. According to Brooklyn’s own description, “Our East India Pale Ale is a deep golden beer brewed from British malt and a blend of hops featuring the choice East Kent Golding variety. It is traditionally dry-hopped for a bright aroma of hops, lemongrass, pine and citrus fruit, and has a robust bitterness, a warming malt palate and a clean hoppy finish.”
I conducted a tasting of Brooklyn East India Pale Ale specifically for Everything On Tap. The proper way to conduct a beer tasting is as follows:
1. Take two sharp, quick sniffs of the bouquet.
2. Take a normal sniff of the bouquet.
3. Take one last sniff with the mouth open.
4. Slurp the beer into your mouth, allowing it to coat the entire tongue and the top of the throat. Allow it to sit while your tongue and brain register the nuances of the flavor.
5. Exhale, releasing the air in your mouth, through your nose, and swallow.
My first note is that the beer pours a golden-orange color, fairly light with a bit of straw color. The head is about one small finger thick. The bouquet has aromas of grapefruit and pine, with undertones of strawberry and grass. I found the flavor too sweet and malty for my liking (for an IPA) — keeping in mind that I prefer an excessively-bitter IPA. However, the hops did show elements of bitterness and citrus, with just the slightest hint of pine. That having been said, the finish is dry, and the aftertaste is a lingering bitterness which I appreciated. The mouthfeel is smooth and light.
I would rate this beer as better than average, but not great (among IPAs). It would be a nice beer to enjoy chilled, on a sweltering hot afternoon in the subcontinent, or in Southeast Asia. I would pair it with spicy foods, especially spicy seafood, since the slight, natural sweetness of seafood would compliment the malty sweetness of the beer, while the bitterness would offset the spiciness. Overall, while I enjoyed the beer, I feel that I could do better for the price with another IPA. I paid 25 RMB (about $4.03), but prices on imported beer in China fluctuate wildly, and are not accurate representation of a beer’s price or value in the US. that having been said, I would consider it worth the price, but one was enough, as 25 RMB is quite expensive based on the Chinese cost of living. I would give Brooklyn East India Pale Ale a 7.5 out of 10.