I consider myself a bit of an aficionado of IPA beers. An IPA (India Pale Ale) is an ale with an unusually-high amount of hops in it, giving it a bitterness that some beer enthusiasts cherish. And so I suppose that I am too harsh a judge of most IPAs. However, I do always try to examine a beer objectively. That being said, some IPAs are just better than others, and in my view, often the level of bitterness, and the complexity of other flavors in the hops, determine a really good IPA.
West Sixth Brewery was founded in Lexington, Kentucky in 2012 by Ben, Brady, Joe, and Robin (their informal website does not give last names). According to the company, they were all four beer enthusiasts who felt that Lexington lacked really good, craft beer, so they started a brewery. Fair enough, and it is something I bet most of us wish we had the guts to do. The company’s philosophy is to use fresh, seasonal, local ingredients — a philosophy which I find just wonderful. They make a small selection of regular brews, and other seasonals. The company is also socially-conscious, and makes a big effort to protect the environment. West Sixth is, overall, a really great company, and they seem like just what Lexington needed, which is why I was disappointed by their West Sixth IPA (7.0% ABV). Don’t get me wrong — it is a very decent beer, and I would choose it over many others. But in the realm of IPA, it just did not do it for me. To brew this IPA, West Sixth uses four types of hops: Cascade, Centennial, Columbus, and Citra.
Bottle: This IPA comes in a can. I understand that cans are becoming a trend in craft beer, but it is a trend I am not fond of. Glass is more neutral in terms of flavor than the lining and metal of a can, and that is just the fact. But it is a pretty can, I will admit. It is a lovely pale lavender and silver, with the company’s large yellow logo.
Pour: The color is a very swampy, hazy orange with a definite brown tint. The head is easily three fingers deep, a lovely pale-beige with hints of brown that is thick, luscious, and foamy. It dissipates slowly and luxuriously, leaving thick, cottony lacing.
Aroma: This is the category where I am torn. On one hand, the aroma is that of balanced malted grains, with a really heady, in-your-face amount of hoppy bitterness, which I usually love. But on the other hand, the aroma is not complex enough. Although the ale is brewed with four types of really good hops, the complex aromas that IPAs can usually impart are just not there.
Flavor: Again, the flavor is almost there for a true, world-class IPA, but it falls just short. There is an undertone of malt, and a very, very faint yeastiness (which I prize in an IPA). The hops are certainly present, with an intense bitterness that is very pleasing. But like in the aroma, the bitterness seems to lack the great complexity of grass, pine, and citrus flavors that many IPAs have. There is an undertone of grapefruit, but that is about it. This ale tries very hard, and it almost succeeds, but it falls slightly sort of the mark. Let me say that many other reviews mention the great complexity of the flavor of this IPA, and I respect those reviewers. I just do not experience that complexity.
Mouthfeel: This ale shows a medium body, with a slightly oily element, meaning that the liquid is more viscous that I would have imagined. The carbonation is medium and nice. A slight bitterness remains on the tongue on the finish.
Structure: The structure is there, but lacking. While the malt and bitterness are certainly well-balanced, nevertheless it lacks the strong, deep structure that other IPAs have.
Food Pairing: This IPAs bitterness would go well with richly-topped pizza, especially of the Chicago variety.
Overall Rating Out of 5 Possible Beer Mugs: