Who Cares About Clarity?

cloudy-beerAfter reading the list of Portland’s 73 best IPAs in Willamette Week’s February edition I, (and seemingly every beer nerd in PDX) began making my way around to try what IPAs I hadn’t yet. Due to Willamette Week’s wide circulation, a lot of the beers featured in that article were unavailable as the throngs of curious and thirsty hop lovers descended upon the breweries. Especially those in the top 5 positions, 4 of which were held by relative new comers Fat Head, and Great Notion Brewing. The most notable beers on the list I think were from Great Notion Brewing. While many of the beers featured on the list are outstanding examples of IPA, I love the huge tropical fruit flavors and softer bitterness that come from the beers at Great Notion.  I found their Ripe IPA to be just amazingly…Well ripe, as the name suggests. Its full of juicy, tropical fruit character in the nose as well as palette.

Great Notion,though based here in the Northwest, has made a departure with their style which is more akin to the Northeastern type IPAs  Breweries like Hill Farmstead and The Alchemist have been making fruit forward, juicy beers packed with late kettle additions and a huge dry hop additions. The Alchemist has been making the sought after Heady Topper since 2003 so the style is definitely not new. Now with the success of Great Notion, I wonder if the style will make its way west?

While listening to The Brewing Network’s latest episode of The Session I found it interesting that the guys; (Justin, JP, Tasty, Beardy and even their guest Peter Symons), dislike the Northeast style IPA. The main complaint was the cloudy appearance. I kept waiting for additional critique on the aroma or flavor but no one had any to offer. I find it interesting that the appearance of a beer can have such an affect on the overall perception. While I have to admit, I was surprised by the cloudy appearance of Great Notion Brewing’s Ripe IPA, Juice double IPA and Juice Jr., all my initial misgivings due to the appearance faded with one sniff of these beers. These beers are loaded with hop aroma and flavor so its hard for me to imagine how any hop head could possibly not like this style of beer.

Maine SqueezeI recently went to 10 Barrel Brewing’s Portland brew pub to check out their roof top addition, (which incidentally is amazing on a sunny day). One of their latest offering is called Maine Squeeze. It’s an IPA made in similar fashion to Northeastern style. It pours gold and cloudy and its about as clear as a glass of orange juice. The aroma is bright citrus and tropical fruit. The flavor follows the aroma with tangerine and papaya notes and a  soft and round bitterness. Its delicious!

I do agree that appearance matters to a large degree. Nobody wants to drink a murky, unattractive beverage. Still I don’t think one should dismiss an entire style because of it. Think hefeweisen and American wheat. No one complains about the appearance of those beers. Yes the West Coast has been a leader in the craft beer scene, but that does not mean its the last word in IPA. If you are a sucker for a bright clear beer, I get it. Its pretty. But don’t discount these balanced beers from the East Coast. We have already seen a shift from over-the- top bitterness to hop flavor and aroma. As that trend continues, I have a feeling we’ll be seeing a lot more of this style out west very soon.