Thursday, August 5, 2010

Belgian Style India Pale Ale: A style in development

In honor of International Beer Day (August 5th), your host decided it might be useful to address the category of Belgian style IPAs.

For those who are unfamiliar with the category, BeerAdvocate offers the following description:

"Inspired by the American India Pale Ale (IPA) and Double IPA, more and more Belgian brewers are brewing hoppy pale colored ales for the US market (like Chouffe & Urthel), and there's been an increase of Belgian IPAs being brewed by American brewers. Generally, Belgian IPAs are considered too hoppy by Belgian beer drinkers.

Various malts are used, but the beers of the style are finished with Belgian yeast strains (bottle-conditioned) and the hops employed tend to be American. You'll generally find a cleaner bitterness vs. American styles, and a pronounced dry edge (very Belgian), often akin to an IPA crossed with a Belgian Tripel. Alcohol by volume is on the high side. Many examples are quite cloudy, and feature tight lacing, excellent retention, and fantastic billowy heads that mesmerize (thanks, in part, to the hops). "

Belgian IPAs are frequently now being brewed by California Brewers. While they often are seasonal or special offering, a few companies, such as Green Flash located near San Diego, offer a version year round. Green Flash's version, titled Le Freak, has the strong Belgian character of spice and banana, along with a pleasing bitterness in the finish. Stone Brewing also occasional bottles a Belgian style IPA.

Yesterday, your host had the chance to stop by the Rose & Crown Pub in Palo Alto. This bar tends to stock draft beer by local Peninsula brewers such as Palo Alto Brewing, Devil's Canyon, Mayfield, and Firehouse. On tap was "Pete's Support" Belgian IPA from Firehouse. The name being a spoof on the acclaimed "Pizza Port" brew chain in San Diego. This beer was excellent. It had a great spicy flavor, rich color, good lacing, and a pronounced bitterness as a result of additional dry hopping.

BevMo, City Beer, and Jug Shop all have excellent beer selections. You may also be available to find Belgian IPAs at select Whole Foods stores.