Hop forward craft beers like IPAs have always followed trends. Right now that means creating beers that are full of juicy, stone fruit and tropical flavours with super low bitterness. Often these beers are highly hazy and even sometimes completely opaque, the mouthfeel is silken, similar to a German hefeweizen and the bitterness is dialed right down. These so-called “New England” or “Vermont” IPAs, due to this being an origin point of this style, are the crux of fandom in beer right now.
Five years ago, things were very different. Brewers were locked in a bitterness war, intent on brewing the most bitter beers possible, with super high IBU counts (International Bitterness Units) often boasted on the packaging. Beers such as Stone Brewing’s Ruination or Mikkeller’s 1000 IBU are great examples of this. By my reckoning, this current trend we're seeing for juicy IPAs with very low bitterness is a reaction to the bitterness wars going too far.
A primary casualty in this bitterness arms race was the humble West Coast IPA - that beloved beer which poured a deep golden colour, was completely transparent, focused on flavours of citrus and pine and left a slick trail of deliciously bitter hop resins on the palate as it glided down your throat. These were the beers that made me love IPA in the first place and a part of me worries that brewers have forgotten them as they spend their time chasing the juice whale instead.
But not Derbyshire’s Buxton Brewery. Wyoming Sheep Ranch is a Double IPA brewed just how they used to be. One sip reminded me how good this style of IPA can be and made me realise that perhaps I too have been far too invested in chasing the juice. It’s worth reminding yourself just how satisfying the resinous, bitter kick of a West Coast double IPA can be and Wyoming Sheep Ranch is as good a place as any to start.
(P.S. I went to Wyoming once and I didn’t see any sheep ranches but I did have lunch at Applebee’s and had a really nice time.)
Music Pairing: Dr. Dre feat. Eminem & Hittman – Forgot About Dre
From one West Coast banger to another - here’s a classic slice of hip hop from Dr. Dre. We forgot about West Coast IPA in a manner similar to how, in the late 90s, we forgot about Dre, so here’s a timely reminder. Now drink up and eat your vegetables.
Find more from beer writer Matthew Curtis at his excellent beer blog, Total Ales, Good Beer Hunting and on Twitter @totalcurtis. Get Buxton's excellent Wyoming Sheep Ranch and more from their range in store or head online to get it delivered to your door.