From its humble origins in the twilight of 18th century London through to the early development of modern hop varietals at Oregon State University in the 70s and the recent proliferation of the style, the one constant thing about India Pale Ales is how much they have changed and evolved over time.
Ontario’s sweep of the American Style India Pale Ale category at the 2016 Canadian Beer Awards is a case in point. Having witnessed the announcement of the winners first hand, I can attest to a few surprised looks on the faces of the sizeable BC contingent in the room (if you didn’t already know, IPAs are kind of our thing). For me, the wins really highlight how different brewing histories and different beer cultures can foster different palates and different tastes (the CBA judges were all from Ontario – home to, in my humble opinion, far more muted takes on the style). So while I may prefer the IPAs being crafted in our neck of the woods, as we all know, taste can be a pretty subjective thing.
Characterized by a cloudy appearance, lower bitterness, and a juicy hop profile, the latest style of IPA making headlines is the “Vermont” or “North East” IPA (I place the styles in quotation marks because some folks in the industry take issue with this beer being categorized as its own style).
The first small batch of Bridge Brewing Company‘s awesome Side Cut North East IPA appeared a few months ago, and immediately created quite the stir in local craft beer circles. Luckily, I managed to grab a few of bottles and enjoyed more than my fair share on tap at Box Car before it ran out. For those of you that didn’t manage to try Side Cut the first time around, rest assured that despite the recent departure of Jeremy Taylor (Bridge’s first head brewer and all around Mr. Nice Guy), the second batch of Side Cut is tasting similarly delicious with Hamish MacRae – former head brewer at Red Truck Brewing Company and the lumberjack from last year’s awesome VCBW promotional video – now at the helm.
Pouring a hazy, golden amber colour, Side Cut exhibits some gorgeous ripe freshness on the nose, characterized by a real burst of juicy tropical fruit aromas (pineapple, passion fruit and guava are all prominent), along with faint hints of mandarin orange. To taste, subtle caramel notes and a solid, biscuitty malt base provide a really nice balance to a juicy hop profile that displays some lovely peach, mango and citrus flavours. With a full, well-rounded mouth feel and a resiny, grapefruity aftertaste, Side Cut makes a pretty strong impression, and is a brilliant intro to a relatively new (albeit disputed) “style” of IPA.