Beer of the Week: Meantime IPA
"Are India pale ales the pinot noir of the beer world?" a friend recently asked me. I chuckled a little bit. Were these brews really becoming as ubiquitous as low-rent, dime-a-dozen pinot noirs?
It's true that India pale ale, or IPA, as it's commonly called, has become synonymous with the craft movement. Just about every major craft brewer makes an IPA these days, and at times, those bitter, ultra-hopped beers can start to blend together. There are tons of great IPAs out there too, of course. But there are almost as many poor versions that are way out of balance.
It helps to know a little bit about how IPAs came to be in the first place. These potent, high-alcohol beers were first brewed in England (in brewing hub Burton-on-Trent, to be precise) in the late 1800s. Initially, they were destined to make the long voyage by boat to India. To keep it from spoiling, brewers loaded the suds full of bitter, acidic hops and cranked up the alcohol content. The combination warded off bacteria but also produced one helluva strong brew. It's said that once the beer arrived in India, it was even watered down to mellow the taste.
Today, that hoppy taste and high-alcohol burn is what make beer fanatics clamor for IPAs. The big, loud beasts are, in my opinion, probably closer in comparison to a heavily oaked Cabernet than a wispy pinot noir.
Meanwhile, Meantime, a 10-year-old British brewer located in Greenwich, has a deep respect for the IPA tradition. Its India pale is a deep-orange, hoppy, ultrapale brew that clocks in at a whopping 7.5 percent alcohol by volume. It's crisp and lightly fruity, with spicy notes of coriander and citrus that make it the perfect pair for spicy curry and masala. Ironically, I found it to be a lot more drinkable than many of the ham-handed American IPAs out there. Despite having a heady dose of grassy, bitter hops, Meantime went down smooth and mellow. Maybe it's the refined British upbringing coming through. Or maybe it's just like one of the good pinot noirs -- clean, refreshing, and full of character.
Score some Meantime IPA at Total Wine and Spirits.