Southern Tier India Pale Ale By Edgar IBU

Southern Tier IPA

[Editors’ noteWe are please to welcome Rowdy and Independent Beer Reviews’ first contributing writer – Edgar IBU. The “Bitter Unit,” as he known around the palatial R&I offices, is our blog’s hopsecutioner; he will be tasting and writing about all the high hop offerings that are so fashionable these days. So, without further ado, I give you . . . Edgar IBU.]

Southern Tier India Pale Ale

Brewery: Southern Tier Brewing Company (Lakewood, New York)

ABV: 7.3%

Serving type: 12 ounce bottle

Hello, all. I am Edgar IBU, and I will be the Rowdy and Independent Beer Reviews specialist in all things hop-tacular: Pale Ales, Imperial Pale Ales, and anything hopped, hopped some more, and hopped yet again. For my first offering, I’ll review Southern Tier’s India Pale Ale (or IPA for short).

Southern Tier is a small brewery in Western New York. I first became aware of Southern Tier’s line of fine (and I do mean fine) beers when my friend, Jason, brought a Southern Tier Crème Brûlée Imperial Milk Stout to my house a few months ago. It was a striking beer—sweet, complex, and delicious, almost dessert-like. It was the sort of beer I’d want for breakfast with a cinnamon roll or maybe some coffee cake. But, honestly, it was not something I’d drink every day.

I was intrigued by that beer, though, and wondered what else they might have to offer. After investigating their website, I found that Southern Tier boasted an extensive line of perennial and seasonal brews in a variety of styles. The interesting thing about Southern Tier’s brews was the fact that they take beers from many different styles and put their own twists on them. The result is a unique and creative line of beers. So, I jumped at the chance to pick up a couple of their IPAs when I was at Atlanta’s Tower Beer, Wine and Spirits recently.

Southern Tier’s IPA is an American version of the classic British brew. India Pale Ale gets its idiosyncratic name from its origins in the British colonization of India. In those days, transportation of supplies for the British Army (including beer, naturally) was by ship, a long, hot, and perilous journey from the British Isles, around Cape Horn, and on to South Asia. Traditional beers of the time did not take the trip well; they were often undrinkable by the time they reached their destination. Some enterprising but unidentified Brit (Bless his soul!) decided to harness the preservative powers of hops to ensure that the beer remained fresh, and, most importantly, drinkable. Brewing this style of beer required the addition of hops, lots and lots of them, to keep the beer fresh. Whole hops were even added to the very casks of beer sent to the colonies, a process now called “dry hopping.” The result was a very durable brew, and the birth of a new taste profile for beer, one based in the glories of hops bitterness, flavor, and aroma. IPAs, then, are very, very hoppy beers, and tend toward bitterness, with relatively high alcohol content. This New World version of the venerable IPA style is no exception. It kicks like a mule at 7.3% ABV. Unlike its British counterparts, however, American pale ales, including this IPA, are brewed with yeasts that impart much less yeast flavor in the finished brew. The results in a much cleaner finish, one that really lets the hops shine through.

Here are a few observations from my taste test:

Head: Upon pouring, the head was minimal, fading fast, though it left a rim of creamy, white froth hanging around the edges of the glass as I drank it. The foam left virtually no lacing on the inside of the glass.

Color: This beer was a beautiful light amber color, with just a hint of chill haze, fading as the beer warmed a bit.

Aroma: The aroma is dominated by a distinctly citrusy hop character, like grapefruit, against a subtle background of malt sweetness. It’s very pleasant and refreshing.

First sip: I was struck first by the malt character of the brew which is strong at the beginning and then fades as the hops bitterness and flavor kicks in. I also got some wonderful hops aroma on the front end of the first taste. The combination is very assertive, even a bit metallic at the leading edge, though that impression fades almost instantly, giving way to a clean bitterness. This beer wants you to pay attention to it! The first sip was very tasty, and left me wanting another.

Overall impression: I could drink this beer every day. The malt taste is both sweet and a bit chocolaty/smoky, but not in a cloying or overwhelming way. It announces its presence at the outset, and then clears the way to let the hops take over. The packaging says that four malts and four hops are used, and the beer is “triple hopped,” according to the Southern Tier website. The result is a beer with a distinct hop character that combines both citrusy and spicy notes, with citrus dominating. The beer has a light, but not watery, mouthfeel, and a moderate amount of carbonation. The finish is very clean, though the hop bitterness abides for a little while before fading.

Food pairings: It would go well with Buffalo wings, a Carolina style BBQ sandwich, or something similarly spicy and vinegary/salty, which would provide a perfect complement to the balance of sweetness and bitterness in the brew.

Rating: I’d love to put a number on the beers I review, but I think there’s a better way to do it. If I like it, and want to have it again, I’ll tell you so. If not, I’ll tell you so as well. So, what do I think about Southern Tier IPA? Drink it. It’s good.

Up next: Southern Tier Unearthly IPA (Oh, boy! I’m looking forward to that one!)

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