This week I decided to celebrate the coming brutal heat of summer by grabbing an IPA. The India pale ale style was developed in England in the 18th century at the height of the British Empire. The most popular story of the creation of this beer is that the levels of both alcohol and hops were increased to preserve the beer during the long voyage around the Cape of Good Hope en route to India. This story gets some credibility from the inherent antibiotic nature of both alcohol and hops; however, there are reports that other styles of beer also survived the journey. Regardless of who created the first beer, this style was popular in the British export markets and was being brewed in Australia, America and Canada before the beginning of the 20th century.
New life was breathed into this style in the United States during the microbrewery revival of the past 20 years or so as the American public has become more adventurous. Some drinkers gradually craved more and more of the hop character that they could taste in pilsners, while brewers turned to the IPA. In the early 1990s Vinnie Cilurzo, then of Blind Pig Brewing Co. and currently of Russian River Brewing Co., and other West Coast brewers such as Rogue Ales fully Americanized the style by switching to local hop strains and further increasing the levels of both alcohol and hops.
Alesmith was founded in 1995 by Peter Zein in San Diego. Zein was already an award-winning homebrewer at the time, and he brought his brewing skills to the masses when he got in on the very beginning of the microbrewery revolution. He has remained true to his homebrewing roots and is one of the few Grand Master beer judges in the Beer Judge Certificate Program.
This IPA from Alesmith poured a fairly clear light golden color but had a touch of chill haze to it. The head formed as one finger of off-white, slightly pillowy foam, and the retention was actually pretty good. The aroma was nice, with a focus on piney hops and light citrus highlights, particularly a lemon character that accented the pine nicely. The body was fairly thick for a pale ale and, combined with the low carbonation, gave a fairly creamy mouthfeel that lingered through the finish. The beer was fairly sweet up front and retained a malty-sweet backbone throughout. The fairly bitter finish lingered but was not too intense. The hop character was piney in nature.
I really liked this beer and would suggest giving it a try. It goes well with strong-tasting and spicy foods — just as good for curries as it is for grilled burgers. This recent entry into the Philadelphia market is actually one of the more balanced IPAs I have found, so go ahead and pick up a bottle.
Size: 750 mL
ABV: 7.25 percent